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Buffalo Sabres vs. Florida Panthers

Saturday, 03.20.2004 / 7:30 PM

Associated Press

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Buffalo Sabres vs. Florida Panthers
Buffalo Sabres vs. Florida Panthers
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GAME: Buffalo Sabres (32-32-6-4) at Florida Panthers (27-30-14-3).

TIME: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

The Buffalo Sabres are fortunate to still be within striking distance of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

With one win in their last five games, the Sabres hope to rejuvenate their push for the postseason as they visit the Florida Panthers.

Closing out a three-game road trip, the Sabres are six points behind the New York Islanders for eighth place in the East with eight games remaining.

"I think we're a confident group that thinks they can win six of the next eight or whatever we need to win," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said after Buffalo's 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.

The Sabres are catching a break in their schedule, playing five of their next six against teams below .500. During the stretch, they'll have a home-and-home series with the league-worst Pittsburgh Penguins.

In Thursday' loss, Jochen Hecht scored for Buffalo and Mika Noronen stopped 23 shots.

"The pressure keeps coming, but I think guys are realizing it's fun also," Noronen said. "Every game is a big game."

The Panthers, who trail the Islanders by nine points, had a three-game winning streak snapped with a 3-2 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers on Friday.

Mikael Samuelsson scored his second goal in as many games to put Florida ahead 2-1 5{ minutes into the third period, but the Panthers allowed two goals in the final two minutes, including Ilya Kovalchuk's game-winner with 23.7 seconds remaining.

STANDINGS: Sabres - 74 points, 5th place, 19 PB, Northeast Division. Panthers - 71 points, 2nd place, 26 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Sabres - Miroslav Satan, 28 goals; Daniel Briere, 33 assists and 58 points; Andrew Peters, 134 PIM. Panthers - Olli Jokinen, 23 goals, 24 assists and 47 points; Darcy Hordichuk, 147 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 18): Sabres - Power play: 16.5 percent (55 for 333), 13th in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.5 percent (268 for 317), 11th. Panthers - Power play: 16.4 percent (44 for 269), 16th. Penalty killing:86.0 percent (282 for 328), 3rd.

GOALTENDERS: Sabres - Martin Biron (21-17-4, 1 SO, 2.73 GAA); Noronen (11-16-2, 2, 2.45). Panthers - Roberto Luongo (24-29-13, 7, 2.32); Steve Shields (3-4-1, 0, 3.42).

SEASON SERIES: Tied, 1-1-1.

LAST MEETING: Feb. 18; Tie, 1-1, OT. At Buffalo, Marcus Nilson's goal tied the game for Florida with 10:27 left in the third period. Luongo made 41 saves for the Panthers.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sabres - 14-20-2-1 on the road; Panthers - 15-12-6-2 at home.


Associated Press
2003-2004 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Mar 20 '04BUF 2 at FLA 1D. Roy
Feb 18 '04FLA 1 at BUF 1 - OTM. Nilson
Nov 28 '03FLA 3 at BUF 4T. Pyatt
Nov 24 '03BUF 1 at FLA 2M. Biron
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%