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Florida Panthers Back at Full Strength for Clash with Sabres

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Florida Panthers Buffalo Sabres
The Florida Panthers look to keep things rolling against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday. // Roger Lee Photographer (561) 866-200

FORT LAUDERDALE — The Florida Panthers face another tough challenge as a motivated Buffalo Sabres team comes to town for a Tuesday night clash.

Florida got a taste of what Buffalo can do when it left western New York with a 4-0 victory on Feb. 15.

While the score does not look as close, the Sabres forced Anthony Stolarz to make 45 saves on 13 high-danger chances in a game he very much won for a Panthers squad on the second night of a back-to-back. 

“They generated a fair amount on us off the rush, which we don’t like,” coach Paul Maurice said. “The hallmark of what we’re good at is that we don’t give a lot, so we look at this game like we gotta be better than we were in our rush defense.

“They have skill, they have talent, and they have speed and when your risk profile changes as you move towards the end of the year, that becomes more and more dangerous and it’s a really good test for us.

“We can actually get better in this game tonight by being very in tune with how hard we defend. So we’re not a passive defense team at all, we’re an aggressive defender, and when you play a team that would aggressively stretch or has speed or will try some plays on you, you’ll get tested, so we want to be good in that department tonight.”

The Sabres have been on a roll away from home, winning five-straight road games heading into Tuesday night.

Their 12-8-0 record since Jan. 1 has them within 11 points of a wild card berth, and while it is a long shot, they are going to be hungry on Tuesday as they look to get themselves back in the race.

Rasmus Dahlin has been one of the drivers of that, picking up 10 assists in 14 points in 20 games since then, helping them stretch the ice and create their dynamic offense.

“You got to defend,” Sam Reinhart said. “You can’t give them any ice to play on. They’ve got a lot of skill and offensive capability, so you have to minimize their time and space and it’s going to create more for us.”

With the Panthers on the other side of the token — sitting firmly in a playoff spot while remaining in the conversation for the Presidents’ Trophy — they have to work just as hard to sustain their style of play going into the postseason.

And a game like Tuesday’s is a good place to keep building that momentum.

“It’s a challenge for sure,” Dmitry Kulikov said. “You see it around the league. Teams that are in the playoffs right now are getting beat by teams that are not in the race. To stay within that game all year round, that’s what we are training ourselves for, to play the style of game that we will play in the playoffs.

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“Mentally, it’s hard getting up for a game that doesn’t mean anything to the other team and maybe even for us, that it’s not going to do anything points-wise in the standings. But we’re not thinking like that. We’re thinking every game that we should come out and try to put the same game on the ice that we would in the playoffs.”

GAME NOTES

Matthew Tkachuk (injury) and Kevin Stenlund (illness) are both good to go for Tuesday’s game after missing Saturday’s clash with the Washington Capitals, per Maurice.

Sam Reinhart, who missed Wednesday’s practice due to load management, will also be in the lineup.

Sergei Bobrovsky will start in net for the Panthers.

ON DECK

BUFFALO SABRES @ FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • Streaming ONLY: ESPN+/Hulu
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Local Odds — Panthers Favored: Money Line (-225); Puck line (-1.5, +105); Over/Under 6.5 (+100/-120)
  • Season Series (Panthers Lead 1-0) — At Buffalo: Panthers 4, Sabres 0 (Feb. 15). At Florida: Tuesday; April 13.
  • Last Season: Florida won 3-1
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Florida leads 55-45-8, 4 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Thursday vs. Montreal, 7 p.m.

PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS (38-16-4) LINES

23 Carter Verhaeghe // 16 Sasha Barkov// 13 Sam Reinhart

21 Nick Cousins // 9 Sam Bennett // 19 Matthew Tkachuk

27 Eetu Luostarinen // 15 Anton Lundell // 17 Evan Rodrigues

12 Jonah Gadjovich // 82 Kevin Stenlund // 94 Ryan Lomberg

42 Gus Forsling // 5 Aaron Ekblad

77 Niko Mikkola // 62 Brandon Montour

91 Oliver Ekman-Larsson// 7 Dmitry Kulikov

72 Sergei Bobrovsky

41 Anthony Stolarz

Scratched: Josh Mahura, Steven Lorentz, Will Lockwood

Injured: None

PROJECTED BUFFALO SABRES (27-27-4) LINEUP

71 Victor Olofsson // 72 Tage Thompson // 89 Alex Tuch

12 Jordan Greenway // 37 Casey Mittelstadt // 24 Dylan Cozens

9 Zach Benson // 19 Peyton Krebs // 77 JJ Peterka

Eric Robinson // 28 Zemgus Girgensons // 21 Kyle Okposo

26 Rasmus Dahlin // 10 Henri Jokiharju

25 Owen Power // 6 Erik Johnson

78 Jacob Bryson // 75 Connor Clifton

1 Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen

31 Eric Comrie

Scratched: Tyson Jost, Ryan Johnson

Injured: Jeff Skinner (undisclosed), Jack Quinn (lower body), Mattias Samuelsson (upper body)

Sabres lines provided by NHL.com

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