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Sabres at Panthers: Five Things to Know

SUNRISE, Fla. -- It started on Oct. 5 and ends six months and two days later. The Sabres and the Florida Panthers in BB&T Center Saturday night at 7. Buffalo's season snuffed out before Thanksgiving and the Panthers' playoff hopes officially ended less than two hours before faceoff by Philadelphia's 5-0, postseason-clinching rout of the New York Rangers.

So what's left? Here are Five Things to Know:

1. Goaltenders are uncertain

Coach Phil Housley said during his pregame briefing that Chad Johnson (10-16-3, 3.49/.893) would again start in goal, even after looking shaky while giving up six in Friday's loss at Tampa Bay.

"Chad has given us some really good hockey games," Housley said. "Obviously the last couple he's been a little off but he needs to get back in net. He's had some really good games. We'll see where the game brings us."

By that, Housley left the door open to give Adam Wilcox his NHL debut if the Flyers were to win the game (they were leading only 1-0 when the coach spoke). It seems likely Wilcox might get at least a period now that Florida has been eliminated.

Roberto Luongo, who played his 1,000th career game here Thursday night against Boston, was scheduled to start for the Panthers. Have to see in warmup if that still holds.

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2. Points against the Panthers

The Sabres have been decent this year against the Atlantic Division, posting an 11-13-3 record but losing the last four. One team they haven't figured out this year is Florida. The Sabres are 0-3 against the Panthers this year and have lost four straight to them. A loss tonight would give Florida just its second five-game run against Buffalo, the other coming in 2014.

3. In the lineup

Housley said there will be no changes among the forward group tonight but that veteran Josh Gorges will play in place of Justin Falk. It's almost certainly the last game with the Sabres for Gorges, who has played in 222 over the last four years but has an expiring contract. It might even be the final game of the NHL career for the 33-year-old, who has played in 783.

The Panthers will be without leading scorer Aleksander Barkov, who will miss both of their remaining games with a shoulder injury suffered here Thursday against Boston.

4. Florida's frantic finish

The Panthers will miss the playoffs for the second straight year despite going 23-8-2 over the last 33 games for first-year coach and former Sabres defenseman Bob Boughner. They have won 13 of their last 15 at home and enter tonight's game 26-11-3, needing one more win to set a franchise record for a season.

Born in 1993, the Panthers have made the playoffs just five times in their 24 seasons.

5. By the numbers

Sam Reinhart has 49 points and needs one for his first 50-point season. ... Ryan O'Reilly needs to win 14 faceoffs tonight to break Rod  Brind'Amour's 2005-06 record of 1,268 faceoff wins in a season. ... The Sabres went 5-11-0 in the first game of  back-t0-backs. They're 5-8-2 in the second set. ...

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