Preview: Sabres at Panthers
The Florida Panthers needed nearly the entire month to notch their first home win in February and will look to double that total when they host the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night. Buffalo and Washington are the only teams in the Eastern Conference with fewer points than the Panthers, who halted a five-game home winless drought (0-2-3) with a 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night. One of Florida's four wins this month was a 4-3 triumph in Buffalo on Feb. 3.
Interim coach Ron Rolston earned his first career win when the Sabres squeezed out a 2-1 victory at Tampa Bay on Tuesday that halted a four-game losing streak. Defenseman Tyler Myers scored in the opening minute of the third period and goaltender Ryan Miller made it stand up in Rolston's third game behind the bench after replacing longtime coach Lindy Ruff. "I'm really happy for our team," Rolston said. "We've seen a lot of really good signs, and we just needed something to keep us moving in the right direction."
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, MSG Buffalo, Fox Sports Florida (Miami)
ABOUT THE SABRES (7-12-1): Buffalo still needs to get its offense untracked, having accumulated only four goals in its last four games. Thomas Vanek assisted on both goals against Tampa Bay to end a four-game point drought and give him a team-high 27 points. Vanek, though, has had trouble finding the net following a blistering start that featured a pair of five-point performances in his first six contests. Vanek has scored only one goal in the last eight games, a span in which the Sabres have one goal or fewer five times.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (6-9-4): Florida's dormant power play finally came alive in the win over Pittsburgh. After producing only one goal in 24 chances with the extra skater in their previous eight contests, the Panthers converted on 4 of 7 to snap a two-game losing streak and give them their second win in nine outings. The victory featured the first career hat trick by Tomas Kopecky, giving him eight goals on the season and putting him more than halfway to his career-best mark of 15 set in 2010-11 with the Chicago Blackhawks.
1. The Sabres are 0-for-13 on the power play in their last four games.
2. Florida has won three of the last four meetings, which have all been decided by one goal.
3. Vanek has scored 17 goals in 28 career games against the Panthers.
PREDICTION: Panthers 3, Sabres 2
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