Fresh off their latest comeback win, the Florida Panthers will attempt to widen their Eastern Conference lead when they host the Buffalo Sabres on Friday.
The Panthers (49-15-6, 104 points) hold a four-point advantage on the Carolina Hurricanes for the top spot in the East. Florida is riding a five-game winning streak that includes a 5-3 triumph against in Buffalo on Sunday.
Most recently, the so-called “Comeback Cats” were at it again, turning a 5-1 deficit against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday into a 7-6 overtime win. It was their league-leading 10th victory when trailing after two periods.
“We just need one goal, a little spark, and then we get going,” Florida forward Jonathan Huberdeau said. “We can’t do that every game. It’s a lot of fun and a lot of energy, but we’ve just got to play better defensively.
“We know we can score goals, but it’s not going to happen every game. We say that and it’s been happening, but it’s something that as we get towards the playoffs just can’t happen.”
Huberdeau recorded five points (two goals, three assists) against Toronto to reach the 100-point mark for the first time in his career. He is the first player in Panthers history to reach the milestone and also the first to hit 600 career points.
“I think he’s been unbelievable,” Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said. “He’s been leading this team the whole season. No nights off at all. He’s just solid every time he shows up and does his thing. It’s incredible how good he is and how he does those things. It’s a lot of fun to see.”
Sam Reinhart also continues to enjoy a career season in his first year with Florida, and he added two goals and an assist against the Maple Leafs. The 26-year-old has set personal bests with 26 goals and 68 points, and he is one assist away from tying his career high of 43 set with the Sabres in 2018-19.
Buffalo (26-35-11, 63 points) is hoping to bounce back after being on the wrong side of a big comeback, allowing four unanswered goals in a 5-3 loss to the Hurricanes on Thursday.
“It’s a game our guys can actually learn from,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “The nice thing with us is we know our guys, we’re watching our guys get better every day. So when you can have a game like that … the mistakes right now are experience. …
“That’s the silver lining in what otherwise was frustrating because that was a winnable game.”
Jeff Skinner extended his point streak to four games (two goals, four assists) with a pair of assists against his former club. While known for his goal-scoring, Skinner has shown off his creativity and playmaking ability of late and is on pace for 27 assists, which would be second only to the 32 he notched in his rookie season of 2010-11.
“Work ethic,” Granato said of Skinner. “He’s working, he’s hungry. He’s intent upon making plays, as he always is, and it starts with his work. He’s ready to go.”
Florida has won all three meetings against Buffalo so far this season.
–Field Level Media