The offensive surge that keyed the Florida Panthers' rise in the Atlantic Division has dissipated during only their second losing streak since early December.
Things could get worse before they get better without one of their go-to scorers, while the Buffalo Sabres are hoping to get back two of their top forwards.
With Aleksander Barkov's status uncertain, the Panthers look to begin a new winning streak Tuesday night by dealing the Sabres their ninth loss in 10 home games.
Florida (31-16-6) was fifth in the Atlantic on Dec. 12 before averaging 3.2 goals during a 17-3-1 push that lifted it into first place. The Panthers totaled 25 goals over a five-game win streak before failing to extend that production in the last two.
Following a 3-2 overtime home loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday, they were shut out for only the third time in Monday's 3-0 loss at Detroit. Making matters worse, Barkov was knocked out in the second period after getting hit by Detroit's Justin Abdelkader.
The center had scored a goal in his previous four games and leads the club with 10 goals and 22 points in the last 21. He has a goal and two assists in his two meetings with Buffalo and the Panthers have won seven in a row in the series when he's played.
"I thought it was a cheap shot," coach Gerard Gallant said of Abdelkader, who was not penalized after hitting Barkov with his shoulder. "Hopefully, he'll be back soon."
Florida has gone 9-1-1 in the past 11 meetings with Buffalo after taking two of the first three matchups this season. Jaromir Jagr has led the way with three goals and five points in the season series, while Jonathan Huberdeau has tallied twice.
Roberto Luongo is 12-2-0 with a 1.78 goals-against average in his last 15 against the Sabres. He's expected to be in net after stopping 31 shots in a 5-1 road win Jan. 5.
Buffalo (21-26-6) has only managed 14 goals while going 1-6-2 over its last nine home games. Now the club will try to avoid its sixth defeat in its last eight games overall following Saturday's 2-1 overtime loss at Boston.
Sam Reinhart got a goal for the second straight contest, but leading scorer Ryan O'Reilly has gone 12 in a row without finding the back of the net. The left wing, however, has three goals and six points in his last four at home versus Florida.
Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen has totaled three assists in the season series.
Buffalo could get a boost if forwards Marcus Foligno and Zemgus Girgensons can overcome lower-body injuries to play alongside Jack Eichel. Foligno (4 goals, 11 points) sat out Saturday while Girgensons (5 goals, 11 points) did not practice Monday.
"I feel pretty good," Foligno told the team's official website. "Right now, it's just a pain tolerance, that's all I can really say. There was nothing really major, just a tweak, but it was tough to really play or even skate a couple days ago."
Tyler Ennis, though, remains sidelined indefinitely with an upper-body injury.
Buffalo's Robin Lehner is likely to start between the pipes. He has a .947 save percentage over his last five games and a .942 mark in his last two versus the Panthers.