Game Day Preview # 5. Sabres vs. Panthers

Image Source: Zimbio.com

BUFFALO SABRES 4-1-0 (8 pts.) vs. FLORIDA PANTHERS 3-2-0 (6 pts.)

OPPOSITION SITE: SABRE NOISE

After a two game road trip featuring back to back games against Tampa and Washington the Florida Panthers come home to host the red hot Buffalo Sabres.  The Sabres look to stay undefeated on the road as they go for their third consecutive road win as part of a four game trip, and have started out with four wins for the third time in four years.  In their 3-1 victory over Montreal on Tuesday goaltender Ryan Miller made 40 saves, and Tomas Vanek scored the go ahead goal with only seconds left in the middle period.

The Sabres who were sluggish offensively once again benefited from the stellar goaltending of Miller as they were outshot 41-23 overall, and 14-3 in the opening frame.  Sound familiar?  Vanek gave credit to the U.S. born Miller:

“As a team we didn’t play well. We played ugly,” said Vanek, who has four goals and a point in each game. “I think Ryan stole those two points. That’s the only way of putting it.”

Ryan Miller is the backbone for Buffalo and has been for the past few seasons, as the team doesn’t necessarily have a high powered offence.  Miller was a tale of two seasons last year, but ended up with 34 wins, however posting his highest GAA (2.59) in three years.  The Sabres revamped their defence by adding Christian Erhoff and Robyn Regher this offseason, and Miller is off to a solid start with three wins in four starts with a 2.01 GAA.  Backed up by Jhonas Enroth who won his only appearance, the two goaltenders have also combined to help kill off 18 of 20 power play attempts.

Buffalo’s top line with Tomas Vanek leads the Sabres in scoring with four goals and four assists for eight points, followed by Jason Pominville and youngster Luke Adam each with six points.  The trio has combined for 20 points and 48 shots to go along with being a +9.  Their second line of Derek Roy, Nathan Gerbe and Drew Stafford has a very respectable 13 points and are a combined +10.  Coach Lindy Ruff has been leaving his line combinations alone so far for the most part, however during their victory in Montreal the third unit of Tyler Ennis, Ville Leino and Brad Boyes had a case of the giveaways, causing Ruff to tinker slightly.

Erhoff  leads the defencemen in ice time with an average of 24;41 TOI.  Tyler Myers has been paired with the rugged Robyn Regher on defence, and the two have combined for 20 hits and 21 blocked shots between them.  Former Panther Jordan Leopold has been paired with Erhoff and picked up his first goal Tuesday against Montreal.

The Florida Panthers on the other hand are looking to get themselves back on track after their shutout loss to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night.  The Panthers managed only 2o shots against their former goalie Tomas Vokoun, but none were overly tough for him to save.  No excuses for that loss which had been the third game in four nights for Florida, as the tough schedule for the month of October continues.  The Panthers play seven of eleven games away from the Bank Atlantic Center, and tonight is only the second home game of the season so far.  As George Richards points out in today’s Miami Herald, the boys are glad to be back home.

Last season the Panthers were 2-1-1 against the Sabres as each team won a game on the road, and Ryan Miller started all four games for the Sabres.  In two of the victories for the Panthers last year, they threw 39 shots at Miller within a one week span scoring eight times.  Florida is looking for a similar response tonight rather than their performance on Tuesday against the Capitals where they were held scoreless.  A part of their game that needs to start producing is their secondary scoring.  David Booth and Scottie Upshall have not yet scored a goal this season, and the fourth line of Matt Bradley, Shawn Matthias and Ryan Carter has no points among them.  Crash who’s been working hard, has also been held off the scoresheet, making it six of 12 forwards who haven’t scored a goal in five games.  That percentage must improve.

As of this morning’s skate there are potentially some lineup changes coming which could have a bearing on those numbers.  News from the teams website.

The power play has been “electric” scoring 7 times in their last 17 chances (8 for 25 overall), but 5 on 5 scoring has been weak.  Being at home and getting some rest yesterday hopefully does the trick, as the games aren’t getting any easier, and the expectations are significantly higher.  Goaltending support for Florida continues as a trademark of this team in recent years, and with the play of Jose Theodore and rookie Jacob Marksrom’s debut, the Panthers know they need to give more support.  Steeger talks about Markstrom’s performance Tuesday night (source: Miami Herald):

“He’s awesome. He’s going to be a heck of a goaltender,” Versteeg said. “He’s 21 years old and has a lot of potential. I’ve become friends with him, and he has a great head on his shoulders. He played great, but you’re not going to win many games when you don’t score a goal. They came with everything they had; they were a fresh team. They came out hard with the pressure early, and Markstrom stood up for us and kept us in the game.”

Jose Theodore will be back in goal tonight for Florida, after getting some time off.  You can most likely expect Theo to play the next three games, including Monday’s road game in Montreal.
Nerdy Stats:
* The Panthers trail the series against Buffalo 24-33-4-7, but are 15-13-1-4 on home ice.
* Stephen Weiss has 21 points (8g-13a) in 29 games against the Sabres.
* Tomas Kopecky needs three points to reach 100 for his career (38g-59a 97pts).
* Ryan Miller is 11-7-0 against the Florida Panthers with a 2.47 GAA.
* Jason Pominville leads all Sabres with 22 career points (8g-14a), while Tomas Vanek leads in goals with 13.
* Buffalo has recorded 71 of their 144 shots in the second period, scoring 7 of their 17 goals.
* Lindy Ruff has 530 wins as head coach of Buffalo, trailing Al Arbour who had 740, for most wins by a coach with a single franchise.
Connections:
* Panthers assistant coach Craig Ramsey was drafted 19th overall by Buffalo in 1971, spending his entire NHL career with Buffalo, totaling 672 points (252-420-672) in 1,070 games.  He also began his coaching career with Buffalo as an assistant during the 86-87 season taking over as interim coach late in the year.
* Brian Campbell was a sixth round selection for Buffalo in 1997 (156th overall).  In 391 games for Buffalo Soupy compiled 176 points (32a-144g) over eight seasons.
* Jordan Leopold played 61 games for Florida before going to Pittsburgh in the 2009-2010 season.
Here’s the TSN Gameday.

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Topics: Brian Campbell, Buffalo Sabres, Craig Ramsey, Florida Panthers, Lindy Ruff, Luke Adam, Ryan Miller, Steeger, Stephen Weiess, Tomas Vanek

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