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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Wednesday, March 25th (All times eastern)

Florida Panthers (35-27-11) at Buffalo Sabres (34-30-8), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - A key battle in the Eastern Conference playoff race is on tap tonight in Buffalo, as the Sabres welcome the Florida Panthers for a showdown between struggling teams at HSBC Arena.

The Panthers come into tonight as the ninth seed in the East and are two points behind Montreal for the conference's eighth and final postseason berth. Buffalo is the 10th seed and trails Florida by five points.

The Panthers, who haven't made the playoffs since 2000, have lost two straight and six of their last seven games. Florida, though, has gotten a point in three of those six losses, including one for an overtime loss its last time out.

Florida secured a point in Monday's loss against Carolina, as Ray Whitney scored just 1:36 into OT to lift the surging Hurricanes to a 3-2 decision over the Panthers at BankAtlantic Center.

In the extra session, Joni Pitkanen sent a pass from the right point to the left circle, where Whitney one-timed it into the net.

Cory Stillman had a goal and an assist while Jay Bouwmeester also lit the lamp for the Panthers. Tomas Vokoun made 28 saves in the loss.

Florida is kicking off a three-game road trip tonight and is just 16-16-4 as the visiting team this year. The Panthers will visit Philadelphia on Thursday before capping the swing Saturday in Dallas.

The Sabres, meanwhile, have lost four straight games and the last three setbacks have all come in regulation.

Buffalo last played Saturday evening in New York City and was handed a loss by the host Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist made 37 saves to help New York post the 5-3 victory over the Sabres at Madison Square Garden.

Clarke MacArthur, Daniel Paille and Toni Lydman each had a goal for the fading Sabres, who have also dropped six of seven. Thomas Vanek added an assist to push his point-scoring streak to five games. He has two goals and three helpers during the run.

Patrick Lalime was charged with four goals on 19 shots. Mikael Tellqvist played the third period and stopped all 11 shots he saw.

The Sabres have struggled to a 3-7-2 record since franchise goaltender Ryan Miller went down a high ankle sprain in a game on February 21 against the Rangers. Miller has been practicing with the team and is expected to come back before the end of the regular season, but there is still no word on when that return will take place.

Buffalo has lost its last two games on home ice, but still has a solid 20-13-3 record as the host this season. Tonight marks the first of two straight at HSBC for the Sabres, who will also welcome Toronto on Friday.

Tonight's game marks the final meeting of the year between Buffalo and the Panthers. The Sabres have taken two of three from Florida this season and has come out on top in four of five and seven of the last nine games in the series. The Panthers have been defeated in two straight and five of their last six in western New York.

03/25 10:39:21 ET

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