Reeling Sabres take on Panthers

10:15 AM, Oct 25, 2013   |    comments
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( - Frustration continues to mount for the Buffalo Sabres, who now have two skaters set to serve lengthy suspension for dangerous hits.

The Sabres look to reel in their emotions on Friday night and avoid a fourth straight setback as they visit the Florida Panthers.

Buffalo has dropped three in a row in regulation since its lone victory of the season on Oct. 15 at the New York Islanders. The Sabres fell to 0-6-1 on home ice with Wednesday's 5-2 setback to the Boston Bruins.

The game took an ugly turn late in the third period when Buffalo's John Scott delivered a shot to the head of Boston's Loui Eriksson, who had to be helped off the ice and did not return to the game. Scott then dropped the gloves with Adam McQuaid, getting assessed five minutes for fighting and a 10-minute match penalty.

On Thursday, it was revealed Scott will have an in-person hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety, meaning he is likely facing a ban of at least five games.

"It happened pretty fast. I just thought I was completing a check but obviously I kind of, you know, hit his head and it wasn't exactly what I was aiming for,"Scott said on Buffalo's. "I didn't want to do that. It was just a bad play and it's unfortunate what happened."

The knowledge of Scott's hearing came on the same day that commissioner Gary Bettman upheld Patrick Kaleta's 10-game suspension for a hit to the head of Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson on Oct. 10.

There were some bright spots in Wednesday's loss as Cody Hodgson scored his third goal of the season, notching his team-leading eighth point. Also, defenseman Nikita Zadorov scored his first NHL in his second career game, becoming the second-youngest Sabre to score at 18 years and 191 days.

Pierre Turgeon is the youngest, having lit the lamp at the age of 18 years, 54 days on Oct. 21, 1987.

"I thought our young guys have been really good," said Sabres head coach Ron Rolston about Zadorov. "He's been one of our better guys out there."

Buffalo is set to play two straight on the road as it will visit the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. Both Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth are expected to get a start on the trip.

Enroth has never faced the Panthers, while Miller is 14-9-2 with a pair of shutouts and 2.43 goals against average in 25 career meetings.

Injured forwards Ville Leino and Cody McCormick were both expected to make the trip to Florida and could return this weekend. Leino has played in just one game this year because of a fractured rib, while McCormick has missed the last two with a foot injury.

The Panthers, meanwhile, will be without goaltender Tim Thomas for this contest after he exited Tuesday's shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks with a groin strain.

Thomas, who suffered a similar injury on Oct. 8 against Philadelphia, had to come out with less than three minutes to go in the third period after making 25 saves. He was placed on injured reserve and had made three straight starts after missing four in a row with the earlier injury.

Jacob Markstrom replaced Thomas on Tuesday and made two saves, but gave up a pair of goals in the shootout to take the loss.

Markstrom is likely to start tonight and won his only previous meeting with the Sabres despite giving up four goals on 40 shots. Scott Clemmensen was recalled from San Antonio of the American Hockey League to serve as the backup.

Tuesday marked Florida's second straight comeback that went to a shootout. The Panthers scored once in the third period to beat the Minnesota Wild 2-1 last Saturday and got third-period tallies from Tomas Fleischmann and Dmitry Kulikov to force extra time with the Blackhawks.

"I liked the overall effort tonight. We pushed hard. We had a little trouble finding our range. We need to bring the shotguns out. We were spraying them all over the place. We need to hit the net. But I liked the way we pushed when the score was even, when we got down a couple. We just kind of kept our composure and just the tone of the game," said Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen.

"At the end, you only end up with one point, but sometimes as a coach you don't always judge it on the final outcome. I think there's a tuckered-out bunch in there. They worked their tails off."

Florida fell to 1-1-1 on a season-long, six-game homestand and has lost four of its past five overall.

Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov had an assist and is tied for fourth in the NHL in rookie scoring with seven points, notching three goals and four assists.

The Panthers won two of three versus the Sabres last season, splitting two games in Florida in a shootout.

Buffalo has not lost two straight in Sunrise since a three-game slide from Oct. 15, 2005-Dec. 7, 2006.

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