Series (Game 4 of 4)

Buffalo leads 3-1

Game 1: Wednesday, October 21st
Game 2: Wednesday, November 18th
Game 3: Saturday, March 20th
Game 4: Wednesday, March 31st

Panthers 2

(30-34-12, 72 pts)

Sabres 6

(43-23-10, 96 pts)

7:00 PM ET, March 31, 2010

First Niagara Center, Buffalo, New York

1 2 3 T
FLA 1 0 12
BUF 2 2 26

R. Torres (Sabres - LW): Goals: 0, Assists: 3

H. Tallinder (Sabres - D): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

M. Ellis (Sabres - LW): Goals: 0, Assists: 2

Panthers-Sabres Preview


As the Buffalo Sabres cruise toward the Northeast Division title, the Florida Panthers are about to extend the NHL's longest active playoff drought.

The Sabres can bring both outcomes closer to fruition and push Florida's losing streak to four Wednesday night at HSBC Arena.

Buffalo's 9-3-1 stretch has given the team a secure grip on the division lead, and the Sabres moved closer to clinching their first Northeast crown since 2007 with a 3-2 victory at Boston on Monday night.

"It was really big for us, especially with the spot (the Bruins are) in and the desperation they have," rookie Tyler Myers said. "It was a huge road win for us. As a team right now, we're focused on moving forward."

The Sabres (42-23-10) continue to get big contributions from the 20-year-old Myers, who had a goal and an assist to give him at least one point in seven of his last eight games. The 6-foot-8 defenseman easily leads the Sabres in ice time and ranks first among NHL rookies with 34 assists.

Buffalo's most important player, however, is still Ryan Miller, a leading contender for the Vezina Trophy who ranks second in the league with a 2.21 goals-against average.

Miller made 40 saves against Boston to improve to 8-2-1 since the Olympics, helping the Sabres remain in close contention with Pittsburgh and New Jersey for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.

That stretch includes a 3-1 win at Florida on March 20 in which Miller made 31 saves.

The Panthers (30-33-12) have lost twice at home to the Sabres, but are the only team to score at least five goals in a game against Miller in Buffalo this season, doing so in a 6-2 win Nov. 18.

Offense has been harder to come by lately for Florida, which ranks among the five lowest-scoring teams in the league and has totaled five goals while losing three straight. The Panthers are all but ensured of missing the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season.

Their drought is the NHL's longest, and if Los Angeles earns a playoff spot, Florida and Toronto will be the only clubs to not qualify for the postseason since the 2004-05 lockout.

Standout forward David Booth suffered a concussion in the first game of Florida's skid, a 4-1 loss at Montreal on Thursday. Booth, who also missed 45 games with a more severe concussion earlier in the season, is expected to miss the rest of the season.

The Panthers held a late lead against Nashville on Monday night, but allowed the tying goal with 3:07 left in regulation and lost 3-2 in overtime.

"It's been a problem all year for us, getting the next goal after we get up 2-1," coach Peter DeBoer said. "We had two or three chances, I thought, to make it 3-1 and really put the game out of reach ... and they hung around and found a way to get one."

It's unclear which goalie will start for Florida on Wednesday. Tomas Vokoun is 0-4-1 with a 3.77 GAA in his last five starts, and backup Scott Clemmensen made 22 saves in his place Monday.

Both players have been chased by the Sabres this season. Clemmensen was yanked after allowing two goals in the first 1:56 of Buffalo's 5-2 win Oct. 21, but he replaced Vokoun during the Panthers' loss earlier this month.