When the two teams meet on Friday night, the Panthers hope for a reversal of fortune.
“A lot of one-goal games for us,” Panthers center Nick Bjugstad said after morning skate at BB&T Center. “A lot of games we feel like we could have won. I think that’s what’s frustrating. A lot of times when you’re in these games, you feel like you have them. Whether it be a turnover, like I had the other night, or a bad bounce, you kind of create your own luck in this league.”
Sitting at 1-1-1 in the midst of their season-long, eight-game homestand, the Panthers (9-10-4) know they could just as easily be 3-0-0. On Saturday night, they surrendered the game-tying goal to Chicago with 1.8 seconds left in regulation before losing in overtime. On Wednesday, it was Anaheim going up 3-2 with just 1:28 left in the third to shock Florida and steal two points.
After winning five in a row earlier this month, the Panthers have lost six of their last eight games.
“I think we need a rebound game, for sure,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. “I think we’re all disappointed. You look at this homestand, and we know how important it is. We’re 1-1-1, but in my mind we could be 3-0. Obviously a second away in the Chicago game and a minute-and-half from going into overtime last game.
“I think we’ve been the better team for the majority of those three games, but that doesn’t matter. It’s points in the bank right now. They’re all important. We have to find a way to start closing out games when we have leads. Hopefully that’s a response we’ll have tonight in this game.”
With a two-point performance against the Ducks, winger Jonathan Huberdeau took over sole possession of Florida’s scoring lead with 24 points (five goals, 19 assists) in 23 games. Since losing his center, Vincent Trocheck, to injury on Nov. 19, the 25-year-old has stepped up to fill that scoring void on the second line, posting one goal and six assists over the last three games.
“Huby’s just sort of taken it upon himself,” Boughner said. “He knows obviously there’s no Troch on that line, so he knows he has to be the leader on that line and has to make that line go. I’ll give him a lot of credit, he’s done that in the last week or so.”
An early-season surprise, the Sabres (17-7-2) currently sit in third place in the Atlantic Division after having their winning streak snapped in a 5-4 loss in Tampa on Thursday night. Offseason acquisition Jeff Skinner leads the team with 19 goals, while Jack Eichel has tallied 25 assists.
“They’re a good team, there’s no doubt about it,” said Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad, who has tallied five goals over his last nine games. “They have a knack for scoring goals. Jeff Skinner has, I think, 19 goals. It’s pretty unbelievable. He’s a guy that we’re going to definitely have to pay attention to tonight. They’ve got a lot of scoring threats.”
Florida has won five straight against Buffalo, winning by a combined score of 19-9 in that span.
— Keith Yandle leads all Panthers defensemen and ranks sixth in his league with 21 points (four goals, 17 assists). A power-play specialist, his 14 points on the man advantage lead are tied for the most in the league.
— Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov has registered 12 points (six goals, six assists) over his last 12 games. The 23-year-old center ranks first in the NHL in takeaways (41) and penalty differential (plus-19), while his 22:45 of ice time per game average places him first in the NHL among forwards.
— Mike Hoffman enters tonight’s contest as Florida’s leader in goals (12) and ranks tied for second in points (23). The 29-year-old forward also leads the team in shots (88) and game-winning goals (2).
— Aaron Ekblad has registered eight points (five goals, three assists) over his last nine games. With four more goals, the 22-year-old will overtake Robert Svehla (61) as the franchise’s all-time leader in goals by a defenseman.
— Since Nov. 1, the Panthers own the second-ranked power play in the league, going 17-for-49 (34.7 percent) with the man advantage during that span. Entering tonight’s matchup, they have at least one power play goal in 13 of their last 14 contests.
GEICO GOALIE MATCHUP OF THE GAME
James Reimer (4-6-2, 3.36 GAA, .894 SV%) vs. Linus Ullmark (5-0-1, 2.52 GAA, .926 SV%)
Reimer will make his fifth consecutive start for the Panthers after stopping 22 of 25 shots in a 3-2 loss to Anaheim on Wednesday.
The 30-year-old has allowed three-or-fewer goals in three of his last four outings and is 1-1-1 in his last three starts. In his career against Buffalo, he owns a 10-4-2 record with a .905 save percentage and one shutout.
Ullmark will likely get the nod for the Sabres after Carter Hutton started during the team’s 5-4 loss in Tampa on Thursday. The 25-year-old backup has been nearly unbeatable in limited play this season, winning five of his six starts. In two career starts against the Panthers, he has gone 1-1-0 with a 3.02 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage.
Evgenii Dadonov – Aleksander Barkov – Mike Hoffman
Jonathan Huberdeau – Jared McCann – Dryden Hunt
Frank Vatrano – Nick Bjugstad – Troy Brouwer
Micheal Haley – Juho Lammikko – Colton Sceviour
Mike Matheson – Aaron Ekblad
Keith Yandle – Mark Pysyk
Alexander Petrovic – MacKenzie Weegar
Scratches: Bogdan Kiselevich, Denis Malgin (upper-body), Roberto Luongo (lower-body)
Injured Reserve: Derek MacKenzie (shoulder), Jamie McGinn (back), Vincent Trocheck (ankle)
– Nov. 24: G Michael Hutchinson was recalled from Springfield (AHL).
– Nov. 22: C Vincent Trocheck was placed on the Injured Reserve list.
– Nov. 22: F Maxim Mamin was loaned to CSKA Moscow (KHL).
– Nov. 21: F Denis Malgin was recalled from Springfield (AHL).
– 50/50 Raffle (digital tickets HERE)
– Hockey Fights Cancer Night
– Hockey Fights Cancer jerseys up for auction, pins for sale
– Flashback Friday (first 10,000 fans receive a fanny pack)
BITE OF BB&T CENTER
– Turkey Panini for $9 outside sections 105, 115 and 328
HOW TO WATCH
When: Friday, Nov. 30, 7:00 p.m.
Where: BB&T Center – Sunrise, FL
TV: Fox Sports Florida (Alternate Channels Below)
AT&T HD: 1721
Dish HD: 9577
Dish Hopper: 412-42
Florida Panthers Radio Network: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast)