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National Hockey League Previews from The Sports Network



Tuesday, March 29th (All times eastern)

BUFFALO SABRES (38-28-9) AT TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (34-32-10), 7 P.M.

(Sports Network) - With time running out in their push for the postseason, the Toronto Maple Leafs will face a key test tonight when they host the Buffalo Sabres at Air Canada Centre.

Toronto has already set a dubious club record with five straight seasons out of the playoffs and Ron Wilson's team is going to need a great deal of help to keep the drought from reaching six seasons.

Meanwhile, with 85 points, Buffalo is currently holding onto the eighth and final playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. The Maple Leafs are in the 10th spot and are seven points in back of the Sabres with just six games to play.

Toronto had won three in a row before losing a regulation decision Saturday in Detroit. Jiri Hudler's goal at the 6:49 mark of the third period proved to be the game-winner in the Red Wings' 4-2 victory.

Joffrey Lupul and Nazem Kadri each had a goal for the Maple Leafs, while James Reimer made 25-of-28 stops in the loss. Toronto's regulation defeat combined with Buffalo's win over New Jersey on Saturday dropped the Leafs seven points behind the Sabres.

"It's a big loss for our team in the standings, but we have to respond now," Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf said.

Buffalo has taken three of five from the Maple Leafs this season, but Toronto has won the last two encounters, including a 4-3 regulation win when the clubs last met on March 12 at Air Canada Centre. Phil Kessel and Mikhail Grabovski scored third-period goals to lead Toronto to the comeback victory.

The Sabres have still won 13 of the last 16 meetings with Toronto overall and nine of the last 11 at ACC.

Buffalo has won three in a row and has registered a point in five straight games (4-0-1). The Sabres recorded a 2-0 win Saturday against the visiting Devils, as Ryan Miller made 30 stops for his fifth shutout of the season.

"When we had breakdowns Ryan made some big saves and that's what it's all about," said Sabres forward Jason Pominville. "I think it was a big team win for us tonight."

Nathan Gerbe and Thomas Vanek each had a goal for the Sabres, who have tied a season-high with three straight victories. Buffalo last won four in a row from March 18-24 of last season.

Miller is expected to get the start in net tonight for the Sabres. He is 24-10-0 with a 2.23 goals-against average in 34 career games against Toronto.

Reimer is 2-1-0 with a 3.86 GAA in three games versus Buffalo during his rookie campaign.

Toronto is 17-14-7 as the host this season, while the Sabres are 20-12-5 on the road.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS (45-20-10) AT PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (45-23-8), 7 P.M.

(Sports Network) - The Pittsburgh Penguins were five points behind the Flyers for the Atlantic Division lead when the teams met in Philadelphia less than a week ago. Tonight, however, the streaking Pens will have a chance to forge a tie for first place when they host the Flyers in a key divisional battle at CONSOL Energy Center.

The Flyers held a 97-92 edge in points when they hosted Pittsburgh on Thursday and the Penguins took a bite out of that lead with a 2-1 shootout victory at Wells Fargo Center. Pittsburgh enters tonight on a four-game winning streak, and with 98 points is just two points behind Philadelphia for the top spot in both the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference.

"Our goal since the beginning of the season has been to be on top," said Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. "We're not too far and we have a shot at it so that's good."

With Evgeni Malkin done for the year and Sidney Crosby still sidelined with a concussion, the Penguins have leaned heavily on Fleury and the goaltender has proved himself to be up to the task.

Fleury has started the last three games for Pittsburgh and has surrendered a total of two goals over that stretch. The veteran netminder also recently set a franchise record by going 150 minutes, 14 seconds without allowing a goal.

The shutout streak began after Philadelphia's Mike Richards scored against Fleury in the first period of Thursday's game. Fleury then blanked New Jersey on Saturday before the streak was snapped on a goal by Florida's Ryan Carter in the second period of Pittsburgh 2-1 shootout win over the visiting Panthers on Sunday.

Jocelyn Thibault held the Penguins previous shutout streak mark of 136:13.

The Pens also broke an NHL record recently by winning four straight games via the shootout. Alex Kovalev scored the winner in the most recent such victory when he scored in the second round against Florida on Sunday. After Kovalev's goal, Fleury stopped Niclas Bergfors and James Neal sealed the win when he buried a wrister.

Ben Lovejoy had the lone goal of regulation for the Penguins and Fleury finished the game with 37 saves.

Tonight marks the finale of a three-game homestand for Pittsburgh, which has won four of its last six in the Steel City and is 24-13-2 as the host this season.

Despite losing three out of five against the Flyers this season, Pittsburgh has won seven of the last 11 encounters overall between these intrastate rivals. However, Philadelphia has taken three of its last four in the Steel City and the Flyers are 2-0 at CONSOL Energy Center, which opened earlier this season.

The Flyers have managed just five wins over their last 14 games (5-5-4), but they had recorded points in nine straight games before dropping a home regulation loss to Boston on Sunday. Brad Marchand scored a power-play goal late in regulation to lift the Bruins to the 2-1 decision at Wells Fargo Center.

Kris Versteeg had the lone goal for the Flyers, while Brian Boucher stopped 34 shots in defeat.

Philadelphia is 24-9-4 as the road team this year and can set a club record for most away wins in a season tonight. The Flyers have won two straight and four of their last five as the guest.

Fleury is expected to start in net tonight for Pittsburgh. He is 20-9-0 with a 2.64 goals-against average in his career against Philly, but has a 1-3 mark and a 2.48 GAA versus the Flyers this season.

Philadelphia rookie Sergei Bobrovsky will likely get the start in net tonight. The 22-year-old Russian is 2-1-1 with a 2.21 GAA in his first four career games against Pittsburgh.

In addition to Crosby's absence, the Penguins are also expected to be without forwards Mark Letestu (upper body) and Mark Letestu (concussion symptoms) tonight.

CAROLINA HURRICANES (35-30-10) AT WASHINGTON CAPITALS (44-22-10), 7 P.M.

(Sports Network) - The Washington Capitals will try to move closer to a fourth straight Southeast Division title when they host the desperate Carolina Hurricanes tonight at Verizon Center.

The playoff-bound Capitals are currently atop the division with 98 points, giving them a seven-point cushion over Tampa Bay, which is hosting Ottawa tonight. With seven tests left in the regular season, the Lightning hold a game in hand over Washington.

Washington is also two points behind Philadelphia for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Pittsburgh, which also has 98 points, is hosting the Flyers this evening.

While Washington has already clinched a playoff spot, the Hurricanes are running out of time in their quest for a postseason berth. Carolina has 80 points and is five behind Buffalo for the East's eighth and final playoff seed. The Sabres are playing tonight in Toronto.

The Caps will be aiming for a sweep of their six-game season series with Carolina tonight. Washington has won all five encounters between the clubs this year, but four of those victories came by just one goal. The Hurricanes have lost eight of 11 overall in this series and have also dropped three in a row and five of their last six in D.C.

Washington last played on Saturday in Montreal and recorded a 2-0 win behind the second career shutout of Braden Holtby, who needed to make just 18 saves.

Marco Sturm and Alexander Semin tallied for the Capitals, who have won three of four and 12 of their last 14 games.

Holtby has earned victories in each of his last six appearances, but the 21- year-old was sent back to Hershey of the AHL on Sunday. Michal Neuvirth was unable to dress for Saturday's game due to an illness, but the goaltender is expected to be well enough to at least suit up as the backup to Semyon Varlamov tonight.

Caps forward Jason Arnott has sat out the last six games with a groin injury, but he is expected to be back in the lineup sometime this week. Washington superstar Alex Ovechkin, who has sat out the last three tests with an undisclosed injury, could also make his return this week.

This evening's tilt marks the first of three straight on home ice for the Caps, who are 22-8-7 as the host this year. Washington has won five straight in D.C. since a 6-0 loss to the visiting New York Rangers on Feb. 25.

The Hurricanes had won three straight before losing Saturday's regulation decision against visiting Tampa Bay. The 4-2 loss came one night after Carolina recorded a 4-3 regulation win in Tampa to begin the home-and-home series.

Eric Staal and Erik Cole scored the goals for Carolina in Saturday's loss, while Cam Ward made 28 saves in defeat.

The setback was just the second in six games for Carolina, but the Hurricanes know that every loss at this stage of the year does tremendous damage to the club's fading playoff hopes.

"Now we're going to need some help here," Hurricanes head coach Paul Maurice said. "We've got to come pretty close to running the table here going out."

Carolina defenseman Joni Pitkanen sat out Saturday's game with a bout of food poisoning and he is questionable for tonight. Pitkanen is leading the Hurricanes this season in ice time (25:11) and is second among the club's defensemen with 33 points (3 goals, 30 assists).

The 'Canes have won their last two road games, but are just 15-17-6 as the guest this season.

FLORIDA PANTHERS (29-36-11) AT COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (33-31-11), 7 P.M.

(Sports Network) - The Florida Panthers are officially headed for an NHL- record 10th straight season out of the playoffs, while Columbus is close to being eliminated from postseason contention for the ninth time in 10 campaigns as an NHL franchise.

The struggling clubs will meet tonight in Columbus, as the Blue Jackets host the Panthers at Nationwide Arena.

Florida, which last qualified for the postseason in the spring of 2000, is the first team in NHL history to miss the playoffs in 10 straight seasons. The Panthers secured the dubious record after officially being knocked out of the Eastern Conference playoff race with Friday's loss in Buffalo.

Columbus is 13 points behind Chicago for a playoff spot out West. The Blue Jackets, who made their lone postseason appearance in 2009, have just seven games left in another disappointing regular season.

The Panthers will be trying to avoid a sixth consecutive loss this evening after posting an 0-3-2 record in their last five tilts.

After losing a 4-2 decision in Buffalo on Friday, the Panthers were dealt a shootout loss this past Sunday in Pittsburgh. Alex Kovalev scored the winner in the shootout to help the Penguins take the 2-1 decision at CONSOL Energy Center.

"That's as good a road game as we can play as a group," said Florida head coach Peter DeBoer. "I thought we limited their opportunities and we had our chances out there."

Tomas Vokoun stopped 23 shots in regulation, but Scott Clemmensen came in net for overtime and the shootout. He made four saves in OT, but stopped just one skater in the shootout. Vokoun said after the game that he had back spasms that caused him to leave the game, but that it's not anything serious. Vokoun could start tonight.

Ryan Carter scored the lone goal for the Panthers, who have tied a season high with five consecutive losses. Florida last dropped six in a row during a seven-game slide from Feb. 1-March 2 of last season.

The Panthers are 0-3-1 on a five-game road trip that ends tonight and Florida has a poor 14-21-3 mark as the guest this season.

Columbus, meanwhile, has lost its last four games overall (0-3-1) and enters tonight on a six-game home losing streak. The Blue Jackets are 0-4-2 at Nationwide Arena since they last won a home game on Feb. 25 against Phoenix.

The home drought has dropped the Blue Jackets' record in Ohio this year to 16-17-4. Columbus' most recent setback came on home ice, as Vancouver recorded a 4-1 triumph in the Buckeye State on Sunday.

R.J. Umberger scored the lone goal for Columbus, while Mathieu Garon stopped 20-of-24 shots in the losing effort.

The Blue Jackets recorded a 3-2 overtime win at Florida on Jan. 19 as Umberger provided the game-winner with 54 seconds remaining in the extra session. Columbus has taken three straight and four out of five meetings in the series overall and the Panthers have lost two of their last three at Nationwide Arena.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (41-26-8) AT BOSTON BRUINS (42-23-10), 7:30 P.M.

(Sports Network) - The Chicago Blackhawks earned a dramatic victory in Detroit last night and they'll take aim at another road win against an Original Six opponent this evening, when they visit the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.

The Blackhawks gave their postseason chances a boost with Monday's 3-2 win in the Motor City. Marian Hossa scored 51 seconds into overtime to give Chicago two important points.

Chicago is currently holding onto the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Blackhawks are three points ahead of Calgary and just one point behind Anaheim. Both the Flames and Ducks are idle tonight.

The Bruins, meanwhile, have already secured a trip to the Eastern Conference playoffs and are trying to lock down the Northeast Division title. With 94 points, Boston is seven in front of second-place Montreal and also has a game in hand over the Canadiens, who have six games remaining and are hosting Atlanta tonight.

Boston also stayed alive in the race for the East's top seed by posting a regulation victory Sunday evening in Philadelphia. The Flyers, who are visiting Pittsburgh this evening, are the East's top team and enter tonight with six more points than the third-seeded Bruins.

The Bruins qualified for the postseason for the fourth straight year with the 2-1 victory over the Flyers. Brad Marchand scored the game-winner for Boston when he notched a power-play goal with 3:43 remaining in regulation.

"It is nice to know when you're in the playoffs with more than just one or two games before the end of the season," said Boston head coach Claude Julien. "Right now, the challenge is to not get too comfortable. We have to build momentum heading into the playoffs and show some consistency in our game."

Nathan Horton also tallied on the man advantage for Boston, which has won three of its last four games. Tim Thomas made 11 of his 27 saves in the third period for the Bruins.

Mark Recchi picked up the secondary assist on Marchand's goal. The 43-year-old Recchi tied Paul Coffey for 12th place on the NHL's all-time points list with 1,531.

Boston is playing the first of three straight on home ice tonight and has an 18-13-5 record as the host this season.

The Blackhawks, meanwhile, picked up their third win in four games with a victory Monday in the opener of a three-game road trip at Joe Louis Arena.

Hossa's 23rd goal of the year came on the power-play in the first minute of OT. He took a pass from Patrick Kane and let go a slap shot from the left circle that beat Joey MacDonald.

Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg, who tied the game with the man advantage early in the third period, was called for hooking with 3.7 seconds left in regulation.

Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook also tallied for Chicago, which has also won four of its last six. Corey Crawford made 33 saves to notch his 30th win of the season.

"We need any point we can get," Toews said.

The Blackhawks are 18-11-8 as the guest this year and will complete their swing Friday in Columbus.

Tonight marks the only meeting this season between tonight's Original Six combatants. The Blackhawks won both encounters in 2009-10 to give them five wins over the last nine matchups. Chicago has managed just two wins in its last six trips to Boston.

ATLANTA THRASHERS (32-31-12) AT MONTREAL CANADIENS (40-29-7), 7:30 P.M.

(Sports Network) - With a postseason berth almost officially clinched, the Montreal Canadiens will try to break out of a historic scoring slump when they host the Atlanta Thrashers in this evening's game at the Bell Centre.

Following an 8-1 victory in Minnesota on March 20, the Canadiens have been shut out in three straight games. It marks the first time Montreal has been blanked in three consecutive tilts in more than 60 years, with the last time coming from October 23-29, 1949 against Boston, Toronto and Detroit.

All told, the Canadiens have gone 186 minutes and five seconds since Tom Pyatt scored the Habs' last goal in the blowout win over the Wild.

However, despite Montreal's brutal 0-3-0 stretch, the club is still nearing a claim of a postseason berth. With 87 points, the Canadiens are tied with the New York Rangers for the East's sixth seed and they're currently seven points ahead of the ninth-seeded Carolina Hurricanes. However, the slide may have cost the Habs a shot at a division crown, as Montreal has dropped seven points behind Boston in the battle for the Northeast Division title.

"We're still in a position where we hold our destiny in our own hands. I think we have enough experience as a group that we won't let ourselves slide too long," said Montreal goaltender Carey Price. "I'm not changing anything. I'm going to keep doing my best to give my team a chance to win every night. Sixty percent of the time, it works and we win games."

After getting pulled from Thursday's 7-0 loss in Boston, Price was Montreal's best player in Saturday's 2-0 setback to Washington. He made 31 saves in defeat for the Canadiens, who have lost five of their last seven games.

Montreal has also lost two straight and three of its last four games on home ice, dropping the Habs' record as the host this year to 22-11-6.

While the Canadiens are trying to get back on track for a likely playoff run, the Thrashers appear to be headed for yet another year without a postseason.

Atlanta, which is nine points behind eighth-seeded Buffalo with seven games left, has qualified for the playoffs just once in 10 seasons since joining the league in 1999-2000. Atlanta's was swept by the New York Rangers in its lone trip to the postseason in the spring of 2007.

"For us, we basically have to win every game and get help from some other teams," said Atlanta goaltender Chris Mason after his team won Sunday against visiting Ottawa.

The Thrashers have won six of their last 10 games and are coming off a shootout victory in their most recent outing, a 5-4 triumph against the Senators. Andrew Ladd scored the lone goal of the shootout to lift his club to a second win in three games.

Blake Wheeler and Ben Maxwell each registered a goal and an assist for Atlanta. Bryan Little and Mark Stuart also tallied in regulation for the victors. Mason stopped 24-of-28 shots for the Thrashers.

Tonight marks the start of a five-game road trip for Atlanta. The Thrashers are just 15-16-5 as the visiting club this season.

Atlanta has taken two of three from the Habs this season, but Montreal recorded a 3-1 road win when the clubs met last on March 1. Price made 40 saves on 41 shots to lift the Canadiens.

The Thrashers have won four of six and six of their last 10 games against the Canadiens overall. Atlanta has won its last two tilts in Montreal, but has lost six out of nine as the guest in this series.

OTTAWA SENATORS (29-37-10) AT TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (40-24-11), 7:30 P.M.

(Sports Network) - The Lightning are running out of time to get their game on track before the start of the postseason. Putting together a winning streak would help.

Tampa Bay tries to win consecutive games for the first time this month as it takes on the Ottawa Senators tonight at St. Pete Times Forum.

The Lightning are just 3-6-4 in March since ending February on a three-game winning streak. They are coming off a split of a home-and-home with the Hurricanes, winning 4-2 on Saturday at Raleigh to snap a four-game slide (0-2-2).

Simon Gagne had two goals, Dominic Moore netted the go-ahead goal late in the second period and Martin St. Louis light the lamp to go along with an assist for the Lightning, who lost 4-3 at home to the Hurricanes on Friday.

"It feels good," said Vincent Lecavalier, who had two assists. "We played 60 minutes, played hard, played physical and did a lot of good things. Now we have to carry it over to the next game."

This next game could get fifth-place Tampa Bay into the playoffs. With 91 points, the Lightning can secure their first playoff berth in four seasons with a victory tonight and a regulation loss by ninth-place Carolina at Washington this evening.

The Lightning, though, trail the Capitals by seven points for first place in the Southeast Division with seven contests left and a game in hand.

While Gagne has picked up consecutive two-goal games and has six tallies and 10 points over his last six games, Steven Stamkos has matched a season-worst drought by going six straight games without a goal. He has just three tallies in his past 21 games and is now second in the NHL with 43 goals.

Tampa would love a repeat of Stamkos' finish to last season, when he scored eight goals over his final nine games -- including five in his last four -- to end the season with an NHL high-tying 51 goals.

Mike Smith made 33 saves in net on Saturday, but could give way tonight to Dwayne Roloson, who is 4-6-2 with a tie and 2.45 goals-against average lifetime versus Ottawa.

Ottawa will look to play spoiler again tonight as it sits last in the East with 68 points, one back of Florida. The Senators had won four of their last five, including an overtime win over Tampa Bay on March 19, prior to Sunday's 5-4 shootout loss to the Thrashers.

Craig Anderson made 43 saves and stopped the first three skaters he faced in the tiebreaker before yielding Andrew Ladd's goal in the fourth round. Ryan Shannon then saw his chance turned aside to end the game.

Marek Svatos scored twice and Jason Spezza had an assist to give him four goals and 10 helpers in his past 12 games for the Sens, who lost the opener of a three-game road trip.

"We just turned the puck over too many times. We didn't manage the puck as well as we had in the past," Senators head coach Cory Clouston said.

Spezza has points in seven straight versus the Lightning (5 goals, 5 assists) and has scored in his last four games against them. That includes the overtime winner in the last meeting that was Ottawa's second straight in this series.

The Senators also posted a 2-1 victory at Tampa Bay on March 11 to halt a two- game slide there.

Anderson is 3-1-2 with a 1.36 GAA lifetime when facing the Lightning.

Senators forward Daniel Alfredsson, who hasn't played since Feb. 7 due to a lower back issue, practiced with the Sens on Monday, but it is still unknown if he will return this season.

MINNESOTA WILD (35-32-8) AT ST. LOUIS BLUES (34-32-9), 8 P.M.

(Sports Network) - The Blues put an emphatic end to the Wild's playoff hopes in the opener of this home-and-home set on Saturday. St. Louis now gets a chance to avenge a pair of February losses to Minnesota this evening when the two clubs conclude their set at Scottrade Center.

The Blues' 6-3 victory over the Wild stretched Minnesota's winless streak to eight straight games. The Wild have been shut out three times over that 0-7-1 stretch and outscored 37-12.

Now 12 points back of a playoff spot, the Wild held a closed-door meeting following Friday's loss, but did not provide details of what was said.

"I feel for the fans," Minnesota forward John Madden said afterward. "I've never missed the playoffs, so for me this stinks. To go out like this really stinks."

St. Louis, meanwhile, picked up its second straight victory after losses in four of five, getting a goal and an assist from both David Backes and Alex Pietrangelo. Matt D'Agostini, Adam Cracknell, Chris Stewart and Patrik Berglund also scored.

Ty Conklin faced just 16 shots, stopping 13 of them for the Blues, who rallied from an early 2-1 hole by scoring five straight goals.

"Our defensemen did a pretty good job of stalling their rushes," said Backes.

St. Louis, which is one point behind Minnesota in the standings, has won three of its last four at home and is likely to go back to Jaroslav Halak in net tonight. He is 0-1-1 in two starts versus the Wild with a 4.50 goals-against average.

The Blues' victory on Friday snapped a three-game series losing streak that included the Wild sweeping a home-and-home set on Feb. 11-12. Minnesota opened that series with a 5-4 shootout victory in St. Louis, getting a game-tying goal from Martin Havlat and a shootout winner from Madden in snapping a four- game slide at Scottrade Center.

Antti Miettinen had two goals for the Wild on Friday and Mark Zidlicky scored in his return from a four-game absence due to a hamstring injury.

Niklas Backstrom was peppered with 47 shots and he stopped 41 of them as the Wild wrapped a winless four-game homestand and will now try to snap a four- game skid on the road.

Backstrom fell to 6-6-0 with a 2.65 GAA versus the Blues and is expected to get a rest tonight in favor of Jose Theodore, who is 2-5-1 with a 4.14 GAA in his career against St. Louis.

Minnesota forwards Mikko Koivu and Chuck Kobasew both sat out practice on Monday, but head coach Todd Richards said it was just a maintenance day for the duo and both are expected to play tonight.

The Blues, though, could be without forward T.J. Oshie after he missed morning practice on Monday. The 24-year-old's absence was unexcused and could lead to him being a healthy scratch tonight.

Forward Vladimir Sobotka could replace Oshie in the lineup. Sobotka has been out since suffering a foot injury on Feb. 27.

Vancouver Canucks (50-17-9) at Nashville Predators (41-25-10), 8 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Vancouver Canucks have been breaking franchise record after franchise record over the past week. They can surpass another club mark this evening and move closer to another first as they visit the streaking Nashville Predators and Bridgestone Arena.

The Canucks have already set new team highs for points (109) and road wins (25) in a season, and reached the 50-win total for the first time in club history with a 4-1 triumph over the Blue Jackets on Sunday. The victory was their eighth in a row on the road, matching a franchise record for set from Dec. 20, 2003-Jan. 13, 2004.

Chris Higgins had two goals and an assist, while Cory Schneider made 39 saves in giving regular No. 1 Roberto Luongo a breather.

"We got another great goaltender performance," said Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault after his team won their third straight game and 10th in their past 11. "Teams are obviously getting themselves prepared for us. I thought Columbus, tonight, played real strong. At the end of the night, our goaltender was better than their goaltender and we won the game."

Daniel Sedin had an assist to give him eight goals and 17 points over his past 11 games. He is tops in the NHL with a career-best 96 points and has three goals and nine points in his last seven versus the Predators.

The Canucks come into the meeting 11 points ahead of Detroit for the top seed in the West and can clinch the conference's No. 1 spot by earning at least a point in this matchup.

Vancouver is also nine points ahead of Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia in the race for the Presidents' Trophy, an award the franchise has never before captured. The Canucks have six games left to the Flyers seven.

The Canucks will have to take on the red-hot Predators without defenseman Dan Hamhuis, who suffered his second concussion of the season during a collision on Sunday versus Columbus. Hamhuis, who spent his first six NHL seasons with Nashville prior to joining Vancouver, won't play tonight as he continues to be monitored.

"I talked to him briefly and he said he was feeling better, so we'll see as we move forward here," Vigneault said on Monday. "We're just going to follow the NHL protocol that we've always followed and see what happens."

Vancouver has lost 328 total man-games to injury this season, a healthy chunk of that from its blueliners.

Nashville has matched its longest winning streak of the season, a six-game run first done from Dec. 31-Jan. 11, with Saturday's 4-2 victory over Dallas. David Legwand and Mike Fisher both scored twice and Pekka Rinne ended with 28 saves.

Fisher scored just his second and third goal in 21 games with Nashville since coming over in a trade with Ottawa.

"Mike does so many other good things," Nashville head coach Barry Trotz said. "He was snake-bit and frustrated that he wasn't scoring. He had been a little bit dry here. It is probably a big weight off of his back."

The Predators, who last won seven straight from Nov. 12-25, 2009, sit in a tie for fifth overall in the Western Conference with the Kings, one point up on the Ducks and one back of the fourth-place Coyotes.

Nashville is also six points back of Detroit for first place in the Central Division with six games left for both clubs. The Predators will host the Red Wings on April 2.

The Predators, who have won five straight and eight of their last nine at home, have won their last two versus the Canucks, including a 3-0 road victory on March 3 that featured a 29-save shutout by Rinne. Their 3-1 home win over Vancouver on Feb. 17 was just their second in the past seven in this series played at Nashville.

Rinne is 4-3-0 with a 1.88 goals-against average versus the Canucks, while Luongo is 9-10-0 with three ties and a 2.24 GAA when facing the Preds.

LOS ANGELES KINGS (43-26-6) AT EDMONTON OILERS (23-41-11), 9:30 P.M.

(Sports Network) - Securing a second straight playoff berth just got a little harder for the Kings with Anze Kopitar lost for the rest of the season. At least their first game without the high-scoring forward is against the worst team in the NHL.

Los Angeles will try to win its fourth straight contest and deal the Edmonton Oilers a 10th setback in a row this evening in Dustin Penner's return to Rexall Place.

An 8-2-2 record this month has helped the Kings stay competitive in a tight Western Conference. They are currently tied with the Predators for fifth overall in the standings, one point behind the Coyotes and one up on the Ducks with seven games to go. Los Angeles is also five points behind Pacific Division-leading San Jose.

However, a third straight victory on Saturday came at a cost as Kopitar exited the 4-1 triumph over Colorado with what was revealed on Monday to be torn ligaments in his right ankle that will sideline him indefinitely. The forward, who is scheduled for surgery tomorrow, leads the Kings with 73 points and his injury came just five days after Los Angeles lost Justin Williams for at least the rest of the regular season with a dislocated right shoulder.

"[Kopitar's] our best player. We have to find a way either way ... you don't want have your best player go down but if that's the case, we need to fill the responsibility collectively and find a way because no other team is going to feel sorry for us," said Kings captain Dustin Brown.

"We have our top two scorers possibly out, I don't know the severity of the injuries but that's part of the 82-game schedule, and at the end of the day we have find a way to keep going as a team."

Kopitar, who is tied with Brown for the team lead in goals with 25, will have his club-record run of 330 straight games played end tonight.

Some added pressure may now fall on goaltender Jonathan Quick, who made 20 saves in Saturday's win. Trevor Lewis and Ryan Smyth added a goal and an assist each.

One player who the Kings will look to step up is Penner, who was acquired from the Oilers prior to last month's trade deadline. The 28-year-old has just two goals and four assists in 12 games since the trade after notching 21 goals and 39 points in 62 games with Edmonton this year.

Penner had been with the Oilers since the 2007-08 season and totaled 93 goals in 304 games with the franchise.

Los Angeles has won five straight on the road and will visit NHL-leading Vancouver on Thursday after this favorable matchup.

The Kings have won all three of their meetings with the Oilers so far this year and can sweep this season series for the first time tonight. Los Angeles has won six of eight overall against Edmonton and five straight at Rexall Place, where it hasn't lost since Feb. 28, 2008.

Jonathan Bernier is expected to get the call tonight for LA. He won his only career start versus the Oilers on Jan. 15, stopping 24-of-26 shots faced.

Edmonton, 0-6-3 over its past nine, is on its worst slide since a 13-game skid from Dec. 31-Jan. 30 of last season and blew a three-goal lead in the third period in Saturday's 5-4 shootout loss to Calgary. Devan Dubnyk made 27 saves, but gave up the only goal of the tiebreaker in the first round.

Ryan Jones, Colin Fraser, Teemu Hartikainen and Magnus Paajarvi all scored for the Oilers, but Jordan Eberle, Jones and Hartikainen all failed in the shootout.

"We played so well for so long and then definitely took the foot off the gas pedal and let a good team back into it," Eberle said.

Edmonton, last in the NHL with 57 points, continues to play without Shawn Horcoff, Sam Gagner, Gilbert Brule, Taylor Hall and Ales Hemsky.

Dubnyk is 1-1-1 with a 2.85 GAA in his career against the Kings.

DALLAS STARS (38-26-10) AT PHOENIX COYOTES (41-25-11), 10 P.M.

(Sports Network) - A winning record on the Stars' current five-game road trip will go a long way in helping them reach the playoffs. That makes Saturday's loss in the opener tough to swallow.

Dallas will try to bounce back from its third straight setback this evening versus the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena.

The Stars kicked off their swing versus Nashville, dropping a 4-2 decision to a club that is tied for fifth in the Western Conference. Dallas, which is 10th overall in the standings and four points back of a playoff spot with eight games to play, will also visit San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim and all five teams on this swing are above the Stars in the standings.

Defenseman Alex Goligoski scored in a third straight game and Brenden Morrow also scored, but the Stars still lost for the fifth time in six games. Kari Lehtonen made 28 saves in his 15th straight start and Mike Ribeiro added two assists.

"I don't know if we all realize exactly what the record has been, but I think we all know the situation we're in," Stars captain Brenden Morrow told Dallas' website. "We need to collect points and tonight was another missed opportunity. That's a great team over there, they do things the right way, they play hard, you got to really work for everything against them, but tonight was another missed opportunity. It feels like we've had a lot of those lately."

Dallas will be gunning for a split of its season series with Phoenix, which currently sits fourth overall in the West, just one point up on Los Angeles and Nashville. The Stars ended a three-game losing streak to the Coyotes with a thrilling 3-2 win at Jobing.com Arena on March 1.

The Coyotes' Ray Whitney had tied the game with 37.7 seconds left in regulation, but the Stars' Jamie Benn tallied with 4.8 ticks remaining as Dallas beat Phoenix for just the fourth time in the past 14 meetings overall and for the second time in last seven played in the desert.

Benn had an assist in Saturday's defeat, giving him eight goals and 14 points in his past 12 games.

Lehtonen is 2-1-2 with a 2.38 goals-against average versus the Coyotes, who lost for only the second time in nine games overall with a 4-1 setback to the Sharks on Saturday. However, the defeat dropped Phoenix four points back of first-place San Jose in the Pacific Division standings.

Mikkel Boedker scored the lone goal for the Coyotes and Ilya Bryzgalov made 28 saves in defeat.

"We weren't good enough in any area," Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. "They kind of controlled play and we have to be better."

Both Vernon Fiddler (undisclosed) and Lauri Korpikoski (upper body) missed Saturday's game and are day-to-day. Korpikoski is tied with Doan and Radim Vrbata for the club lead in goals with 18.

The Coyotes are 2-2-0 on a six-game homestand, which wraps on Friday versus the Avalanche. After a trip to Los Angeles, Phoenix closes its regular season with a home-and-home against San Jose.

Bryzgalov is 12-8-2 with a 2.33 GAA in his career against Dallas.

03/29 11:42:31 ET

NHL SCOREBOARD
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