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SUNRISE (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – The Florida Panthers are hoping to climb back above .500 after a losing streak set them back.

The Buffalo Sabres look to reach the .500 mark for the first time since the end of the 2012-13 season when they visit the Panthers on Thursday.

The Sabres have won four of their last five contests, including a 4-1 victory at Tampa Bay on Tuesday, and rookie phenom Jack Eichel has posted five points in his past three games.

“We’re finding ways to win,” Sabres captain Brian Gionta told the Buffalo News. “We’re a team that’s maturing in that sense. We’ve been playing good hockey for most of the year, with spurts that are really good.”

The Sabres have managed one victory in their last nine games against the Panthers, who edged Calgary 4-3 on Tuesday for their first win in six contests overall.

Florida’s Jaromir Jagr scored the winner for his 729th career goal, climbing within two of Marcel Dionne for fourth place on the all-time list.

The Panthers reportedly had a closed-door meeting after the game and Roberto Luongo told reporters, “We have some tough tests ahead and we need to play better if we want to win.”

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, MSG, Bell TV (Buffalo), FSN Florida

ABOUT THE SABRES (7-8-0): Eichel notched his fourth goal in eight games Tuesday at Tampa Bay while registering seven shots – one shy of his season high.

The 19-year-old has been a catalyst to Buffalo’s rise along with 21-year-old defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, who has recorded three points in his last two games and has eight overall, which ties him with Tyler Ennis for third on the team.

Offseason acquisition Ryan O’Reilly leads the club with 13 points but has been kept off the scoresheet over his last four contests.

ABOUT THE PANTHERS (6-6-3): Aleksander Barkov, who has missed the last eight games with a hand injury, is expected to begin practicing Thursday and could be back in the lineup soon.

The 20-year-old center was playing with Jagr and Jonathan Huberdeau, who still is looking for his first goal of the season to go along with his seven assists.

Defenseman Aaron Ekblad, the first overall pick in the 2014 draft, registered his second goal of the campaign against Calgary and matched his season high with five shots.

OVERTIME

  1. Sabres G Chad Johnson has stopped 40-of-41 shots in his last two games while rookie G Linus Ullmark has won three of his last four contests.
  2. Florida C Connor Brickley, who was a healthy scratch the last four games, was assigned to Portland of the American Hockey League.
  3. Buffalo D Mike Weber missed Tuesday’s contest with a lower-body injury and is questionable to face Florida.

 

The Panthers face the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday, November 12th at 7:30 p.m. You can hear every game on Sports Radio 560 WQAM, the radio home of the Florida Panthers.

Follow David on Twitter (@DavidDwork)

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