The Buffalo Sabres may own the fewest points and victories in the NHL, but they’ve played extremely well at home over the last month.
A matchup Thursday night with a Florida Panthers team against which they’ve had success recently could give the Sabres a solid chance of winning six in a row on their own ice for the first time in nearly seven years.
Buffalo (12-26-4) lost its first nine home games and had three wins in 16 such contests over the first two months. The Sabres, though, are 6-0-1 in the last seven at First Niagara Center, beating New Jersey 2-1 on Saturday for their fifth consecutive home win.
Their first chance at winning six straight in Buffalo since Jan. 17-Feb. 15, 2007, was scheduled for Tuesday night against Carolina, but the game was postponed because of a snowstorm.
Goaltender Ryan Miller has been a big part of the turnaround. He’s 6-0-0 with a 1.29 goals-against average in his last six home starts and has a 1.73 GAA in his past nine overall.
"The guys definitely feel the energy," Miller said of playing at home. "It’s important to hear that the crowd’s behind you."
Miller, though, has struggled in Buffalo against Florida (16-21-6). He’s alternated wins and losses in his last eight starts while posting a 3.00 GAA, and will give way to backup Jhonas Enroth on Thursday.
Enroth’s only win this season was a 3-1 victory at Florida on Oct. 25. That result improved the Sabres to 6-2-2 in the last 10 meetings.
Enroth won’t have towering defenseman Tyler Myers in front of him. The 6-foot-8 Meyers will be serving the first of a three-game suspension for unnecessarily extending and launching himself into the head of New Jersey’s Dainius Zubrus on Saturday.
"That’s just one of the disadvantages of being as tall as I am. It just comes with the territory," Myers, who leads Buffalo defensemen with four goals, told reporters Monday before the suspension was announced. "I don’t want to change anything just because of that. If things come out of it because of my height then I’ll deal with it."
Buffalo, trying to win two in a row for just the third time in 2013-14, will also be without defenseman Henrik Tallinder because of an upper-body injury.
"Those are two guys that play a lot of minutes so guys are going to have to step up and play those minutes," defenseman Mike Weber told the Sabres’ official website. "I think with that, stepping up in the right situation, you’re not going to replace a (Myers) with the offensive abilities that he has. Someone’s got to step up and just play solid minutes."
The Sabres may be able to get by without Meyers and Tallinder against Florida, which is tied for 26th in the NHL with 46 road goals. The Panthers opened a three-game trip Monday with a 2-1 loss to Montreal.
Florida managed 11 total shots in the first two periods before putting 16 on net in the third en route to its fifth loss in seven games.
"The third period was better from us," left wing Sean Bergenheim, who scored for the sixth time in six games, told the Panthers’ official website. "We showed that we have that push. We know that we have that push but we don’t want to have to put ourselves in that situation."