GAME PREVIEW: Panthers @ Sabres (Friday, December 9, 2011)

By johnmiller

It would seem that all Buffalo Sabres (14-11-2) fans want for the holidays is a home victory. Then another. Then another. But first, you need one. Standing in the way of that first victory on Friday night will be the Florida Panthers (16-8-4). While the Sabres are coming off of crushing overtime defeat at home to the Philadelphia Flyers, the Panthers are coming off of a 2-0 win in Boston against the World Champion Bruins.

Ryan Miller will start in goal for the Sabres. Scott Clemmensen is tentatively expected to draw the start between the pipes for Florida.

For the Sabres, Mike Weber, Tyler Myers, Cody McCormick, Nathan Gerbe and Brad Boyes are all out indefinitely. Paul Gaustad and Jordan Leopold are listed as day-to-day for Buffalo. Ville Leino will be serving a suspension during this game and is unavailable.

Matt Bradley, Marcel Goc and Scottie Upshall are listed as out indefinitely for the Panthers. Mark Cullen is listed as day-to-day for Florida.

These are two teams headed in opposite directions at the moment. The Panthers started slow and have really come on strong recently. The Sabres started out strong and have really struggled since. Sure you can blame the myriad of injuries for the Sabres difficulties, but they’ve consistently shot themselves in the foot and they have to learn how to win games and play a consistent brand of hockey.

The Panthers are really rolling. They’ve won four of their last five games overall and they’ve won seven of their last ten games on the road. Meanwhile, the Sabres have only won two of their last eight games overall and they’ve amazingly only won one of their last seven games at home.

But there is hope. The Sabres have been playing better in the first period. Their special teams play seems to have stabilized after being very spotty recently. Players not named Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville are contributing on offense. Star goalie Ryan Miller is back and doesn’t seem any worse for the wear. Sure the injury situation is brutal. But that’s just attrition in a physical sport like hockey. With any luck, the Sabres are getting their injuries out of the way now so they can be very healthy for the second half of the season.

Despite the recent performance of these teams, the odds-makers have installed the Sabres as the favorite (-140) at home. Most likely the return of Ryan Miller is returning a bit of luster the Sabres’ reputation.

Date: Friday, December 9, 2011
Time: 7:30 ET
Location: First Niagara Center in Buffalo, NY


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