The Sabres look to start another winning streak against Florida

Matt Hunwick is skating with his new team for the first time

Paul Hamilton
November 30, 2018 - 2:00 pm

Photo: Robert Mayer - USA TODAY Sports


Sunrise, FL (WGR 550) - The Sabres don’t have a lot of time to think about having their 10-game winning streak broken as they’re right back at it against Florida on Friday. With the loss, the Sabres are now 13-3-2 in their last 18 games and are 6-2-1 in their last nine road games.

With the win over the Sabres, Tampa Bay is back into the No. 1 spot in the NHL with a .712 point percentage. Buffalo is tied with Toronto for second at .692.

For the first time this season, injuries are starting to pile up for this team. Scott Wilson and Matt Hunwick have been out for the season, Patrik Berglund has missed five games, but he's been activated from injured reserve which means he's likely ready to play. Conor Sheary has been out for two, Marco Scandella has missed two straight games and Jake McCabe got hurt in Tampa Bay and will not be available for the Panthers game.

That means Lawrence Pilut will make his NHL debut. Before his two call ups from Rochester, Pilut led the AHL in scoring with three goals and 19 assists for 22 points in 16 games. Pilut played five years in the SHL before signing with Buffalo. He’ll turn 23 at the end of December.

Hunwick is skating for the first time with his new teammates. He started working out about a month ago after hurting his neck working out before training camp. There’s no timetable for his return. The defenseman said it was great to finally be on the ice with the team, but he wishes it could’ve been earlier, “It’s a little weird to start the season in almost December now. I felt like I had a great summer and then to have an injury to come up late in the summer and not being able to participate in the new organization.

“You want to come in and put your best foot forward, but it’s been a slow process.”

When players are out for so long, they begin questioning if their season might be over, especially when the injury is in the neck area. Hunwick admitted it crossed his mind, “There was some haziness to what the outcome would be. I think when you give stuff time to heal, you just hope that it does.”

Hunwick was a seventh round pick who started his career in Boston. After that, he went to Colorado, the Rangers, Toronto and Pittsburgh. Last season, he only appeared in 42 games for the Penguins and is glad to be in Buffalo, “I was really excited. I think I was looking for a fresh start, a new opportunity and I was part of a young team when I went to Toronto and you can see how fast that turned around and with the start we’ve had this year, I think it’s been fairly similar, so I’m real happy to be a Buffalo Sabre.”

Hunwick was starting fresh, but when you can’t even work out, it’s hard to get to know your new teammates. That process is happening now, “Lately I’ve been at the rink a lot more, so that’s been good, but anytime you’re not in the lineup, you don’t want to be a distraction, so I try to be around the team as much as I can whether it’s dinners or Thanksgiving, but with this being my first road trip with the team, it’s the most integrated I’ve been.”

It wouldn’t shock me if Linus Ullmark is between the pipes against the Panthers. He’s 5-0-1 with a 2.52 goals-against and .926 save percentage. Ullmark has won his last two starts, stopping 37 of 39 shots in Minnesota and 35 of 37 shots in Detroit.

Tage Thompson has points in three straight games and five out of six games. In that time, the winger has four goals and an assist.

Rasmus Ristolainen has points in five of six games scoring a goal and five assists.

Jack Eichel is ninth in league scoring with 30 points in 26 games. He’s tied with Evgeni Malkin and John Tavares. His 25 assists are fourth in the NHL.

Eichel has 105 shots this season, which is third in the league.

Buffalo is 2-7-1 in its last 10 games in Sunrise.

The Panthers have one win in five games and two victories in their last eight games.

Many expected better from Florida than 25th in the NHL with a .478 points percentage.

Roberto Luongo has missed three games with a lower-body injury. James Reimer has played in six straight games, going 2-2-0 with a 3.83 goals-against and .888 save percentage.

High scoring winger Vincent Trocheck has missed five games with a lower-body injury.

Jonathan Huberdeau leads Florida in scoring with five goals and 19 assists for 24 points in 23 games. Newly acquired Mike Hoffman has 12 goals and 23 points.

The Panthers have won each of its last five games against the Sabres and the last four in a row here.

Join Schopp and the Bulldog for the pre-game starting at 6:00 when they’ll be joined by Phil Housley, Lawrence Pilut and one other player.

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