The Morning Skate: Sabres vs. Panthers

The Morning Skate: Sabres vs. Panthers

zz Two in the Box

The Morning Skate: Sabres vs. Panthers

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Dale Tallon went on a shopping spree this summer in an effort to get the Florida Panthers over the salary cap floor. He did so by acquiring a number of players that many would place in the “fringe” category.

The Sabres make their first stop in Florida on game three of a four-game road trip. The Sabres have played four of five games away from the First Niagara Center this season and six of the first ten games are played away from home.

After stealing two points from the struggling Canadiens on Tuesday, the Sabres will look to keep pace with Toronto atop the Northeast Division. Ryan Miller was outstanding for all 60 minutes on Tuesday and there is little reason to think he won’t get the start against the Panthers this evening.

Paul Hamilton reported that Mike Weber was seeing time with the top-six in practice while Marc-Andre Gragnani was the extra defenseman. While the potential demotion isn’t a full indictment of Gragnani’s play – he struggled mightily on Friday and Saturday last week – it may also show that Lindy Ruff wants more defensively responsible players on the ice.

With Jochen Hecht still sidelined and Gragnani in the lineup, the Sabres were a top-heavy team with offensive talent. Few players in the current lineup are ones to think defense first. Perhaps Ruff wants the added insurance that a stay-at-home defenseman offers, particularly in the defensive zone.

In addition to “please don’t boo me” Brian Campbell, the Panthers have Sabre-killer Sean Bergenheim and several other key players who wore different uniforms last season. That includes Jose Theodore who will likely get the nod in goal after Jacob Markstrom made his NHL debut earlier in the week.

Don’t think Florida is struggling due to all the new faces. The Panthers hung seven on Tampa Bay two days after topping the Lightning in a shootout. Theodore has been great to start the season and the Sabres will need a better start than they had in Montreal if they hope to escape with two points.

Highlighted Matchup

The young Panthers defense corps vs. Buffalo’s three-pronged attack. The Sabres recent line shuffle has taken a bit of potency out of their attack. Still, the Sabres boast two legitimate scoring lines plus two additional lines that will not struggle to produce. The Panthers have four defensemen under the age of 30, plus Campbell who has had an up and down run since leaving Buffalo. If the Sabres can generate a solid forecheck against these young rearguards it could mean additional scoring chances for most of the night. If Florida can weather the storm – or adjusts their lineup as the Hurricanes did – they will have plenty of success shutting down the Buffalo attack.

Projected Goaltenders

BUF: Ryan Miller 4GP, 3-1-0, 2.01 GAA, .942 SV%

FLA: Jose Theodore 4GP, 3-1-0, 2.47 GAA, .920 SV%

2010-11 Season Series BUF 2-2-0

12/17/2010, Bank Atlantic Center, Sabres 2 – Panthers 6

12/23/2010, HSBC Arena, Sabres 3 – Panthers 4

2/10/2011, Bank Atlantic Center, Sabres 3 – Panthers 2 OT

3/25/2011, HSBC Arena, Sabres 4 – Panthers 2

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