Game Preview: Sabres vs. Panthers
Tonight the Sabres (4-1-1) travel to Sunrise, Florida to take on the lowly Panthers (2-4-0).
The Sabres have won their only road game this season and Florida is 1-2-0 at home this season (ironically they are also 1-2-0 on the road as well).
The Panthers recently snapped a four game losing streak with a win over the Flyers. After allowing two first period goals to Philadelphia, Florida rallied in the final 40 minutes to score four unanswered goals and capture a much needed victory.
The Sabres are coming off of a 4-2 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers. The Sabres tried to find their scoring touch late in the game but couldn’t retaliate after a late game tally by Max Afinogenov. The Sabres did not look the best and it was kind of a boring game.
Look for the Panthers to try and come out strong tonight and attempt to carry the momentum from the last game into this one. Florida has received much criticism about its first line of David Booth, Stephen Weiss and Nathan Horton. Horton and Booth have both been disappointing in their careers. Booth excelled on an inconsistent basis as a second and third liner but now has to face the pressures of playing against the top D-men in the league.
The Sabres will try to regain their offensive footing tonight hoping for big numbers from its top two lines. Thomas Vanek makes his return to the lineup and look for him to try and make a statement early. Physical workhorse journeyman fourth-liner (I was literally trying to cram in as many adjectives as possible) Matt Ellis also returns to the lineup tonight. He will most likely take the place of the recently departed Paille on the fourth line. Ellis brings a veteran presence and work ethic that often goes overlooked. I like seeing him back in the lineup.
Clarke MacArthur: C-Mac has been on fire as of late. Everyone (and by everyone I of course mean me) has been waiting for MacArthur to offensively explode and this season may just be that time. He took advantage of his time on the first line while Vanek was injured scoring in three consecutive games. C-Mac has possession of the team lead in goals with 4 and points with 6 (that means he has 2 assists for those of us who aren’t quite mathematically inclined). What a guy. He’s been on a tear as of late and he’ll no doubt try to continue his torrid scoring pace tonight against a weak Panthers defense.
Tyler Myers: The rookie defenseman has been playing with maturity beyond his years. He has collected 4 points so far this season with 1 goal and 3 assists (look out Pominville!). His plus-minus is also +5 which is second behind Henrik Tallinder. This is most likely influenced by the two 6 goal games the Sabres have had but that is still an impressive statistic nonetheless. Watch for Myers to jump into the rush tonight (something he loves to do) and try to create some scoring chances in an attempt to spark some offense. The players always seem to love it when Myers and other young defensemen (namely Sekera and Butler if he decides he feels like it) get involved in the rush. Good things just seem to happen when Myers is involved.
Miller is also playing pretty well with a quiet 1.59 Goals Against Average. Keep it up Mr. USA.
Well… No one is really hot for the Panthers. Except Nathan Horton’s girlfriend. But there are a couple guys who are playing decent for them.
Stephen Weiss: Weiss is currently tied for the team lead in goals and points with an astounding, wait for it, 2 goals and 4 points. Wow. What an offensive machine. But seriously, Weiss has played well the past few games and has provided a much needed offensive spark for his Panthers. Atop the first line along side Horton and Booth, Weiss has quietly made himself into one the better young players in the league. Watch out for Weiss tonight. If he doesn’t score he will get his name on the scoresheet somehow. He makes plays and is a great compliment to Horton (who has needed someone to make plays for him his entire career).
Radek Dvorak: Dvorak provides a veteran presence on a fairly young team. He is also a phenomenal asset to penalty kill with 2 shorthanded goals this season. Florida is tied for second in shorthanded goals in the league with both of Dvorak’s tallies. The Sabres have already allowed one shorthanded goal this season (only four teams have allowed more than one thus far) so Dvorak should be looking to strike tonight. Its a long shot but shorthanded goals are back breakers.
Jochen Hecht: Choken Jochen only has one goal so far this season. As a self proclaimed lead by example type of person, Hecht has yet to really do any leading this season. He also is considered a two way playmaker but has no assists yet. Hecht needs to step up tonight and be the veteran leader that this offense needs.
Everyone: If the Panthers are going to be a playoff team (Ha!) like they continually say the will, they need to win. Because last time I checked winning is how you make the playoffs. I may be wrong though, who knows how this post lockout, Bettman enforced NHL works. Anywho, every member of the Panthers needs to start producing if they want to stop being laughed at… I mean be contenders. I know the season is young but the type of play that the Panthers are showing is unacceptable.
Scott Clemmenson will get the start in goal tonight for Florida. This is most likely due to the fact that he won last game and doesn’t have a GAA of 4.10 (ahem, Mr. Vokoun).
Miller will most likely get the nod for Buffalo because he is rested, ready and doesn’t suck like Lalame… I mean Lalime.
Fun Fact: Dominic Moore (remember him? No? Really? He played with us after we acquired him at the deadli… yeah nevermind.) plays against the Sabres tonight for the first time after the Sabres did not resign him. He signed with the Panthers on October 5th and has only played one game with them. We’ll see what happens.
Game starts at 7:30 and is on MSG network.
Check back tomorrow where John will have a full analysis of the game.