Sabres-Panthers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated October 19, 2011
The Buffalo Sabres are off to another fast start, and once again goaltending is a big reason why. The Sabres look to stay undefeated on the road when they visit the new-look Florida Panthers on Thursday night. For the third time in four years, Buffalo (4-1-0) has four wins in its first five games. The Sabres improved to 2-0 on a four-game road trip with a 3-1 win over Montreal on Tuesday. Ryan Miller made 40 saves and Thomas Vanek scored the go-ahead goal with 2.8 seconds remaining in the second period. Jordan Leopold's first goal of the season tied the game less than eight minutes earlier. Vanek credited Miller for helping the team overcome an otherwise sluggish offensive performance. Buffalo was outshot 41-23 - including 14-3 in the opening period - and went on the power play only once for a second straight game. "As a team we didn't play well. We played ugly," said Vanek, who has four goals and a point in each game. "I think Ryan stole those two points. That's the only way of putting it." Miller had an uneven season last year, winning 34 games but posting a 2.59 goals-against average - his highest in three years. However, with Buffalo upgrading its defense in the offseason, he's off to a good start with three wins in four starts and a 2.01 GAA. Backup Jhonas Enroth was solid in Buffalo's other win, allowing two goals on 31 shots. The two have helped the Sabres kill off 18 of 20 opposing power plays. The Sabres, who opened 4-0 on the road just two years ago, wrap up this trip Saturday against Tampa Bay. Buffalo will hope to see the same Panthers offense that showed up Tuesday at Washington rather than they one that lit up the Lightning a night earlier. After scoring seven goals in a win at Tampa on Monday, Florida (3-2-0) had a season-low 20 shots in a 3-0 loss to the Capitals. "We worked hard, but the only thing we had were chances from the side," winger Tomas Fleischmann said. "A good goalie like (Tomas) Vokoun can always stop those." Jacob Markstrom made his first start and had 29 saves. Despite the shutout, the Panthers are still off to their best start since 2006-07, when they were 3-1-1. A retooled roster, with additions like Brian Campbell and Kris Versteeg, is a big reason for the quick start after the team struggled offensively last season. Florida had the worst power play in the league (13.1 percent) in 2010-11, but is 8 for 25 thus far with the man advantage. It took 95 chances and 27 games to score eight times on the power play last season. Campbell has seven assists while Versteeg has three goals and four assists. The Panthers went 2-1-1 against Buffalo last season, with each team winning a road game. Miller started all four contests, giving up 12 goals - including four in each of the Sabres' two losses.
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