Cincinnati.com
National Hockey League
Preview
Buffalo at Florida
When: 7:00 PM ET, Saturday, April 7, 2018
Where: BB&T Center, Sunrise, Florida

The Florida Panthers enter the final weekend of the regular season still alive in the playoff race, but they could be eliminated before Saturday night’s matchup against the visiting Buffalo Sabres. The Panthers need Philadelphia to lose to the New York Rangers in regulation on Saturday afternoon before they record victories in their final two games in order to reach the postseason for the second time in three years.

Florida has responded from a rough 0-2-1 stretch with three straight wins, including Thursday's inspiring 3-2 triumph against Boston, but could be without leading scorer Aleksander Barkov (upper body) after he took a hard hit in the victory. “We came out strong,” Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo told reporters. “We played for a full 60 minutes. We didn’t have any letdowns. Just a complete hockey game against a really good team. I’m proud of the guys, the way they worked hard.” Buffalo has earned a league-low 62 points but gave Atlantic Division-leading Tampa Bay all it could handle on Friday before suffering a 7-5 loss to drop to 2-8-0 in its last 10 contests. All-Star Jack Eichel notched an assist in the setback to give him nine of his team-leading 63 points over the last six games, but he has yet to score a goal in nine career meetings with Florida.

TV: 7 p.m. ET, MSG (Buffalo), FS Sun (Florida)

ABOUT THE SABRES (25-44-12): Casey Mittelstadt (2017) and Alex Nylander (2016), the eighth picks in each of the last two drafts, each scored his first NHL goal on Friday. The 19-year-old Mittelstadt has notched four points in five games since being signed while Nylander, who is one year older, tallied in his second contest with Buffalo this season after registering an assist in four matches last campaign. Kyle Okposo scored his fourth goal in four games Friday to push his season total to 15 while defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen has notched six assists in his last five contests.

ABOUT THE PANTHERS (42-30-8): Barkov, who scored his 100th career goal earlier in Thursday's game and has registered 78 points this season, appeared to be holding his arm as he left the ice after taking a hit along the boards from Boston’s Colby Cave. If Barkov can’t play, even more will be needed from Vincent Trocheck (30 goals, 73 points) and Jonathan Huberdeau (26, 68) - who are second and third on the team in scoring. Evgenii Dadonov is tied with Barkov for second on the team with 27 goals and has recorded three points in as many games to push his season total to 63.

OVERTIME

1. Buffalo LW Evan Rodrigues notched a pair of assists Friday and has collected five of his 24 points in his last five games.

2. The Panthers can break the franchise record for home victories after tying the mark by earning their 26th on Thursday.

3. Florida has won the last four meetings, including three this season by a combined score of 12-4.

PREDICTION: Panthers 5, Sabres 2
Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W/L Strk Home Away Day Night Div
Buffalo 25-44-10-2 L3 11-25-3-2 14-19-7-0 2-6-1-1 23-38-9-1 11-13-2-1
Florida 42-30-5-3 W3 26-11-1-2 16-19-4-1 1-5-0-1 41-25-5-2 15-8-2-1
Last Meeting
Buffalo Florida
Date Away Home Shots Saves PP Shots Saves PP
3/2/18 BUF 1 FLA 4 25 26 0-3 30 24 0-3
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Total Points Player  
Buffalo V. Antipin 1
Florida N. Bjugstad 2
Goals Player  
Buffalo S. Reinhart 1
Florida A. Barkov 1
Assists Player  
Buffalo V. Antipin 1
Florida N. Bjugstad 2
Saves Player  
Buffalo R. Lehner 26
Florida J. Reimer 24
Season
Total Points Player  
Buffalo J. Eichel 64
Florida A. Barkov 83
Goals Player  
Buffalo J. Eichel 25
Florida V. Trocheck 32
Assists Player  
Buffalo J. Eichel 39
Florida A. Barkov 56
Saves Player  
Buffalo R. Lehner 1480
Florida J. Reimer 1258
Quickchart Matchup
Buffalo Off vs  Florida Def
2.41 GF
2.98 GA
31.1 Shots
34.4 Shots
48 PP
43 PK
Florida Off vs  Buffalo Def
2.96 GF
3.38 GA
34.6 Shots
32.8 Shots
46 PP
51 PK