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Florida Panthers Not Taking the Buffalo Sabres Lightly

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Tkachuk
Florida’s Brandon Montour and Sam Bennett battle Buffalo’s Zach Benson for the puck in a game on Feb. 27 in Sunrise. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

FORT LAUDERDALE — With a point of any kind today against the visiting Buffalo Sabres, the Florida Panthers would clinch home ice in the opening round of the 2024 Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Panthers could also take over first place in the Atlantic Division, at least temporarily, as they come into today a point back of the Boston Bruins.

With something tangible to play for, the Panthers are going to bring their big guns to Sunrise today.

Coach Paul Maurice said Friday afternoon that not only would Sergei Bobrovsky start for the second straight game, but the full lineup would be on the ice.

Following Thursday’s 4-0 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, Maurice said he has pretty much settled on his top three forward lines for Game 1 as well as his six defensemen.

Florida will again be without Carter Verhaeghe and Aaron Ekblad but both should be available for Game 1 which could come as early as next Saturday night.

“There’s lots of skill on every NHL team,” Maurice said following Friday’s practice at the IcePlex. “What we don’t want to do is get into their style of game. They will play with an offensive puck-control game … and we don’t want to get lulled into it. Buffalo has lots of skilled players.”

Buffalo, meanwhile, was eliminated from playoff contention and will miss the postseason for an NHL-record 13th consecutive year. Florida previously held the record with misses in 11 straight seasons.

The Sabres are now tied with the New York Jets for the longest active postseason drought in North American professional sports.

Despite that disappointment, the Sabres bounced back from a loss to Dallas by beating the Capitals 4-2 on Thursday in their home finale.

The Panthers really don’t feel like helping Buffalo feel any better about things.

ON DECK

BUFFALO SABRES @ FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • When: Saturday, 5 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports SUN/ESPN+
  • 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 Betting Odds — Panthers Favored: Money Line (-210); Puck line (-1.5, +115); Over/Under 5.5 (-125/+105)
  • Season Series (Panthers Lead 2-0) — At Buffalo: Panthers 4, Sabres 0 (Feb. 15). At Florida: Panthers 3, Sabres 2 (Feb. 28); Saturday.
  • Last Season: Florida won 3-1
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Florida leads 56-45-8, 4 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers — Regular-Season Finale: Tuesday vs. Toronto, 7 p.m.

PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS (50-24-6) LINES

10 Vladimir Tarasenko // 16 Sasha Barkov // 13 Sam Reinhart

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

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

8 Kyle Okposo // 82 Kevin Stenlund // 18 Steven Lorentz

91 Oliver Ekman-Larsson // 42 Gus Forsling 

77 Niko Mikkola // 62 Brandon Montour 

26 Uvis Balinskis // 7 Dmitry Kulikov

72 Sergei Bobrovsky

41 Anthony Stolarz

Scratched: Ryan Lomberg, Jonah Gadjovich, Josh Mahura, Toby Bjornfot

Injured: Carter Verhaeghe (upper body), Aaron Ekblad (lower body)

PROJECTED BUFFALO SABRES (38-37-5) LINES

77 JJ Peterka // 72 Tage Thompson // 89 Alex Tuch

9 Zach Benson // 24 Dylan Cozens // 22 Jack Quinn

53 Jeff Skinner // 19 Peyton Krebs // 12 Jordan Greenway

28 Zemgus Girgensons // 17 Tyson Jost // 13 Lukas Rousek

25 Owen Power // 26 Rasmus Dahlin

38 Kale Clague // 10 Henri Jokiharju

78 Jacob Bryson // 75 Connor Clifton

1 Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen

31 Eric Comrie

Scratched: Eric Robinson, Victor Olofsson

Injured: Mattias Samuelsson (upper body), Bowen Byram (personal)

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