Panthers hope to further frustrate Sabres

Sports
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The Buffalo Sabres, who are highly frustrated after having lost three straight games, will visit the Florida Panthers on Sunday night.

On Thursday, the Sabres lost 3-2 to the host Boston Bruins despite getting more shots on goal, 38-27. In fact, Buffalo outshot Boston 17-4 in the first period, yet emerged tied 1-1.

“It’s really painful right now to digest,” said Ralph Krueger, who is in his first season as Buffalo’s coach. “Against Boston — which to me is the best team in the league right now — we dominated in every area of the game except for the score.

“I feel bad for our guys. They gave it all they had, but they confirmed what we’ve been saying. We’re going to get a lot of wins playing that way.”

On Sunday, the Sabres will face a Panthers team that is on a pretty good roll, having won five of its past seven games despite a tough 4-2 loss at the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night.

One of the keys for the Panthers during the run of success is how well they have defended in the third period. They have given up just one third-period goal in the last four games.

Sergei Bobrovsky’s performance against Anaheim made it possible for the Panthers to rally from a 4-0 deficit against the Ducks on Thursday.

“He never gives up,” said Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad, who has scored three goals in his past two games. “No matter what happens in the first two periods, he is ready to go in the third.”

However, since Bobrovsky has started five straight games, it appears likely that the Panthers will turn to rookie backup goalie Sam Montembeault on Sunday.

The last game Montembeault started was on Nov. 10, a 6-5 shootout win over the New York Rangers. Montembeault, 23, made 29 saves in that game.

Offensively, Florida is led by Jonathan Huberdeau, Evgenii Dadonov and Brett Connolly, each with 10 goals.

Buffalo is led by 23-year-old center Jack Eichel, the second overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. As a fourth-year pro last season, Eichel had 82 points in 77 games. That was the first point-per-game season of his career.

This season, Eichel has been even more impressive — a team-high 13 goals and a team-high-tying 13 assists in 22 games. He is on pace for the first 30-goals-plus season of his career.

Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, the NHL’s first overall pick in 2018, has one goal and is tied with Eichel for the team assists lead with 13.

Center Sam Reinhart, the second overall pick in the 2014 draft, is another Sabres player to watch. He is second on the Sabres with 17 points — eight goals and nine assists.

The Sabres, who have an active eight-year playoff drought, have split their goaltending duties between Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark. Hutton is 6-4-2 with a 2.73 GAA. Ullmark is 4-5-1 with a 3.00 GPA.

–Field Level Media

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