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Panthers-Sabres Preview

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 4:48 AM

Associated Press

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Panthers-Sabres Preview
Florida Panthers vs. Buffalo Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres have been perfect on the road this season. Their play at home hasn't been too bad, either.

Following another impressive victory, the Eastern Conference-leading Sabres look to erase the memory of their last home game when they face the Florida Panthers at HSBC Arena on Friday.

Since opening this season with 10 straight wins, Buffalo (12-1-1) has split its past four games, including a come-from-behind 4-3 road victory over the New York Rangers on Sunday.

Daniel Briere scored his second goal of the game at 3:57 of overtime, giving the Sabres their NHL-record eighth straight road win to start a season. They broke the mark they shared with Detroit (2005), Philadelphia (1985) and Toronto (1940).

The win was Buffalo's fifth this season when trailing by at least two goals.

"Lately we've been playing with fire a little too much," Briere said. "We finally got burned with Toronto, where we weren't able to come back."

Although their last home game resulted in their only regulation loss of the season, 4-1 to the Maple Leafs on Saturday, the Sabres have outscored opponents 31-22 while compiling a 4-1-1 mark at HSBC Arena.

Sunday marked Buffalo's first game this season without right wing Maxim Afinogenov, who is expected to miss 10-14 days with an injury believed to be a separated shoulder. Afinogenov, tied for the team lead with 19 points, was replaced by Jiri Novotny, who played with center Derek Roy and left wing Thomas Vanek against the Rangers.

Starting goaltender Ryan Miller had the night off Sunday while backup Martin Biron made 26 saves to improve to 3-0. Biron will have the chance to go to 4-0 because Miller will not play Friday due to a lower body muscle strain suffered during off-ice exercises.

"We don't expect it to be too long," Sabres coach Lindry Ruff said following Friday's morning skate. "It's something that flared up on him."

One of the few areas of Buffalo's game that isn't currently operating at a high level is its special teams. The Sabres are 1-for-14 on the power play in the past three games while the opposition has gone 6-for-15.

"I thought the goal we scored in New York was a timely goal," Ruff said of Sunday's lone power-play tally, "but we haven't been generating the amount of opportunities or scoring chances on our power play that we did previously. We want to improve in that area."

Friday should present quite a challenge for the Panthers (6-7-3), who have one win in eight road games (1-5-2) this season and have dropped four of five overall.

Florida erased a two-goal deficit on Wednesday, but was unable to score in the shootout in a 4-3 loss to the visiting Rangers.

"Once we got going we created a lot of really good opportunities," Panthers coach Jacques Martin said. "I think the second half of the game was definitely really positive."

Veteran center Joe Nieuwendyk returned to the lineup Wednesday for Florida after missing four games with a back injury and assisted on Ruslan Salei's second-period goal.

Nieuwendyk's presence should help improve the Panthers' power play, which has converted three of 26 opportunities in seven games.

These clubs are meeting for the first time this season. The Panthers had a chance for their first season sweep of the Sabres after winning the first three meetings in 2005-06, but Vanek scored twice to lead Buffalo to a 5-3 home victory on Feb. 11.

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2006-2007 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Mar 15 '07 BUF 5 at FLA 3 C. Drury
Dec 14 '06 FLA 1 at BUF 2 M. Afinogenov
Dec 07 '06 BUF 1 at FLA 3 R. Jackman
Nov 10 '06 FLA 4 at BUF 5 - OT T. Vanek