The Buffalo Sabres didn’t have all their stars on the ice while suffering their first regulation loss of the season, but that shouldn’t be a problem in the opener of a three-game road trip.
The Sabres expect to have Ryan Miller(notes) in goal and could have high-scoring left wing Thomas Vanek(notes) back Wednesday when they visit a Florida Panthers club coming off its first win on North American soil.
Buffalo (4-1-1) fell 4-2 in Atlanta on Saturday, snapping a four-game winning streak that dated to a 2-1 overtime loss to Montreal in the season opener.
The Sabres were doomed by a slow start, as the Thrashers fired 12 of the game’s first 13 shots in the opening 10 minutes to jump out to a 2-0 lead. Buffalo then outshot Atlanta 41-15 in the final 50 minutes - including a 20-4 advantage in the third period - but was stymied by the stellar play of Thrashers goaltender Johan Hedberg(notes).
“You can’t start a game like that,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “If you start a game like that you’re asking for a loss.”
Being without two of their best players didn’t help the Sabres. Miller was given the night off for the first time in 2009-10, and Vanek missed his second game in a row with an upper-body injury.
While Miller will likely be back in net for this contest, Vanek, who led the Sabres with 40 goals last season and already has three in four games this season, has returned to practice and is listed as day-to-day. He had two goals in four games against the Panthers in 2008-09.
Miller, who has compiled a 1.50 goals-against average and one shutout to win his last four starts, is 5-1-0 with a 1.65 GAA and one shutout in his last six starts against Florida.
The Sabres went 3-1-0 against the Panthers last season and have won 10 of the last 13 meetings.
Florida (2-4-0) defeated Philadelphia 4-2 on Friday, snapping a four-game losing streak since beating Chicago 4-3 in a shootout in the season opener in Finland on Oct. 2.
The Panthers’ offense finally showed some signs of life against the Flyers after tallying six goals during the skid.
“We knew as a group that we were getting better and that we were starting to play the way we need to play around here and we knew we’d get rewarded for it,” Florida coach Pete DeBoer said. “It was nice to get rewarded for it. We worked for that win, we earned it.”
Clemmensen, signed as a free agent in July after going 25-13-1 with a 2.39 GAA with New Jersey as a replacement for the injured Martin Brodeur(notes) last season, has a 2.50 GAA in two career starts against the Sabres - both wins.
He might get the call again because starting goalie Tomas Vokoun(notes) has posted a 4.10 GAA in losing his last four starts, and taking the ice against Buffalo might not be the best way to stop his slide.
Vokoun went 0-2-1 with a 2.95 GAA in three games against the Sabres last season and is 1-4-1 with a 2.65 GAA in his last six starts against them.