The Florida Panthers have lost their past two games four of their past five.
Coach Gerard Gallant insists now is not the time to panic.
Florida's past two road losses came in one-goal games to Pittsburgh and Toronto. In both cases the Panthers took the initial lead. In both cases, bad turnovers led to goals — and defeat.
“Toronto was much like Pittsburgh,” Gallant said from Buffalo following an afternoon practice. “We played well enough to win, but two big mistakes cost us the game.
“We were leading and then gave up two on turnovers. Overall, I liked our game, thought we were good enough to win them. We just made some bad mistakes.”
All three of Toronto's goals Thursday were aided by defensive turnovers -- one from Alex Petrovic and two in the neutral zone by rookie Mike Matheson.
On Tyler Bozak's first goal, Petrovic failed to get the puck out of the Florida zone; on Toronto's game-tying and game-winning goals, Matheson passes were picked off by the Leafs in the neutral zone leading to rushes into the Florida side of the ice.
“We gave them too many odd-man rushes,” Gallant said.
“Every time they got one, they put it in the back of the net. Transition is a big part of the game and three of the last four goals we've given up were in transition. We've made some bad decisions at the blue line and gave them Grade-A scoring chances. They score and that's it.”
The Panthers made big changes to their lineup during the offseason and have had three injuries to key players since the end of training camp.
Florida, now 3-3-1, definitely looks like a team trying to find itself a little bit.
“I would be lying if I thought that didn't have a little bit to do with it,” Gallant said. “But I think we're playing good hockey, guys are buying in and competing. Sometimes they try to do too much. We have a lot of new bodies in our lineup, guys are feeling their way with new partners, linemates. It's not a huge deal because, as I said, we've played seven good games for the most part.”
Gallant said he would be making one change in his lineup Saturday afternoon at Buffalo with Colton Sceviour sliding up from the third line to the second to be paired with Vincent Trocheck and Reilly Smith.
Kyle Rau had been on that line since Jussi Jokinen went down with an undisclosed injury last week.
“They've had real good chances,” Gallant said, “but that line is not as good as it has been.”
As expected, Roberto Luongo will be back in net for the Panthers as he has been terrific at Buffalo's recently renamed KeyBank Center.
Luongo, who has won eight of his past 10 starts against the Sabres, pitched a pair of shutouts at Buffalo in 2014-15 and won both of his starts there last season.
The Sabres had not beaten Luongo in a game since 2006 before getting the win last Nov. 12 at BB&T Center.
“Luongo has played really solid for us,” Gallant said, “and he has been unreal in Buffalo. Hopefully we get another one of those performances.”
▪ Dmitry Kulikov, the longest-tenured member of the Panthers before being traded at the June draft, says it will be “a bit weird” facing Florida for the first time.
“A lot of friends, a lot of good relationships that I built there,” Kulikov said. “I had a great time in Florida, but it’s all over now. I’m focused only on the Buffalo Sabres right now, getting a win, getting our team back on track with a win.”
Mark Pysyk, who came to the Panthers in the deal, said he was glad to be back in Buffalo.
In talking with John Vogl of the Buffalo News, Pysyk said “this is where it started. ... I’ve got nothing but good things to say about the organization. It’s good to be back.”
As for playing with the likes of Jaromir Jagr, Pysyk said “it’s awesome. 750 goals, being in that game that’s something you can remember for as long as you live that you were there and had a good seat for that.”
Saturday: Panthers at Sabres
When/where: 1 p.m.; KeyBank Center, Buffalo.
TV/radio: FSFL; WKAT 1360; WMEN 640.
Series: Buffalo leads 46-38-4.
Scouting report: The Panthers haven’t lost a season series to Buffalo since 2009-10 and have won 10 of the past 13 over the previous three seasons. While Florida is 0-2 on its current road trip (which ends Sunday in Detroit), the Sabres have lost five of their first six games this season, including their past four. Of course, Toronto — which beat Florida on Thursday — had done the exact same thing.