SUNRISE (SportsDirect Inc.) — Two teams that disappointed after coming into the season with playoff aspirations look to avoid the prospect of finishing last in the Atlantic Division when the Florida Panthers host the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.
Buffalo is sixth after beating Montreal 3-1 on Wednesday, leads Florida by a point and is two clear of last-place Detroit in the division with two games left.
The Sabres were in the hunt for an Eastern Conference playoff spot in mid-February, but managed seven wins in 21 games since to miss the postseason for the sixth straight season.
“We had too many ups and downs,” Buffalo captain Brian Gionta, who is two assists shy of 300 for his career, told reporters. “. … Coming in and still now, we should be a playoff team, so we underachieved on that. It’s disappointing for us in the room.”
The Panthers were rolling after a five-game winning streak – all on the road – in mid-February, but are 5-16-1 since and have dropped a season-high six straight contests.
“We wanted to be in a playoff spot and thought we could’ve went further than that last year,” Florida center Vincent Trocheck told reporters. “It’s a tough way to end the season.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, MSG Buffalo, FSN Florida
ABOUT THE SABRES (33-35-12): Buffalo can finish with at least the same amount of wins as losses for the first time since 2011-12 with victories Saturday and Sunday (at Tampa Bay). Leading scorer Jack Eichel picked up points in the last two games to push his total to 57 in 59 outings this season – 36 in his last 30 contests – while Ryan O’Reilly is second on the team with 54 and has eight in a nine-game span. Evander Kane tops the team with 27 goals and has 299 career points while Sam Reinhart was held to one tally in the last 10 games.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (33-36-11): Trocheck’s goal in the 6-3 loss to St. Louis on Thursday was his first in 18 games but pushed his team-leading point total to 54 – one better than he accumulated last season. Veteran Jaromir Jagr (16 goals, 44 points) is looking to play all 82 games for the first time since 2013-14 with New Jersey and fellow forward Shawn Thornton is expected to play his final NHL game Saturday. Defenseman Ian McCoshen, a 2013 second-round pick, made his NHL debut Thursday and registered an assist in 13 minutes, 47 seconds of ice time.
1. Buffalo F Marcus Foligno is likely done for the season after suffering a knee injury in Wednesday’s victory.
2. Florida F Jussi Jokinen is not expected to play the final two games of the season because of an undisclosed injury.
3. The Sabres earned at least a point in all three meetings this season (2-0-1), including a 4-2 triumph on March 27
(© Copyright 2017 SportsDirect Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)