|4:00 PM PT5:00 PM MT6:00 PM CT7:00 PM ET0:00 GMT8:00 5:00 PM MST7:00 PM EST4:00 UAE (+1)19:00 ETNaN:� BRT, January 3, 2019
KeyBank Center, Buffalo, New York Attendance: 18,551
If life is all about timing, then this may be the right time for the Florida Panthers to visit the Buffalo Sabres.
The Panthers (17-15-6) are not in the playoff picture at the moment, but they have been hot lately, winning six of their past eight games. The Panthers are also playing well on the road with a 9-9-2 record away from home, including 4-1-0 in their past five games.
On Monday, the Panthers trailed the host Detroit Red Wings 3-0 after one period but rallied to win 4-3 on a shootout goal by Jonathan Huberdeau.
Backup goalie James Reimer replaced starter Roberto Luongo after one period and went on to stop all 12 shots he faced plus three more in the shootout to win his third straight game.
"We had a bad first period, and (Luongo) got hung out to dry," Reimer said. "We really pushed back in the second period, and the guys were huge in front of me. They were blocking shots, deflecting passes and clearing the puck."
Meanwhile, the Sabres - who were the hottest team in the NHL with 10 straight November wins - have slumped of late, going 4-7-4 in their past 15 games.
The Sabres (21-13-6) will enter Thursday's game with three straight losses, including a 3-1 defeat against the New York Islanders.
And, as if that slump weren't bad enough on its own, the Sabres also lost star center Jack Eichel to an upper-body injury during that Islanders game.
Eichel leads the Sabres in points (49) and assists (34). His loss is terrible news for a Sabres team that has scored a combined total of four goals in their past three games.
Sabres coach Phil Housley said he didn't think Eichel's injury is serious, but it's still a concern at the very least.
"This is testing us," Housley said of the Sabres slump as well as the Eichel injury. "Mentally, we're going to fight through this. We've got to stay the course and not break."
Florida's two biggest injuries in terms of importance are to forwards Vincent Trocheck and Nick Bjugstad.
Trocheck, who scored a combined total of 54 goals the past two years and was an All-Star in 2017, is out for several more weeks due to a fractured right ankle.
Bjugstad, who has scored 86 career goals -- including 19 last season, has an upper-body injury but is skating and could return soon.
As for Thursday's game, the Panthers, who have fallen behind at least 1-0 in four consecutive first periods, may want to go right back to Luongo, who is their starter, after all. Or they may opt to stick with the hot glove of Reimer.
Similarly, the Sabres could go right back to starter Carter Hutton, who took the loss against the Islanders. He is 13-12-3 this season with a .917 save percentage and a 2.63 GAA. Or, the Sabres could opt for a hot backup in Linus Ullmark, who is one win away from a career high in victories. The fourth-year NHL goalie is 8-1-3 with a .922 save percentage and a 2.71 GAA.
Luongo is 8-7-1 with an .897 save percentage and a 3.19 GAA. Reimer is 8-7-3 with an .896 save percentage and a 3.18 GAA.
However, in those past three straight wins, Reimer has allowed just four goals and has posted a .947 save percentage.
Meanwhile, Huberdeau is 3-for-3 on shootout goals this season and has been one of Florida's best players overall. He leads the team in points (44) and assists (34).
"His vision is outstanding," teammate Mike Hoffman said of Huberdeau. "Some people on the bench or on TV don't even see his passes."
Updated January 2, 2019