SUNRISE, Fla. – Dan Bylsma knows Roberto Luongo, Jaromir Jagr and others are playing well for the Florida Panthers. But that’s not the first thing that stands out for Buffalo’s coach as the Sabres visit Florida on Tuesday.
“The standings,” Bylsma said in BB&T Center. “They have 33 and we have 31. That’s what stands out the most.”
Here are Five Things to Know for the matchup.
1. It’s an important game in the standings.
Eleventh-place Florida is two points and two spots ahead of Buffalo in the Eastern Conference, though Florida has also played two extra games.
“It’s most important for us to keep getting points and keep catching teams that are ahead of us,” said Sabres defenseman and former Panthers blue-liner Dmitry Kulikov. “We’ve got to keep winning games to put ourselves in the best spot possible within the next three games before the Christmas break.”
2. Both teams are playing well.
Buffalo is 3-1-1 in its last five games, while the Panthers are 2-1-1 in their last four. The Sabres’ Robin Lehner and the Panthers’ Luongo will be in net to try to keep the wins coming.
3. Sabres' lines could change.
The Sabres may make a move up front. Nicolas Deslauriers started the morning skate as the extra forward, so he could sit. If so, Derek Grant would return after sitting for four straight games.
Sabres lines this morning:
Carrier-Grant-Girgensons (Deslauriers) pic.twitter.com/KLA7zlwt7o
— John Vogl (@BuffNewsVogl) December 20, 2016
4. Jagr still moving up.
Jagr, the ageless 44-year-old, will enter the game just three points behind Mark Messier for second place all time in the NHL. He has 1,884 points in 1,661 games. Jagr has six goals and 16 points in 32 games this year.
“He just keeps going,” Byslma said. “The guy continues to be a pretty amazing player at an old age. To see who he’s passed and continues to pass, it’s pretty amazing. I thought some of those guys were untouchable, Gordie Howe for sure, and it’s just amazing that he keeps climbing and getting up there. Who knows how long he’s going to play to get higher?”
5. Kulikov is back.
Saying South Florida feels like home, the defenseman is getting more comfortable with Buffalo. After dealing with back and buttock injuries, Kulikov is still looking for his first point in 16 games with the Sabres. He is a team-worst minus-7.
"I wouldn’t say it was smooth," Kulikov said of the transition to a new team. "Right from the first game in the preseason, I got hurt. Coming into a new team, I was injured and wasn’t hanging out with your teammates, wasn’t getting to know them. It took awhile before I felt comfortable in the locker room."