TV: FOX Sports Florida
TIME: 7 p.m.
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BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres found their form in a rare home win against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night. They’ll have a good opportunity to pick up another home victory on Friday against the Florida Panthers.
Friday’s matchup is between the two bottom teams in the Eastern Conference, with the Sabres (5-8-2) two points ahead of the Panthers (4-8-2).
“As a group, we can learn from this,” Buffalo center Jack Eichel said after the win over the Capitals. “We did a lot of good things. Just want to keep getting better and just got to string some along. We should use (Tuesday’s) game as a confidence booster. Whether or not they had a back-to-back or not, we beat a really good hockey team and we needed to know that we could play with anybody.”
In the win over the Capitals, Evander Kane had two goals for the Sabres. The power forward has been Buffalo’s best player to open the season and leads the team in goals (9) and points (15).
“I think he’s just a true competitor,” Sabres head coach Phil Housley said, according to the team’s website. “He approaches the game the right way and he can score goals too. He’s a gritty guy who goes to areas that a lot of people don’t go to and I really like when he brings a physical element to his game. He’s been really, really consistent this year.”
“I want to prove that I’m an elite player in this league,” Kane said, per the team’s website. “You can’t just do it for one year, you’ve got to continue to do it year after year.”
On the back end, the Sabres appear to be getting a bit healthier. Veteran Josh Gorges should be available after missing eight games and Nathan Beaulieu is inching closer to a return after missing the previous seven games.
“He’s getting really close, him and Josh,” Housley said, according to The Buffalo News. “They had a really good practice. It’s good to see him out there in competitive battles and a more meaningful practice.”
With Buffalo’s defense getting healthier, the Sabres sent Zach Redmond back to the AHL’s Rochester Americans on Thursday.
Buffalo will have to wait a little longer for top defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to return, however. Ristolainen is now considered week-to-week with an upper-body injury after originally being considered day-to-day.
The Panthers have lost five games in a row and are coming off a 3-1 defeat to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. Roberto Luongo played in his 500th career game in the defeat and made 46 saves for Florida.
“I didn’t think we started on time,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said after the loss, according to the team’s website. “They took it to us the first few shifts and then we got into penalty trouble obviously. Then we spent too much time with the same guys killing penalties. When it’s time to pour it on offensively, we’ve got guys with not a lot of juice left.”
Boughner played for the Sabres from 1996-98.
Vincent Trocheck and Jonathan Huberdeau are tied for the team lead in points with 16 for Florida. Luongo has a save percentage of .912 in six games.