NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Sunday, February 3rd (All times Eastern)
Florida Panthers (2-5-0) at Buffalo Sabres (3-4-1), 3 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Florida Panthers will be forced to leave some key players behind as they take aim at their first road victory of the season on Sunday afternoon against the Buffalo Sabres.
The Panther head out on a four-game swing minus forward Scottie Upshall and captain Ed Jovanovski due to injury. Upshall suffered a lower body injury in Thursday's 6-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets and is expected to miss several weeks, while Jovanovski won't travel with the club after missing the recent victory due to a knee injury.
It isn't all bad news as forward Stephen Weiss could return for this game after missing four in a row due to a lower body injury, while forward Marcel Goc returned on Thursday from a six-game absence caused by an ankle ailment.
The Panthers will need all the help that they can get giving that they have lost all three of their road games this season by a combined 13-3 margin.
Hopefully, Florida saved some offense after Thursday's explosion that featured a five-goal third period. The Panthers snapped a five-game slide with their first victory since beating the Carolina Hurricanes on Jan. 19 to open the season.
Peter Mueller was one of five third-period goal scorers and he lit the lamp for a third straight game. Alex Kovalev, Kris Versteeg, Jonathan Huberdeau and Tomas Kopecky all added goals in the frame, while Kopecky ended with two assists as well.
Jose Theodore stopped 22-of-25 shots for the win, which came after Florida had scored just five times total over its slide, but Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen wasn't getting too excited after the offensive outburst.
"We always try to say the right things when we're in the muck, but we were in the deep end there and we're still not out of it," Dineen said. "Let's not kid ourselves. It's only one win. We're still some way from getting back to respectability."
Like the Panthers, the Sabres were hoping to put recent struggles behind them after snapping a four-game slide with a win over the Boston Bruins on Thursday. However, they thumped back into the loss column with Saturday's 6-1 defeat at Montreal to the Canadiens.
Ryan Miller gave up four goals on 21 shots and was pulled prior to the third period. Jhonas Enroth stopped nine of the 11 shots he faced in a period of relief.
Buffalo was held to just one shot in the first period and did not get on the board until early in the third on Thomas Vanek's seventh tally of the season. The Sabres' first-period shot total was its lowest in one frame since being held without a shot in the third period of a game with the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 7, 2011.
"We were caught up in the notion from the other night and obviously we didn't have our top game from the bat," said Buffalo head coach Lundy Ruff. "We started in the second but it was too late. We made some poor decisions that really hurt."
Vanek did serve as a bright spot as he notched his league lead-tying 16th point. He has recorded a point in all seven games he has played this season.
Defenseman Andrej Sekera was forced to exit Saturday's game after the first period due to a bruised foot.
The Sabres are 4-1-1 in their past six against the Panthers and have won nine of the last 13 meetings in Buffalo.
02/03 10:30:51 ET