Buffalo Sabres Visit Florida Panthers: Game 71 Preview

The Florida Panthers welcome forward Kris Versteeg and defenseman Dmitry Kulikov back to the ice after injury setbacks. Versteeg has sat the last nine games, Kulikov has missed the past 23.

The Panthers host the Buffalo Sabres tonight at the Bank Atlantic Center in Sunrise. This is the fourth and final meeting between the two teams this season. Florida has posted a 1-1-1 record against the Sabres this season, getting shut out at home, 3-0 in October, winning on the road, 3-2 later that month, and dropping a road matchup, 2-1 in an overtime game in December.

They are closing out an important four game homestand. So far, they've gone a perfect 3-0, beating the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0 on Sunday, the Toronto Maple Leafs, 5-2 on Tuesday, and the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins, 6-2 on Thursday.

Videos and more after the jump.

The Sabres have been hot lately, going 9-2-2 through their last 13 games. They start a short two-game Florida road trip tonight, going on to face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday. Florida is 19-9-8 at home, the Sabres have a 15-18-1 road record. This will be the Panther's 17th attempt to convert a three game winning streak into a four game winning streak since March 16th, 2008, having gone a combined 0-11-5 in their last 16 attempts. They have had 13 losing streaks of four games or more over that time.

The last time the Panthers squared off with the Sabres was on December 9th. Derek Roy (7) opened the scoring for the Sabres in the first, and Jason Garrison (9) answered with a power play marker in the second. After a scoreless third, Jason Pominville ended it two minutes into overtime with his 10th goal of the season. Ryan Miller stopped 22-of-23 Florida shots for the victory, while Scott Clemmensen allowed both goals on only 20 Buffalo shots. Clemmensen was optimistic about the game afterward,

"Not everything is going to be perfect," Clemmensen said. "We got a point, so we need to look at the bright side."

Panthers @ Sabres 12/09/11 (via NHLVideo)

Florida dropped the Boston Bruins, 6-2 on Thursday in a South Florida matchup. 11 Panthers got onto the scoresheet, featuring three assists by Brian Campbell, a goal and an assist by both Stephen Weiss (17) and Mikael Samuelsson (10), and John Madden's (1) first goal in nearly a year. Marcel Goc (10), Tomas Kopecky (8) and Wojtek Wolski (3) also scored for the Panthers. Brian Rolston (5) and Joe Corvo (4) lit the lamp for the slumping Bruins. Tim Thomas allowed all six goals on 29 Florida shots to take the loss, while Jose Theodore turned in another quality start for the Panthers, stopping 24-of-26 shots. Weiss talked afterward about how the Northeast Division really isn't that much better than the Southeast,

"It's realistic now that we can catch some teams," Weiss said. "We've got to stop looking behind and start looking forward and push ourselves that way. It makes it easier, too, when you're looking ahead instead of always looking back to who's chasing you."

Bruins @ Panthers 03/15/12 (via NHLVideo)

For more, check Stanley Cup of Chowder.

The Sabres earned one point but lost the second to the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday, losing 5-4 in a shootout after Jamie McGinn scored a goal with two seconds remaining in the third. Marcus Foligno (2, 3) scored twice for the Sabres, Drew Stafford (14) notched a shorthanded goal, and Alexander Sulzer (1) potted his first marker of the season. Jamie McGinn (18, 19), David Jones (17), and Gabriel Landeskog (20) provided regulation goals for the Av's. Peter Mueller made the only goal in the shootout for the Colorado victory. Semyon Varlamov stopped 20-of-24 in the win, Ryan Miller stopped 38-of-42 for the loss. Mueller talked about the victory later,

"This is the biggest win of the year," Mueller said. "To go from zero points to getting two with seconds left, you don't make that stuff up. It just shows the character of this team in that we never quit."

Avalanche @ Sabres 03/14/12 (via NHLVideo)

Common Thread:

Sabres defenseman Jordan Leopold played 61 games for the Panthers in 2009-10, scoring seven goals and 11 assists with a minus-seven rating and 22 penalty minutes.

Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell played in 391 games over eight seasons for the Sabres, scoring 32 goals and 144 assists with a minus-seven rating and 113 penalty minutes.

Florida Panthers Milestones:

Shawn Matthias will tie Steve Montador in 41st all-time with his 196th game played tonight.

Kris Versteeg, Jason Garrison, and Tomas Fleischmann are tied in 48th all-time with 22 each. Dave Gagner is in 47th with 24. Shawn Matthias will move past Mike Van Ryn with his next goal, into 45th all-time with 26. Mike Santorelli will move into a tie with Niklas Hagman in 37th all-time with his next goal, number 30. Ed Jovanovskii will move into 32nd with his next goal, number 32, with Richard Zednik. Stephen Weiss will tie Nathan Horton in fourth all-time with his next goal, number 142.

Brian Campbell will move into a tie with Ivan Novoseltsev in 44th all-time with his 44th assist. Dmitry Kulikov will move into a tie for 34th all-time with Martin Gelinas with his 54th assist.

Florida Panthers Leaders:

Mike Weaver, Brian Campbell, Tomas Fleischmann - 70

Kris Versteeg, Tomas Fleischmann - 22
Stephen Weiss - 17

Brian Campbell - 43
Stephen Weiss - 33
Tomas Fleischmann - 29

Tomas Fleischmann - 51
Stephen Weiss - 50
Kris Versteeg - 49
Brian Campbell - 47

Jason Garrison - plus-10
Stephen Weiss - plus-7
Marcel Goc - plus-5

Point Shares:
Jose Theodore - 8.7
Jason Garrison - 7.6
Brian Campbell - 7.4
Kris Versteeg - 6.2
Tomas Fleischmann - 5.8
Stephen Weiss - 5.6

Panthers Injuries:
Matt Bradley and Jack Skille are both likely out for the rest of the season. Scottie Upshall is nearing return after having spent most of the season recovering first from a hip injury then later a sports hernia. Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and forward Kris Versteeg will both be on the ice for tonight's matchup.

Panthers Starting Lineup:


Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Wojtek Wolski

Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson

Tomas Kopecky - Shawn Matthias - Kris Versteeg

Krys Barch - John Madden- Jerred Smithson


Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell

Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver

Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson


Jose Theodore is confirmed in net for the Panthers tonight.

Sabres Injuries:

Buffalo Sabres Injuries


Player Injury Type Injury Date
Andrej Sekera pneumonia 03/15/2012
Nathan Gerbe other-excused 03/15/2012

Out (IR / Out / Suspended / Physically unvailable)

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Jochen Hecht concussion 01/22/2012

Sabres Starting Lineup:


Corey Tropp - Derek Roy - Jason Pominville

Ville Leino - Cody Hodgson - Thomas Vanek

Marcus Foligno - Tyler Ennis - Drew Stafford

Cody McCormick - Brad Boyes - Patrick Kaleta


Christian Ehrhoff - Alexander Sulzer

Jordan Leopold - Brayden McNabb

Mike Weber - Robyn Regehr


Ryan Miller is confirmed as Buffalo's starter.

Top Corsi Panthers: (last five games)
Mikael Samuelsson - .593
Sean Bergenheim - .563
Ed Jovanovski - .523
Jason Garrison - .517
Erik Gudbranson - .516

Top Corsi Sabres: (last five games)
Patrick Kaleta .611
Nathan Gerbe .598
Ville Leino .572
Marcus Foligno .569
Christian Ehrhoff .566


Florida Panthers: 34-23-13, 81 points, first Southeast Division, third Eastern Conference, 13th NHL, on pace for 95 points. Last five games: L-O-W-W-W. Playoff odds: 94%

Buffalo Sabres: 33-29-9, 75 points, third Northeast Division, 10th Eastern Conference, 21st NHL, on pace for 87 points. Last five games: W-L-W-W-O. Playoff odds: 9.3%

Season Series: 1-1-1

All-Time Series: 25-37-9

Game Time: 7:30 PM ET

For the Sabres point of view, check out Die By The Blade.

What is the most likely to occur tonight?

Krys Barch spends at least five minutes in the sin-bin2
Brian Campbell assists on a Jason Garri-BOMB3
Marcel Goc wins at least 70% of his faceoffs2
Stephen Weiss ties and passes Nathan Horton with his 142nd and 143rd career goals1
Kris Versteeg and Dmitry Kulikov both figure onto the scoresheet7
Someone in the FS Florida booth mentions a lunchpail21