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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Thursday, March 18th (All times eastern)

Buffalo Sabres (32-31-6-4) at Tampa Bay Lightning (41-19-8-5), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Tampa Bay Lightning hope to maintain the top spot in the Eastern Conference tonight when they welcome the Buffalo Sabres to the St. Pete Times Forum.

Tampa Bay, with 95 points, leads second-place Philadelphia by a point in the East race. The Flyers will host Toronto this evening.

The Lightning are in a slump by their standards, having dropped two straight on the heels of an 11-game unbeaten streak (10-0-1). On Tuesday they suffered a 3-1 defeat to the visiting NY Islanders.

Fredrik Modin registered the lone Tampa Bay goal as the Lightning fell to 14-2-2-2 in their last 20 games overall. Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 20 shots, but surrendered two goals in the final stanza after blanking New York in the first two.

Winger Martin St. Louis was held scoreless, still leaving him one point shy of Brian Bradley's franchise record of 86 points set in 1992-93. St. Louis leads the NHL in scoring -- three points ahead of Colorado's Joe Sakic.

The Bolts, who have already wrapped up their second straight Southeast Division championship, conclude a four-game homestand tonight and will visit Boston on Saturday.

Buffalo, meanwhile, hopes to face Tampa in the upcoming playoffs, but has some work to do before getting into the postseason field. The Sabres, with 74 points, are four behind the Islanders for the eighth and final spot in the East.

On Tuesday, Derek Roy's fluke goal just 15 seconds into overtime lifted the Sabres to a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Atlanta Thrashers at Philips Arena.

Jochen Hecht netted the equalizer and assisted on another goal, as Buffalo overcame a 3-1 third-period deficit. J.P. Dumont and Adam Mair also scored for the Sabres, who finally made it into the win column in the extra stanza after three straight overtime losses.

On the injury front, Buffalo, already without forward Chris Drury (concussion) and defenseman Alexei Zhitnik (shoulder), lost leading scorer Daniel Briere after a crushing hit from the Thrashers' Andy Sutton in the third period. Briere is questionable for tonight.

The Sabres, who had lost four of their last six road games, will visit Florida on Saturday.

Tampa Bay is 2-1 against Buffalo this season, and 3-1-1 in the last five meetings.

03/18 10:31:04 ET

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