Sunrise, FL (WGR 550) -- When Dmitry Kulikov was surrounded by media asking him about his return to South Florida, he was pretty calm and straightforward.
Kulikov had played his whole NHL career with the Panthers until he was traded to the Sabres last June.
Kulikov has played against the Panthers, but not here in Sunrise. He said, “Right now it doesn’t feel real, but I’m sure when I step out for the warmups, it’ll be a little bit emotional seeing the fans that I played so long in front of.”
“It won’t be weird playing against them because practically half the team is different, but just playing in this building will be fun.”
The Sabres shutout the Panthers 3-0 in Buffalo and are 4-4-2 in their last 10 games here. Overall the Sabres have gone 7-3-3 in their last 13 games which is 17 out of 26 points (.654).
In the NHL standings, the Sabres are ahead of six teams in the Eastern Conference with a points percentage of .517. That has Buffalo 19th in the NHL while Florida is 20th at .516.
The Sabres have the third best power play in the NHL at 22.9. Florida only scores at a 14.8 percent clip which is 24th.
The penalty kill is the other way around as the Sabres are dead last in the league killing only 73.6 percent of their penalties. The Panthers kill 86 percent which is fifth overall.
Robin Lehner got the night off in Carolina, but is back in goal tonight carrying a two game winning streak. Lehner gave up five goals in those two games, but had a save percentage of .926.
Tonight’s lines will look like this:
Moulson Eichel Okposo
Foligno O’Reilly Reinhart
Kane Larsson Gionta
Carrier Grant Girgensons
The Panthers have won only three of their last 11 games, but have picked up points in seven out of 11.
Florida has three or more goals in three out of four games.
Jonathan Marchessault has been out for six out of seven games, but is just about ready to return.
In his last nine games, Aleksander Barkov has five goals and eight points. He has points in seven of those nine games.
Former Sabre Mark Pysyk has assists in four of his last seven games. This season he has one goal and six assists for seven points in 32 games.
Nick Bjugstad has played 13 games since missing 19 with injury. He hasn’t been able to produce as he has no goals and one assist.
Jaromir Jagr is fourth on the Panthers in scoring with six goals and 10 assists for 16 points in 32 games.
Roberto Luongo is in goal and he’s not having one of his better seasons. Luongo is 10-9-3 with a 2.41 goals against and .918 save percentage. In his last eight games he’s only won twice. Luongo has surrendered 18 goals in his last five games. He gave up five in Minnesota in just over 48 minutes of work.
Join Brian Koziol at 6:30 for the pregame when he’ll be joined by Dan Bylsma, Dmitry Kulikov, Jack Eichel and Marcus Foligno.