Five Things to Know as Sabres host Florida Panthers - The Buffalo News

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Five Things to Know as Sabres host Florida Panthers

The Sabres are welcoming Nathan Beaulieu to their lineup and the military to their arena.

Here are Five Things to Know as the Sabres host the Florida Panthers at 7 p.m. Friday in KeyBank Center.

1. It's Military Appreciation Night

Actually, it's a week of appreciation. Alumni Danny Gare and Rene Robert accompanied veterans to Washington on Monday. The players visited the Coast Guard station on Wednesday.

Military members and their families attended Friday's morning skate, and players will wear commemorative warmup jerseys prior to the game.

Sabres boost military appreciation efforts

The most impactful sweater will be worn by goaltender Robin Lehner. The nameplate on the back will read "C. Lehner" in honor of fallen Buffalo Police Officer Craig Lehner. The warmup jersey will also be No. 43 instead of Lehner's No. 40 to recognize Craig Lehner's radio call sign, K-9 43.

Robin Lehner will present the jersey to Craig Lehner's family following the game.

"I didn't know him personally, but I deeply respect what he represents," Robin Lehner said Friday. "It's important to this town."

Sabres' Robin Lehner will pay tribute to fallen K-9 Officer Craig Lehner

2. Lehner versus Luongo

Lehner will start for the fifth straight game and seventh time in eight games. He is 4-5-1 with a .902 save percentage.

The Panthers will go with Roberto Luongo in net. Slowed by injuries this year, Luongo is 1-3-1 with a .912 save percentage in six appearances.

Luongo has 454 career victories. The next will move him past Curtis Joseph for fourth all time in the NHL.

Luongo is 18-8 against Buffalo with a .933 save percentage, 1.99 goals-against average and five shutouts.

3. Help on defense

Beaulieu will return to the blue line after missing seven games with an upper-body injury. Acquired from Montreal in the offseason, he has two assists in eight games.

Beaulieu should help the power play, which has dropped to 30th.

"We're moving the puck a lot better and shooting better," said Beaulieu, who has been watching. "Now the biggest thing is to capitalize. We're getting our chances, but we're not getting rewarded. We've just got to bear down, but our retrievals and entries have been a lot better.

"It's trending in the right direction, but not we've got to capitalize because results are everything in this league."

Sabres Notebook: Ristolainen downgraded; Beaulieu on power play; Kane scoring

Beaulieu practiced with Victor Antipin. Jake McCabe was with Taylor Fedun, and Marco Scandella skated with Justin Falk. Josh Gorges is expected to be the healthy scratch.

4. Success for Florida

The Panthers (4-8-2) are the only team below Buffalo (5-8-2) in the Eastern Conference, but they've had success against the Sabres. The Panthers are 7-2-1 in their last 10 visits to Buffalo. They are 7-3 in the last 10 meetings overall.

5. On the prowl

Three Sabres – Jason Pominville, Ryan O'Reilly and Sam Reinhart – have enjoyed playing the Panthers.

Pominville has 15 goals and 38 points in 38 games against Florida, making it one of three NHL teams against which he's recorded a point per game. The others are Vegas (two points in one game) and Tampa Bay (39 in 37).

O'Reilly has 15 points in the last 14 meetings, while Reinhart has five goals and eight points in the past seven.

Buffalo is looking to win its second straight after a 3-1 victory over Washington on Tuesday.

"We've got to make sure we defend first, and the rest will come," Pominville said. "When we do that, we're a good team. When we kind of deviate from it and get away from it, we're not as good.

"Everyone saw it last game. We're playing a solid team. We defended hard against one of the best offensive teams in the league in the previous five, six, seven years. That's the way we've got to play."

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