It will be a battle of new goaltenders in tonight’s Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers game as both Michael Neuvirth and Roberto Luongo will both make their respective debut.
Neuvirth was acquired by the Sabres from the Washington Capitals in a trade that sent Jaroslav Halak (acquired in the Ryan Miller trade) to D.C. Neuvrith was drafted in the second round of the 2006 draft and was the star of the Hersey Bear’s (Capitals AHL affiliate) 2009 Calder Cup run, posting 16-6 record with a 1.92 GAA.
In the , Neuvirth has played in 134-games across six seasons with a .910 SP and a 2.67 GAA. He was the backup to Semyon Varlamov before he got traded to the Colordao Avalanche and before he could take the reins for himself, Braden Holtby took over.
Now in Buffalo with Miller gone and the Sabres looking to rebuild, Neuvirth will be in another fight to become a franchise top goaltender as he goes against Jonas Enroth – Miller’s former backup.
It seemed as if Enroth was being groomed behind Miller to eventually take over as the franchise goaltender but if Neuvirth has anything to do with it he may be forced back into a backup role.
During his time with the Capitals, Neuvirth has a 3-3-1 record against the Panthers with a 2.77 GAA and .914 SP.
The Panthers will debut their completely rebuilt goaltender duo tonight, as not only is Luongo returning but he will have a new backup in Dan Ellis. Former starting goaltender Tim Thomas was traded to the Dallas Stars to acquire Ellis – a career backup.
Luongo has fared extremely well against the Sabres in his career, with a 9-6-2 record over 18-games with two shutouts and a .935 SP and 2.04 GAA.
Luongo was first sent to the Panthers before the 2000-2001 season from the New York Islanders in a deal that included Olli Jokinen going to Florida as well with Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha heading to the Islanders.
In Luongo’s first stint with the team, he played in 318-games – a league high 75-his last year with the team. He registered a 2.67 GAA and a .920 SP in that time before being traded to the Vancouver Canucks for Alex Auld, Bryan Allen and Todd Bertuzzi.
Both teams are looking to rebuild and hope that these goalies are the piece that they need. Luongo is obviously the more established of the two, at 25-years old this may be the time for Neuvirth to start to break out.
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