MIAMI (AP) — The Florida Panthers and Buffalo Sabres were the two worst teams in the NHL last season, and so far it doesn’t look as if things will be much better in 2014-15.
The Panthers will try to avoid opening a season with four straight losses for the first time, while the Sabres attempt to build on their first victory Friday night.READ MORE: Miami Beach Ordinance Seeks To Roll Back Alcohol Sales In Entertainment District
Florida (0-2-1) had 66 points last season and only Buffalo (1-3-0) had fewer with 52. It’s still early, but both teams currently sit at the bottom of the Atlantic Division.
The Panthers are having trouble in nearly every facet, including the box office. After going winless over six preseason games, they’ve scored only three times, while six of the nine goals they’ve allowed have been power-play tallies. Florida’s power play (10 percent) and penalty kill (76) were last in the NHL in 2013-14.
“Obviously power play and penalty kill are our main focuses,” defenseman Erik Gudbranson told the team’s official website.
“You’re not going to go anywhere in this league unless those are in the top ten. That’s our goal, to get up there and be clean through the power play, solid through the penalty kill and do the little things, like managing the puck well.”
The penalty kill cost Florida again in Monday’s 1-0 loss to Ottawa, but that wasn’t why the Panthers gained national attention. It was more for their announced crowd of 7,311 that broke the previous franchise low of 10,063 set in October 2007.
“I don’t pay attention when I’m playing,” said goaltender Roberto Luongo, who had 22 saves. “I focus on my job. If we want to get some people in the stands we have to start winning some hockey games.”
For now, the Panthers can avoid talking about the sparse attendance since they’re opening a four-game trip. However, they’re on the brink of going winless through their first four games for the first time since opening 2000-01 with five losses and three ties.
“I think everybody’s very excited to get on the road,” Gudbranson said.READ MORE: Miami Gardens Opens New Walk-Up COVID-19 Vaccination Site
That may be true for Florida’s three leading goal-scorers from last season: Brad Boyes, Sean Bergenheim and Nick Bjugstad, who have yet to find the back of the net.
The Panthers have scored eight non-shootout goals while winning three straight meetings with the Sabres, including two in Buffalo.
The Sabres ended their season-opening three-game skid with a 4-3 shootout win at Carolina on Tuesday. They ended up needing eight rounds of the tiebreaker after squandering a two-goal lead in the third and giving up the equalizer with 1:48 left.
“When you’re going through what we’re going through, you have to take baby steps,” second-year coach Ted Nolan said. “I’ve never questioned the character of this team one time. We weren’t playing very well for whatever reason, but we have to find a solution to our problems and (Tuesday) we had some big performances. Overall, sometimes you’ll take an ugly win over a beautiful loss.”
Buffalo hasn’t won back-to-back contests since taking three in a row Feb. 25-28 – the Sabres’ longest winning streak last season.
Marcus Foligno matched his career high with two goals against the Hurricanes. The forward has just one goal and two assists in seven career matchups with Florida and has gone without a point in three meetings at home.
“Everybody’s got confidence now,” Foligno said.
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