Sabres aim to rebound vs. Panthers

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Things went surprisingly well for the Buffalo Sabres in their recent three-game road trip. Their return home? Not so much.

The Sabres followed up their best stretch of the season with a lackluster display in a 3-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday. They’ll look to rebound with another home game against the Florida Panthers on Thursday.

“Our five-on-five game wasn’t where it needed to be,” Sabres coach Phil Housley said, according to the team’s website. “We talked this morning about where they are as a desperate team. They just played with more urgency. I didn’t think we respected the position they were in. Coming off a road trip, you would’ve thought we would have gained confidence and been sharp.”

Defenseman Jake McCabe scored for Buffalo against the Devils late in the third period with the team already down 2-0. It was a performance more on par for the majority of the season for the Sabres (14-27-9). Before coming home, the Sabres exceeded expectations in a Western Canada road trip with three wins in three games — with two of those wins coming via shutout.

“It’s tough,” McCabe said, according to the team’s website. “We want to bring that hockey that we showed we can play out west to this arena and for our fans. You guys saw that we can play that way and we all see it too, so we need to play that way for our fans and for this city. Tonight’s unacceptable but we get another shot at it on Thursday.”

Robin Lehner stopped 25 of 27 shots against the Devils after recording back-to-back shutouts for the first time in his career. Lehner has a save percentage of .912 on the season in 38 games.

Jack Eichel leads the Sabres in scoring with 49 points (20 goals, 29 assists) in 50 games.

In an effort to try and provide a spark on offense, the Sabres moved forward Evander Kane to the top line at Tuesday’s practice alongside Eichel and Kyle Okposo. Kane started the year hot but has cooled off as of late.

“I think they had good chemistry early,” Housley said, according to the team’s website. “It was just a change to maybe spark Evander a little bit, reunite those guys. I think we’re going to need 5-on-5 scoring moving ahead here, especially playing some tight teams, some good checking teams.”

The Panthers (20-22-6) are coming off a 4-1 win over the New York Islanders on Tuesday. In that game, goalie Harri Sateri picked up his first career NHL victory.

“He’s got a smile ear-to-ear,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said, according to the team’s website. “It’s nice to see. He’s been at it a long time. It was a game where we got a little bit of goal support for him and he made some big saves. It was a perfect game for him.”

The Panthers are without goaltenders Roberto Luongo and James Reimer because of injuries.

Jonathan Huberdeau leads the Panthers in scoring with 48 points (17 goals, 31 assists).