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Game #74, Panthers @ Sabres: Going Down In Flames

03/25/11
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Two birds with one regulation win.

With a 60 minute win, the Sabres would officially eliminate the Ottawa Senators and the Florida Panthers – tonight’s opponent – from playoff contention. With one point, the Sabres would exceed Ottawa’s maximum attainable points (BUF 82 min. to OTT 81 max.) while a regulation win would do the same to the Panthers (BUF 83 min. to FLA 82 max.).

It’s going to take a herculean effort by the Sabres to win tonight against the Panthers, who have made the Sabres look particularly foolish twice this season yet lost in their last meeting at the hands of Tyler Myers doin’ work from his office, and even up the season series. In order to do that, the Sabres will need to look to both their established and rising stars to get the job done.

Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek, and Tyler Myers are all poised to dominate on the ice again while Nathan Gerbe and Tyler Ennis have proven that less size still isn’t a problem in the ever-growing modern NHL. The loss of Derek Roy in December (interestingly enough, to the Panthers) shifted the team’s mentality to a more up-tempo, pressing style of play that has brought the excitement – and wins – back to the team.

Stephen Weiss is doubtful for tonight’s game for the Panthers, while Lindy Ruff says Steve Montador will be a game time decision. Expect Jhonas Enroth to get one of the two starts this weekend – possibly tonight, given Ryan Miller’s track record versus the Panthers this season and tomorrow’s opponent being the Devils. No reason for Florida to rest Vokoun en route to a playoff berth, so expect him to get the start again.

The team’s much-maligned lack of killer instinct could finally make its debut tonight as the Sabres seek a crucial two points versus a cellar-dwelling Panthers squad. It’s Friday night and two teams could go down in flames at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres before Saturday arrives.

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