Panthers Begin Road Trip In Buffalo Searching For Third Straight Win

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BUFFALO (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – Two teams with once promising seasons are now starting another playoff-less spring in the eye.

The Buffalo Sabres have gone quite a while without a playoff appearance, while qualifying for the postseason has been a rarity for the Florida Panthers since their inception.

A spot in this season’s tournament does not appear to be in the cards for either of the Atlantic Division clubs, who face off Monday in Buffalo.

The Sabres have gone five campaigns without participating in the playoffs, and 2016-17 figures to be the sixth in a row as they trail Boston by 10 points for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference with only seven games remaining.

Florida, which is seven points behind the Bruins with eight contests left, made only its second postseason appearance in 15 seasons and the fifth in franchise history last campaign but has advanced past the first round just once – making it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996 before being swept by Colorado.

The Panthers are in search of a third straight victory as they kick off a four-game road trip, while the Sabres are wrapping up a three-game homestand during which they split the first two contests.

Buffalo has earned three of a possible four points against Florida this season, posting a 3-0 home victory in October before falling in a shootout on the road two months later.

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

ABOUT THE PANTHERS (33-30-11): Making the postseason seems like less of a possibility for Florida with its injuries to key players.

Defenseman Aaron Ekblad recently returned from a four-game absence due to a concussion only to suffer a neck injury that has sidelined him for the last two contests, while Jaromir Jagr went down with a lower-body ailment in Saturday’s 7-0 triumph over Chicago.

Jonathan Marchessault increased his team-leading goal total to 28 in the win by registering his first career hat trick, which has given him five tallies in his last two games.

ABOUT THE SABRES (31-32-12): Jack Eichel recorded a three-point performance in Saturday’s 5-2 victory over Toronto, matching his output from the previous five games.

The 20-year-old leads the team with 53 points and is three goals behind Evander Kane (26) for first on the club despite appearing in only 54 contests.

Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, who spent the first seven seasons of his career with Florida, returned from an eight-game absence due to a neck injury Saturday to register his first multi-point performance (goal, assist) with Buffalo in his 500th NHL contest.

OVERTIME

  1. Panthers LW Shawn Thornton’s next game will be the 700th of his career, while D Mark Pysyk is one shy of 200 NHL contests.
  2. Buffalo captain Brian Gionta is expected to play in his 1,000th NHL game on Monday.
  3. Florida LW Thomas Vanek has recorded eight points – but just one goal – in 12 games since being acquired from Detroit.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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