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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, March 20th (All times eastern)

Buffalo Sabres (37-22-10) at Florida Panthers (28-30-11), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Sabres are in a fight for the Northeast Division title, which would give them home-ice advantage in the playoff's opening round. However, they'll likely need to win on the road if they want to earn the division crown.

Buffalo continues a five-game road trip this evening at BankAtlantic Center against a Florida Panthers team that is fading from the playoff picture.

The Sabres are 1-1-1 on their road trip so far and were just 1-7-3 over their previous 11 games as the guest prior to a big 6-2 victory at Tampa Bay on Thursday. Following this road trip, Buffalo plays three straight at home before finishing the season with six of its final eight on the road.

Thursday's win did push the Sabres five points up on the second-place Senators with two games in hand and Ottawa is also in action on Saturday.

Jason Pominville netted his second career hat trick in the win over the Lightning, netting two of those goals in helping the Sabres jump out to a 4-0 lead by the end of the second period. Pominville's first regular-season hat trick came back on Jan. 14, 2006 and he also had one in the '06 playoffs.

Derek Roy finished with a short-handed goal and two assists for the Sabres, who had lost their last three overall and improved to 16-13-4 as the guest this season. Ryan Miller made 23 saves.

Buffalo visits a Florida squad that is 1-2-1 over its last four contests following a three-game win streak and is now seven points behind eighth-place Boston in the Eastern Conference with 13 games to play.

Stephen Weiss, Cory Stillman and David Booth all scored for the Panthers on Thursday versus the Coyotes, but Phoenix scored three times in the third frame to force overtime before eventually handing Florida a 4-3 shootout setback.

"We did a lot of good things tonight," Panthers head coach Pete DeBoer said. "Unfortunately they got a few bounces in the third. That's why that team is where their at."

Tomas Vokoun made 43 saves, but did allow the game-tying goal with 59.7 seconds left in regulation. Nathan Horton had two assists in his return to the lineup, as he had missed 17 games since breaking his left tibia on Jan. 21.

Florida fell to 0-1-1 on a four-game homestand and has now dropped six of its last eight at home.

The Panthers notched a 6-2 win at Buffalo on Nov. 18 in the most recent meeting between the clubs to snap a four-game series losing steak. The Sabres have still won six of their last eight over the Panthers in addition to two straight and five of their last six at Florida.

03/20 10:36:51 ET


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