Sabres-Panthers Preview

If the Buffalo Sabres are to make a serious push into playoff

position, they likely can’t afford losing to the few teams below

them in the Eastern Conference standings.

The visiting Sabres try to bounce back from a frustrating defeat

by handing the lowly Florida Panthers a fourth consecutive loss

Thursday night.

Buffalo (13-16-4) was riding a three-game winning streak when it

recorded a season-low 14 shots on goal in Tuesday’s 2-1 road loss

to a Tampa Bay team that dropped its previous three and reeling

after the firing of coach Guy Boucher.

One point ahead of the Lightning, the Sabres are 12th in the

East and four points behind the New York Rangers for the eighth and

final playoff spot.

“No one’s going to help us,” said Buffalo’s Ryan Miller, who

made 21 saves. “We’ve got to get two points every night, and (the)

first two periods didn’t speak to what we’ve been trying to do

lately.”

Miller yielded a goal on two shots in the first period. Buffalo

managed four shots over the first 20 minutes and didn’t score until

defenseman Jordan Leopold’s second of the year came late in the

third.

The Sabres have three goals in two games since scoring at least

three in each of the previous five.

“We weren’t prepared enough, but the bottom line is we’re in a

race right now and we desperately needed those points,” Leopold

said. “We were on a roll there, too. You look at it, three games

without a loss. We get something rolling there and go out and have

that.”

It would seem Buffalo has a good chance to rebound against the

Panthers (9-19-6), whose nine wins and 24 points are the fewest in

the NHL.

The teams split the previous two 2013 meetings that were both

decided by 4-3 scores. Buffalo, which won in a shootout at Florida

on Feb. 28, has earned at least one point in its last four (3-0-1)

at the BB&T Center as part of a 9-2-1 stretch there.

Florida returns from a 2-3-0 trip looking to avoid its second

five-game home losing streak of the season.

The Panthers outscored Carolina and the New York Rangers 7-2 to

win the first two on the trip, but were outscored 8-3 in losses at

New Jersey, the New York Islanders and Toronto.

Florida had 42 shots Tuesday, but allowed two third-period goals

to fall for the ninth time in 11 games, 3-2 to the Maple Leafs.

“I thought we deserved a better outcome than this,” said

Florida goaltender Jacob Markstrom, who has stopped 62 of 66 shots

in the last two losses. “I thought we played a good game and we had

a lot of shots on net. We’ve just got to continue to do that and

good things will happen. It’s not fun to lose and let three goals

in. I felt good but you don’t want to lose.”

Florida failed on its only power-play chance Tuesday and is 3

for 27 in 13 games. However, Buffalo’s last 11 opponents have gone

12 of 38 with the man advantage.

Panthers rookie Jonathan Huberdeau is tied for the team lead

with 12 goals – which also leads all rookies – but has none in nine

games. He has only one assist against the Sabres.