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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Tuesday, April 5th (All times eastern)

Tampa Bay Lightning (44-24-11) at Buffalo Sabres (40-29-10), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Sabres will try to help their postseason chances by cooling off the red-hot Tampa Bay Lightning when the clubs meet tonight at Buffalo's HSBC Arena.

The Sabres enter today's action as the eighth seed out of eight playoff spots in the East and is one point behind Montreal and the New York Rangers. Buffalo is also three ahead of Carolina. The Canadiens host Chicago tonight, while the Hurricanes and Rangers are idle.

Buffalo, Carolina and Montreal have three games left in the regular season and New York has two.

Tampa Bay, meanwhile, has won five straight games and has already clinched a playoff berth. With 99 points, the Lightning are one behind Pittsburgh for the conference's fourth seed and Tampa can finish no worse than fifth in the East. Like Tampa, the Penguins, who are hosting New Jersey tonight, have three games left in the regular season.

The Lightning's chances at a division title are fading, however, as the Bolts are four points behind Washington for the Southeast lead. The Capitals can clinch their fourth straight division title with a win tonight in Toronto or a regulation loss by Tampa.

While Tampa was busy picking up its fifth straight win Sunday in Chicago, the Sabres were able to record an important victory of their own in Raleigh. Marc- Andre Gragnani scored his first NHL goal with 2:04 remaining in overtime to lift the Buffalo Sabres to a 2-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes in a battle between the playoff-hopeful clubs.

In the extra session, Nathan Gerbe worked the puck to the left point and Gragnani, playing in his 12th career NHL game, snapped a wrist shot that found its way behind Cam Ward after deflecting off the stick of a Carolina player.

Chris Butler supplied the other goal for Buffalo, which has won five of its last seven games.

Jhonas Enroth started again in place of the injured Ryan Miller and turned away 35 shots for the Sabres. Enroth has started the last three games for Buffalo, as Miller, last year's Vezina Trophy winner, is sidelined with an upper-body injury. Miller is expected to sit out again this evening, but the club is hopeful he can return before the end of the regular season.

Sabres forwards Mike Grier (knee) and Jochen Hecht (upper body) are questionable for today's contest.

Buffalo is playing the first of two straight on home ice tonight, as the Sabres will host Philadelphia on Friday before closing their regular season this Saturday in Columbus. The Sabres are 19-16-4 as the host club this season.

The Lightning earned their fifth consecutive win with a 2-0 victory Sunday evening in Chicago. Mike Smith stopped 31 shots for his first shutout of the season, while Vincent Lecavalier and Nate Thompson provided the goals.

Regular goaltender Dwayne Roloson is expected to get the start in net tonight, but Lecavalier is questionable after getting hit in the face with a high stick on Sunday. Lecavalier was cut near the eye by the blade of Chicago forward Michael Frolik's stick in the second period and did not return to the game.

However, a Buffalo-area eye doctor examined Lecavalier on Monday and no structural damage was detected in his right eye. Tampa's captain is considered day-to-day.

Tampa defenseman Eric Brewer is also questionable with a lower-body injury.

The Lightning have won their last three road games and are capping a three- game swing tonight. Tampa is 20-13-6 as the visiting team this season.

Tampa Bay has won two of three meetings with the Sabres this year, but Buffalo recorded a 7-4 victory the last time the clubs met on Feb. 8 in Florida. The Sabres have taken seven of 10 overall in the series and the Lightning have dropped five out of seven in western New York.

04/05 10:52:13 ET

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