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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Wednesday, March 31st (All times eastern)

Florida Panthers (30-33-12) at Buffalo Sabres (42-23-10), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The surging Buffalo Sabres will try to move closer to clinching the Northeast Division title when they host the Florida Panthers tonight at HSBC Arena.

The Sabres have won two straight and six of their last seven games and enter tonight with a five-point lead over Ottawa for the division lead. Buffalo will use one of its two games in hand over the idle Senators this evening.

Meanwhile, Florida has lost its last three games (0-2-1) and may need a miracle to make the playoffs. Boston, Montreal and Philadelphia are tied for the final three postseason berths in the East and the trio is 10 points ahead of the Panthers.

Buffalo has won its last two games, destroying visiting Tampa Bay by a 7-1 score on Saturday before picking up Monday's close win in Boston. Ryan Miller stopped 40-of-42 shots to lift the Sabres to the 3-2 regulation victory over the Bruins.

Tyler Myers, Paul Gaustad and Tim Kennedy tallied for the Sabres, who are also just one point behind Pittsburgh for the second seed in the Eastern Conference.

"It was really big for us, especially with the spot they're in and the desperation they have," Myers said. "It was a huge road win for us. As a team right now, we're focused on moving forward."

Buffalo will once again be without winger Thomas Vanek, who suffered an undisclosed lower-body injury in Saturday's win over Tampa. Vanek, who is tied for the team lead with 23 goals, joins the club's leading scorer Tim Connolly on the shelf. Connolly has missed the last three games with a lower-body injury and will miss tonight's test as well.

The Sabres are 23-10-6 as the host this year and are playing their second-to- last home game of the regular season tonight. Following this evening's game, Buffalo will play five of its final six games on the road.

Florida was dealt back-to-back regulation losses before gaining a point in Monday's overtime loss to visiting Nashville. Francis Bouillon's goal one minute into OT sent the Predators to the 3-2 victory at BankAtlantic Center.

Marcel Goc carried the puck down the right wing, then dished behind him into the circle for Bouillon, who lofted a rising wrister into the net to end the contest.

Keith Ballard and Stephen Weiss tallied for the Panthers, while Scott Clemmensen stopped 22 shots in defeat.

"There's a reason they are where they're at, because they find ways to win like they did tonight," Clemmensen said of Nashville, the West's fifth-seeded team.

Forward Gregory Campbell could make a return for the Panthers tonight after missing the last five games with a broken foot. He skated Saturday for the first time since sustaining the injury on March 20 and is questionable for tonight.

Panthers winger Byron Bitz is also questionable tonight with an elbow injury suffered Saturday against Ottawa.

Tonight marks the first of two straight on the road for Florida, which has a dreadful 15-20-3 record as the guest this year. The Panthers will visit the Bruins on Thursday.

Buffalo has taken two of three from the Panthers this year and has won five of six overall in the series. Florida has also dropped six of its last eight games in western New York.

03/31 10:42:55 ET


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