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In final pre-deadline dance, Sabres look to stay hot against Jagr-fortified Panthers

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Greetings from Florida, and you'll note I intentionally left off the word "sunny" as an adjective because it hasn't been that way for a second since I got here Friday afternoon. (Of course, I'm not complaining too much as the temperature is also in the mid-70s already.)

The Sabres meet the Florida Panthers today at 3 at BB&T Center in Sunrise, about a 25-minute drive northwest of here. Because it's an afternoon start, there's no morning skate and we'll thus have to wait until Ted Nolan's briefing at about 12:45 to get word on the lineup.

One player who won't be on the ice is defenseman Mark Pysyk. He was returned to Rochester Friday and it's likely Nikita Zadorov's three-game exile from the lineup will end. Pysyk's demotion is certainly an eye-raising one, as John Vogl writes today, although it's possible he could be back quickly if there's a trade involving a defenseman by Monday's deadline.

Nolan has been very public with his thoughts that Pysyk should be done with the AHL, so it will be interesting to hear his thoughts on the latest move today. We'll also have to find out an injury update on Tyler Ennis, who made the trip South, and see if Nolan has been told to keep red-hot goaltender Michal Neuvirth out of this game in anticipation of a trade by Monday's deadline.

It's certainly possible today is the final game in a Buffalo uniform for Neuvirth, as well as pending unrestricted free agents Torrey Mitchell and Chris Stewart. That would certainly put an end to the Sabres' current 3-1-2 hot streak. There's some chatter that defensemen Andrej Meszaros and Andre Benoit could be in play as well.

The deadline is simply a last-gasp time to make moves as GMs have made a flurry of them already. The most recent came late Friday night as Chicago acquired defenseman Kimmo Timonen from Philadelphia for a pair of draft picks. Timonen has not played this season due to blood clot issues but has been skating and would certainly help the Hawks if he's healthy.

Today's game is a big game in the Panthers' playoff battle and in their history as it's the debut of future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr, who was just acquired Wednesday from New Jersey.

In the Miami Herald, George Richards points out how the Panthers' moribund offense could really use a boost from Jagr. The Panthers are 0-3-1 in their last four games and have been outscored, 15-4. Going back even further, Florida is 2-5-2 in its last nine and has scored just 11 goals in the nine games.

The Florida players and coaches -- and the Buffalo front office -- will have their eyes on the scoreboard after the game is over, watching closely the updates coming out of Boston between the Bruins and Arizona Coyotes.

Florida is four points behind Boston for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot. Meanwhile, the Coyotes have lost eight straight are just four points ahead of the last-place Sabres in the overall standing. Edmonton, which hosts St. Louis tonight at 10, is three points ahead of Buffalo.

The Sabres are 1-3 against the Panthers this year, with the lone win coming on Zadorov's overtime goal on Dec. 13 in First Niagara Center. The Panthers are thus 3-0-1 against Buffalo this season. Former Sabres defenseman Brian Campbell is slated to play his 900th career NHL game today against his old team. Oddly enough, Campbell played No. 800 against Buffalo as well on Jan. 9, 2014.

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