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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Thursday, March 15th (All times eastern)

Buffalo Sabres (44-19-6) at Florida Panthers (29-28-13), 7:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Eastern Conference-leading Buffalo Sabres will try to put the brakes on their longest losing streak of the season this evening, when they travel to BankAtlantic Center to battle the Florida Panthers.

The Sabres have dropped four straight tests and are 0-3-1 in that stretch. The first three setbacks were regulation losses on home ice, while Tuesday's shootout defeat in Pittsburgh began a four-game road trip for Buffalo.

Buffalo has 94 points on the season, but the Devils are just two points behind for the East's top spot.

The latest setback came after Sidney Crosby notched a goal in the third round of the shootout to send the Penguins to a 5-4 home triumph.

Daniel Briere recorded a goal and two assists for the Sabres. Jason Pominville and Chris Drury picked up a goal and one assist each, and Dmitri Kalinin also tallied in defeat.

Ryan Miller stopped 34 shots in regulation but gave up two goals on three shots in the shootout to take the loss.

The Sabres have suffered through numerous injuries to key components in recent weeks and aren't expected to have any of those players back tonight. Forwards Ales Kotalik (sprained MCL) and Daniel Paille (broken finger) and defenseman Jaroslav Spacek (broken hand) are at least a week away from returning. Forward Maxim Afinogenov (wrist surgery) isn't expected to return until late March/early April.

Tonight is the second test of a four-game road trip for the Sabres, who are a solid 21-9-3 as the away team this year.

The Panthers' playoff hopes were delivered a hit Tuesday, as the team lost in Carolina. Florida now trails the Hurricanes and New York Islanders by seven points for the last two postseason berths in the Eastern Conference.

Scott Walker's goal with 15.3 seconds left in the second period was the game- winner in Carolina's 3-1 decision over the Panthers.

Jozef Stumpel tallied for Florida, while Ed Belfour made 31 saves in the loss. It was just the second setback in eight games for the Panthers.

The Panthers are 20-10-4 as the host team this year and kick off a brief two- game homestand tonight. Florida will also welcome the Islanders to Sunrise on Saturday.

Buffalo has won two of three meetings with the Panthers this year, but Florida has taken four of the last seven meetings overall. The Sabres have also been defeated in three straight and four of their last five trips to BankAtlantic Center.

03/15 10:51:53 ET

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