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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Sunday, March 18th (All times eastern)

Buffalo Sabres (46-19-6) at Atlanta Thrashers (38-25-10), 2 p.m.

(Sports Network) - A battle between division leaders occurs today with an intriguing matinee from Atlanta's Philips Arena, where the Thrashers and Buffalo Sabres face off for the final time of the regular season.

Buffalo continues to lead the way in the race for the Eastern Conference's top playoff spot, although its advantage over second-place New Jersey is a mere four points. The Sabres have been able to maintain their edge, however, by playing well on this current road trip, a four-game jaunt which concludes this afternoon.

After opening this swing with a tough shootout loss to Pittsburgh, Buffalo swept a pair of road tilts in the Sunshine State earlier this week. The Sabres dealt Florida a 5-3 defeat on Thursday, then came through with a 3-2 decision over Tampa Bay on Friday.

Jason Pominville had two of the Sabres' goals and Ryan Miller turned away 35 shots for Buffalo, which improved its NHL-best road record to 23-9-3 on the season.

Pominville has now lit the lamp in three consecutive games and has racked up 16 points (8 goals, 8 assists) over his last 13 outings.

The Sabres' win also aided Atlanta, which is locked in a heated battle with Tampa Bay for first place in the Southeast Division. The Thrashers enter today's showdown with 86 points, four better than the Lightning and six more than third-place Carolina.

Atlanta also helped its chances for capturing its first-ever division crown with Friday's 2-1 overtime win over the New York Rangers at Philips Arena. Alexei Zhitnik, one of the Thrashers' key pickups at last month's trade deadline, put home the game-winner on the power play 2:18 into the extra session.

It was Zhitnik's first goal in an Atlanta uniform. The veteran blueliner was acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers on February 24 in exchange for defenseman Braydon Coburn.

Marian Hossa added a goal and an assist for the Thrashers and Johan Hedberg made a season-high 38 saves in the win, Atlanta's seventh in its last nine games.

The Thrashers will be playing the second of three straight games at Philips Arena, where the club has been sensational as of late. Atlanta has six in a row as the host and can establish a new franchise record for consecutive victories on home ice this afternoon.

Atlanta owns a 20-10-6 home mark for the season.

Buffalo did defeat the Thrashers in Atlanta last month, however, and has won three of its last four as the visitor in this series.

03/18 10:25:33 ET

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