Sports

 
National Hockey League

 
      ***** National Hockey League Previews from The Sports Network *****
                               Saturday, March 28
                              (All times Eastern)
 
 
 NASHVILLE PREDATORS (46-21-8) AT WASHINGTON CAPITALS (40-24-10), 12:30 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The surging Nashville Predators hope to stay on the
 right track when they visit Barry Trotz's Washington Capitals for a matinee
 clash on Saturday.
 
 The Predators cruised through most of the season before going through a
 difficult 4-9-2 stretch from Feb. 19-March 17. Nashville has since won three
 in a row, marking the club's longest run since a season-best six-game stretch
 from Feb. 7-17.
 
 The recent surge has Nashville at 100 points on the season and on the verge of
 officially clinching a playoff berth. The club has a one-point lead over St.
 Louis for the Central Division lead, putting the Preds a point behind Anaheim
 for the top seed in the Western Conference. The Blues host Columbus on
 Saturday, while the Ducks are set to visit the New York Islanders.
 
 The last time the Predators made it to the postseason was in 2012, when Trotz
 was still the club's head coach. He was let go following last season and
 replaced by Peter Laviolette, who is only the second bench boss in franchise
 history.
 
 Trotz has the Capitals in the first of two wild card spots in the East, where
 they sit five points ahead of the Ottawa Senators. Washington also is just one
 point behind Pittsburgh for the third playoff seed from the Metropolitan
 Division. The Penguins host Arizona on Saturday.
 
 Nashville welcomed its old coach back to the Music City on Jan. 16 when it
 notched a 4-3 win over the visiting Capitals. The Preds have won two straight
 and three of four in this matchup, but have dropped four straight and seven of
 eight in D.C.
 
 Laviolette's club posted its most recent victory Thursday in Tampa, recording
 a 3-2 win over the Lightning. Nashville jumped out to a 2-0 lead with a pair
 of goals in quick succession early in the first period and Tampa Bay never was
 able to even things after that.
 
 Mike Ribeiro opened the scoring at the 3:38 mark and Paul Gaustad made it a
 two-goal cushion just 40 seconds later. Michael Santorelli's goal early in the
 second period proved to be the game-winner for Nashville, which also received
 28 saves from Pekka Rinne.
 
 "We know we can be better, but it was a good road win," Laviolette said.
 
 The victory was the 40th of the season for Rinne and leaves him three wins shy
 of his personal best set in 2011-12.
 
 Nashville is capping a two-game swing today before opening a three-game
 homestand with Sunday's test against Calgary. The Preds are 18-14-6 as the
 guest this season compared to a 28-7-2 mark at home.
 
 Predators forward James Neal is questionable for this afternoon after sitting
 out the last six straight game with an upper-body injury.
 
 The Caps won for the fourth time in five games with Thursday's overtime
 victory against New Jersey. The 3-2 decision came after Matt Niskanen scored
 just 73 seconds into the extra session.
 
 Karl Alzner and Niskanen each finished with a goal and an assist, Eric Fehr
 also lit the lamp and Braden Holtby made 29 saves for the Capitals.
 
 "We were on our heels for the majority of the third period," said Niskanen.
 "Wins seem a lot bigger this time of year, especially in the position that
 we're in."
 
 Washington is 21-11-5 at home this season and also is playing on consecutive
 days this weekend. The Caps will visit the New York Rangers on Saturday
 afternoon.
 
 
 ARIZONA COYOTES (23-44-8) AT PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (40-23-11), 1 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Pittsburgh Penguins hope to use the Arizona Coyotes
 to earn just their second win in eight games when they host the Western
 Conference's last-place team on Saturday afternoon.
 
 The Penguins are 1-5-1 over their last seven games, with the lone victory
 coming last Saturday in Arizona. Pittsburgh won that tilt by a 3-1 count, but
 the Coyotes enter today's battle at CONSOL Energy Center having won two
 straight games.
 
 Despite the recent rough patch, Pittsburgh is holding onto the third and final
 playoff berth from the Metropolitan Division, but is only a point ahead of
 Washington for that distinction with eight games left for both clubs. The
 Capitals host Nashville on Saturday afternoon.
 
 The Pens also sit two points behind the New York Islanders for second place in
 the Metro. The Isles are playing Anaheim at home today.
 
 Pittsburgh has lost two straight since last week's win over the Coyotes, but
 the club could receive a boost Saturday if either Evgeni Malkin or Patric
 Hornqvist, or both, are able to return to the lineup.
 
 Malkin, who leads Pittsburgh with 28 goals and is second in points with 68,
 has sat out the last five games with an undisclosed injury. However, he told
 the Penguins' website Friday there is a "great chance" he could return to
 action on Saturday. If the Russian star is unable to go this afternoon then
 it's likely he will play Sunday when the Pens continue a three-game homestand
 versus San Jose.
 
 Hornqvist has missed five straight with an unknown ailment and also is
 questionable for Saturday. He is third on the team in goals (23) and fourth in
 points (45).
 
 Getting either forward back could help Pittsburgh's struggling offense. The
 club has scored two or fewer goals in eight of its last 10 games.
 
 Pittsburgh dropped a 5-2 decision Thursday at Carolina. The Pens opened the
 scoring on Brandon Sutter's goal at 3:54 of the first, but the Hurricanes
 followed with five unanswered markers to take control of the game.
 
 Ian Cole scored Pittsburgh's other goal in the latter stages of the third,
 while Marc-Andre Fleury gave up all five goals on 28 shots.
 
 "I really liked our start. I thought we had a great start," said Penguins
 coach Mike Johnston. "They capitalized on a turnover (on) their first goal."
 
 Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff sat out Thursday's game with an upper-body
 ailment and is expected to miss another tilt on Saturday.
 
 One day after Arizona lost last Saturday's game to the Pens, the club saw its
 overall losing streak reach eight in a row with a setback against Vancouver.
 The Coyotes halted the slide with Tuesday's win in Detroit before beating
 Buffalo on Thursday, using a pair of overtime victories to start 2-0 on a
 three-game road trip.
 
 Mark Arcobello delivered the OT winner in a 5-4 win over Detroit, while
 Sam Gagner scored 56 seconds into the extra session to complete a 4-3 victory
 against the Sabres.
 
 Thursday's tilt pitted the NHL's two worst teams against each other. With 48
 points, the Sabres are six behind the Coyotes in the overall NHL standings,
 giving Buffalo the inside track on the No. 1 selection at this summer's draft.
 
 Jordan Szwarz, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and David Moss also scored for the Coyotes
 and Mike Smith made 32 saves for the win, which gave Arizona two straight
 victories for the first time since Feb. 1-3.
 
 "We came in with the mindset of trying to get our first two-game winning
 streak in a long time," said Coyotes coach Dave Tippett. "I thought we played
 hard."
 
 Arizona is 13-21-3 as the visiting team this season. It's next game is at home
 on Monday, when the Sabres head to the desert.
 
 The Coyotes have lost four of the last six meetings against the Penguins, but
 the clubs have split the past four encounters in the Steel City.
 
 
 SAN JOSE SHARKS (36-30-8) AT PHILADELPHIA FLYERS (30-29-16), 1 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of teams with slim chances of making the playoffs
 meet Saturday afternoon in the City of Brotherly Love, as the Philadelphia
 Flyers welcome the San Jose Sharks.
 
 The Flyers likely will miss the postseason for the second time in three years,
 as they enter Saturday nine points out of the Eastern Conference's last
 playoff spot with only seven games remaining.
 
 San Jose, meanwhile, is 10 points out of the wild card race in the West and
 eight behind Los Angeles for the last of the Pacific Division's three playoff
 spots. The Sharks haven't missed the postseason since 2003.
 
 The Sharks won for only the second time in six outings with Thursday's 6-4 win
 in Detroit. Patrick Marleau helped San Jose halt a two-game slide with two
 goals and an assist.
 
 Logan Couture and Chris Tierney each finished with a goal and a helper, Marc-
 Edouard Vlasic and Matt Nieto also scored and Antti Niemi made 30 saves for
 the Sharks.
 
 "On the offensive side, things were really good," said Marleau. "Defensively,
 obviously, there are things we can clean up, but we can't get picky right now.
 We'll take the two points."
 
 The victory pushed San Jose's mark on a seven-game road trip to 2-3-0. The
 Sharks, who will end the swing tomorrow in Pittsburgh, are 19-14-3 as the road
 club this season.
 
 The Flyers halted a four-game losing streak with Wednesday's 4-1 home win over
 Chicago. It marked only the third win of the month for Philly, which improved
 to 3-4-5 in March.
 
 Wayne Simmonds, Ryan White, Claude Giroux and Michael Raffl scored once each
 for the Flyers, while Steve Mason turned away 34 pucks for the win.
 
 "At this point winning feels good," Mason said. "However there is that
 sobering feeling of where we're at in the standings. Tonight was an effort
 that you look back on and you can be proud of the effort."
 
 Philadelphia lost a pair of players for the remainder of the season in the
 win, as Simmonds and defenseman Andrew MacDonald both sustained fractures when
 blocking shots. Simmonds is leading the team with 28 goals, six more than
 Giroux.
 
 The Flyers own a solid 21-9-6 mark at home this season. They will play their
 next two on the road before closing 2014-15 with a four-game stay at Wells
 Fargo Center.
 
 San Jose has dominated Philadelphia over the years, winning 11 of the past 12
 meetings in this series. The Sharks won their second straight in the matchup
 with a 2-1 home victory on Dec. 2.
 
 The Flyers have lost six straight at home in this series since posting a tie
 on Nov. 21, 2002.
 
 
 ANAHEIM DUCKS (47-22-7) AT NEW YORK ISLANDERS (44-26-5), 1 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The New York Islanders have struggled mightily in recent
 weeks, but they hope to start heading in the right direction on Saturday
 afternoon when the Anaheim Ducks visit Nassau Coliseum.
 
 New York is in good shape to make the playoffs for the second time in eight
 seasons, but the club's play lately is still cause for concern. The Islanders,
 who last qualified for the postseason in 2013, have just three wins over their
 past 12 outings, going 3-6-3 during that stretch.
 
 Despite the recent struggles, the Isles still have compiled 93 points on the
 season. That represents the club's highest total since 2001-02, when it logged
 96 points.
 
 New York is second in the Metropolitan Division. It sits two points ahead of
 Pittsburgh and three ahead of Washington, which sits fourth in the division
 and in the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Boston and Ottawa
 are eight points behind the Isles and locked in a battle for the East's final
 postseason berth.
 
 The Penguins host Arizona on Saturday, Washington is at home against
 Nashville, Ottawa visits Toronto and the Bruins are hosting the Metro-leading
 Rangers.
 
 Anaheim, meanwhile, is on the verge of clinching a playoff spot out West with
 101 points. The Ducks own an 11-point cushion over Vancouver for the top spot
 in the Pacific Division.
 
 New York has lost two straight at the start of a four-game homestand, dropping
 a shootout decision Tuesday against Minnesota before falling 3-2 in regulation
 to the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.
 
 The Isles and Kings were knotted at 2-2 after Johnny Boychuk delivered a
 power-play goal at 3:31 of the third period, but Anze Kopitar potted the game-
 winner for L.A. in the final minutes of regulation, tipping a shot past
 Jaroslav Halak with 4:23 remaining.
 
 Frans Nielsen also scored for New York, while Halak absorbed the loss despite
 making 34 saves.
 
 The Islanders fell to 0-5-1 in their last six games at Nassau Coliseum. New
 York, which will move to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for 2015-16, has
 three regular-season tests left at the arena.
 
 The Ducks have won five of seven and halted a two-game slide with Thursday's
 comeback win in Boston. Ryan Getzlaf helped tie the game late in regulation
 and scored the winning goal in overtime to help Anaheim pick up a 3-2 decision
 and win for the first time on a five-game road trip.
 
 Getzlaf fired a shot from above the right circle that was tipped in front by
 Corey Perry with 38.5 seconds remaining in the third period. After the Ducks
 failed to convert on a power play in overtime, Getzlaf carried the puck across
 the Boston blue line and beat Tuukka Rask with a wrist shot from the high
 slot.
 
 Patrick Maroon also scored for Anaheim and Frederik Andersen stopped 27 Boston
 shots.
 
 "We were better all over the ice," said Getzlaf, who scored his franchise-
 best seventh career overtime goal. "We played a great team in Boston, and
 battled them right to the end. Those are things we want to establish down the
 stretch."
 
 The Ducks are tied with the New York Rangers for the most points in the NHL.
 The Rangers, who have three games in hand over Anaheim, play this afternoon in
 Boston.
 
 The Islanders won for just the second time in seven meetings with the Ducks
 when they notched a 3-2 OT win in Anaheim on Nov. 5. New York has claimed four
 of the past six encounters on Long Island.
 
 
 NEW YORK RANGERS (47-19-7) AT BOSTON BRUINS (36-25-13), 1 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The New York Rangers became the first team to clinch a
 playoff spot. The Boston Bruins still have a ton of work to do to join the
 postseason party.
 
 The Bruins will try to halt a six-game slide and improve their playoff
 credentials when they host the Rangers in Saturday's battle at TD Garden.
 
 Boston led the NHL with 117 points in 2013-14, but presently the club is in a
 tight battle for the last wild card spot in the East. The Bruins and Ottawa
 Senators each have 85 points, but the Sens hold the current tiebreaker due to
 having played one fewer game. Ottawa will visit Toronto on Saturday night.
 
 The Bruins had a chance to move past the Sens for the last postseason berth on
 Thursday, when Ottawa lost in regulation to the New York Rangers, 5-1. The
 setback halted the Sens' winning streak at seven games, but Boston couldn't
 take full advantage of the loss as it dropped an overtime decision to visiting
 Anaheim.
 
 Boston carried a 2-1 lead over the Ducks into the final minute of regulation,
 but Anaheim's Corey Perry tied the game with 38.5 seconds left in the third
 period. Ryan Getzlaf then won the contest at 1:51 of the extra session.
 
 Getzlaf fired a shot from above the right circle that was tipped in front by
 Perry to knot things at 2-2. After the Ducks failed to convert on a power play
 in overtime, Getzlaf carried the puck across the Boston blue line and beat
 Tuukka Rask with a wrist shot from the high slot.
 
 "Terrible feeling obviously ... we played a great game and good kill there in
 the overtime and then a loss, so it's tough to swallow," said Rask, who made
 29 saves in defeat.
 
 The loss dropped Boston to 0-3-3 over its last six games and spoiled the
 return of Boston forward David Krejci, who assisted on goals by Loui Eriksson
 and Ryan Spooner. Krejci played against the Ducks after missing 15 games with
 a partially torn MCL in his left knee.
 
 Boston fell to 21-10-7 as the host.
 
 Anaheim's win over the Bruins was part of the equation that allowed the
 Rangers to become the first team to secure a postseason berth this season. The
 other part came with New York's decisive 5-1 win in Ottawa the same night.
 
 New York now can get to work on winning its first division title since the
 2012 campaign, when it won the Atlantic Division. The Rangers have 101 points,
 putting them eight ahead of the rival Islanders for the Metropolitan Division
 lead.
 
 The Blueshirts also are tied with Anaheim for the overall NHL lead and are one
 point ahead of Montreal for first in the East. The Canadiens host Florida on
 Saturday, while the Ducks visit the Islanders.
 
 The Rangers dealt Ottawa goaltender Andrew Hammond the first regulation loss
 of his career on Thursday. Hammond was 14-0-1 in his first 15 starts before
 getting chased by New York, which scored five goals on 22 shots before the
 goalie was pulled late in the second period.
 
 Chris Kreider led the Rangers' barrage with two goals and an assist. Mats
 Zuccarello and Dan Boyle each scored once and assisted on another, while Derek
 Stepan and Kevin Hayes notched a pair of helpers for New York.
 
 "We probably caught their goaltender on an off night there a little bit, and
 we were able to capitalize early," said Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault.
 "We were able to take it home and get two points to clinch a playoff spot.
 That was our first goal. Now we've clinched and we're going to try and work
 for home-ice advantage."
 
 Cam Talbot stopped 23-of-24 chances for the Rangers, yielding only Curtis
 Lazar's first-period score.
 
 Talbot has been superb for New York while keeping the No. 1 goaltender role
 warm for Henrik Lundqvist, who has been out since early February with a
 vascular injury. However, Lundqvist suited up as the backup on Thursday and is
 expected to see his first action since Feb. 2 this weekend. If the Swedish
 star doesn't play this afternoon, he will likely get the call in tomorrow's
 home game versus the Washington Capitals.
 
 The Rangers halted a four-game losing streak against Boston with a 3-2 home
 win on Feb. 4. Talbot anchored that regulation win with an 18-save
 performance, but Lundqvist is 21-10-2 with a 1.85 goals against average in 33
 career games against the Bruins.
 
 
 TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (46-22-7) AT DETROIT RED WINGS (39-22-12), 2 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Tampa Bay Lightning begin their final road trip of
 the regular season on Saturday afternoon as they shoot for a season series
 sweep of the Detroit Red Wings.
 
 The Lightning will play their next five games on the road before ending the
 season at home against New Jersey and Boston. On the verge of clinching a
 playoff spot, Tampa Bay is second in the Atlantic Division with 99 points,
 nine ahead of third-place Detroit and one behind the Montreal Canadiens.
 
 Both the Bolts and Habs have seven games left to play, with Montreal hosting
 the Florida Panthers on Saturday.
 
 The Red Wings are holding on to the third automatic playoff berth to come out
 of the division, but now lead the Ottawa Senators and Bruins by just five
 points for that spot thanks to losses in six of their past eight games. Ottawa
 and Boston also are in action today.
 
 Detroit doesn't figure to catch Tampa Bay in the division and instead will
 simply be trying to beat the Lightning for the first time in four meetings
 this season. The Lightning have won seven of the previous eight encounters
 overall and three of their last four trips to Motown.
 
 Tampa Bay figures to start in net Ben Bishop, who is a solid 7-1-0 lifetime
 versus Detroit with a 1.53 goals against average and .943 save percentage in
 nine games (8 starts).
 
 He'll be looking to rebound after getting pulled in the second period of
 Thursday's 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators in the finale of a six-game
 homestand. Tampa Bay had a four-game win streak halted as Bishop allowed three
 goals on 11 shots.
 
 Andrei Vasilevskiy made eight saves in relief after coming in with 13:13 left
 in the second period, while Vladislav Namestnikov and Brian Boyle had the
 goals.
 
 "We held a 100-point team to under 20 shots, and they didn't get much the
 whole night," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said.
 
 While Cooper seemed pleased with his club's defensive effort despite the loss,
 Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock has watched his club allow 11 goals in back-
 to-back setbacks. Netminder Jimmy Howard struggled in Tuesday's 5-4 overtime
 loss to Arizona, then got pulled early in a 6-4 setback to the San Jose Sharks
 two nights later.
 
 Howard gave up three goals on just 10 shots faced in the first period, while
 Petr Mrazek stopped 17-of-19 shots in relief and actually took the loss as
 Detroit got goals from Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco, Henrik Zetterberg and Stephen
 Weiss.
 
 "We're giving up too many goals," Babcock said. "We scored tons of goals in
 the last couple games, but it's like I said, we are chasing the game."
 
 The Red Wings will visit the New York Islanders on Sunday after wrapping a
 four-game stay at home today and it will be Mrazek getting the start this
 afternoon. He has lost both of his career starts versus the Lightning, posting
 a 4.24 GAA and .829 save percentage.
 
 The Red Wings were without star forward Pavel Datsyuk (lower body) for a fifth
 straight game and forward Erik Cole (upper body), who left Tuesday's contest
 and did not practice on Friday.
 
 
 NEW JERSEY DEVILS (31-31-12) AT CAROLINA HURRICANES (27-36-10), 7 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The New Jersey Devils hope to avoid a fourth consecutive
 loss and pick up a fifth straight victory in Carolina on Saturday evening as
 they visit the Hurricanes.
 
 The Devils followed up consecutive defeats in regulation with Thursday's 3-2
 overtime loss at Washington, earning a point thanks to Steve Bernier's tally
 with 29.2 seconds left in regulation.
 
 With Cory Schneider, who made 21 saves, on the bench for an extra attacker,
 Bernier tapped in a Scott Gomez feed from behind the net to tie the game, but
 the Capitals won 1:13 into overtime as Matt Niskanen's rising shot deflected
 off a Devils defenseman's stick and past Schneider.
 
 Travis Zajac also scored for the Devils.
 
 "I think it's been a while since we've gotten a 6-on-5 goal," Schneider said.
 "We've been in that position quite a few times and just haven't gotten a lucky
 bounce or a good play. We just hadn't had much to show for it. So it was nice
 to stick with it tonight and reward ourselves with at least a point."
 
 New Jersey is set to host the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday, so it is unknown if
 Schneider will make his 65th start of the season or if backup Keith Kinkaid
 will get the call tonight.
 
 Schneider is 4-1-1 with a 1.70 goals against average and .947 save percentage
 in seven career meetings, including six starts, while Kinkaid stopped all 17
 shots fired his way when he faced the Hurricanes on Feb. 21 for the first time
 in his career. However, he left the game with 6:01 to go in the second period
 due to a lower-body injury.
 
 New Jersey has won five of its past six versus the Hurricanes and outscored
 them 14-4 over a four-game winning streak in Carolina.
 
 The Hurricanes snapped a four-game slide with Thursday's 5-2 win over the
 Pittsburgh Penguins, moving to 1-1-1 on a five-game homestand that ends on
 Sunday versus Boston.
 
 Eric Staal had a goal and two assists, while Ryan Murphy, Jay McClement,
 Alexander Semin and Andrej Nestrasil also lit the lamp for the Hurricanes.
 
 "There was a lot of offense both ways. I thought they had some real good
 looks, and so did we," said Hurricanes coach Bill Peters. "There were some
 plays being made out there both ways."
 
 Cam Ward returned from a bout with the flu and made 27 saves in his first
 start since March 14. He is expected to start again tonight and is 9-14-2
 versus the Devils lifetime with a 2.79 GAA and .898 save percentage.
 
 Semin is questionable for this game due to an undisclosed injury as he did not
 skate on Friday.
 
 
 FLORIDA PANTHERS (34-26-14) AT MONTREAL CANADIENS (46-21-8), 7 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Florida Panthers hope to stay in the mix for a
 playoff spot on Saturday evening when they visit the Atlantic Division-leading
 Montreal Canadiens.
 
 The Panthers have won three of four and six of their past nine games to remain
 in the hunt for a wild card position. They are three points behind the Boston
 Bruins and Ottawa Senators, who have 85 points each and are both in action on
 Saturday.
 
 Florida took advantage of a struggling Toronto club on Thursday and handed the
 Maple Leafs a 4-1 loss. Brandon Pirri paced the offense with a pair of goals,
 giving him seven in his last seven games and 17 tallies over his previous 22
 games.
 
 Jonathan Huberdeau and Steven Kampfer scored 30 seconds apart in the second
 period for the Panthers, while Roberto Luongo made 24 saves in his 399th
 career win. He lost his shutout bid at the 9:13 mark of the third period.
 
 "In the third period, the last 12 minutes, I just thought we sat on that lead
 and we didn't play our game," said Florida coach Gerard Gallant.
 
 The Panthers have split the first two contests of a five-game swing that
 continues with a big game versus the Senators on Sunday.
 
 Luongo is 11-14-3 with a 2.53 goals against average and .920 save percentage
 in 32 career meetings with Montreal.
 
 The Habs are just about locked into a playoff spot, though they missed out on
 officially clinching a berth with Thursday's 5-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets.
 Montreal lost its second straight and fell one point behind the New York
 Rangers for the most points in the Eastern Conference.
 
 Montreal still leads Tampa Bay by one point for first place in the Atlantic
 Division and both teams have seven games to play. The Lightning visit the
 Detroit Red Wings today.
 
 Andrei Markov and Brendan Gallagher scored versus the Jets, but backup
 goaltender Dustin Tokarski gave up five goals on just 22 shots.
 
 "They just want to use their speed and forecheck and play physical hockey,"
 Gallagher, who has scored in four straight games, said of the Jets. "They did
 that tonight. We expected that. It wasn't anything that caught us off guard,
 but it's the strength of their team. They were able to create some chances off
 of it."
 
 Montreal begins a three-game homestand this evening and figures to go back to
 No. 1 Carey Price, who is 7-4-2 lifetime versus Florida with a 1.75 GAA, .943
 save percentage and two shutouts in 13 games.
 
 The Habs have won seven of their past 10 games versus the Panthers, but have
 lost four of the past six played at home in this series.
 
 
 OTTAWA SENATORS (37-25-11) AT TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (27-42-6), 7 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Ottawa Senators hope their magical run isn't coming
 to a premature end as they attempt to get back on track Saturday night against
 the Toronto Maple Leafs.
 
 Both the Senators and goaltender Andrew Hammond saw their respective runs end
 with Thursday's 5-1 loss to the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers.
 Ottawa had a seven-game winning streak halted and Hammond lost his first game
 in regulation of his career, falling to 14-1-1.
 
 Hammond yielded five goals on 22 shots and was removed in favor of Chris
 Driedger late in the second period. Driedger made 10 saves in his NHL debut.
 
 "They came in and did exactly what they wanted to do," said Hammond, who had
 posted a 1.58 goals against average in 15 outings filling in for the injured
 Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner. "If you're not ready to play, you're going to
 get exposed, and I thought we did tonight."
 
 Curtis Lazar scored a first-period goal for the Sens, who lost for just the
 third time in regulation over their past 22 games (17-3-2).
 
 The Senators and Boston Bruins both have 85 points on the season, but Ottawa
 holds the current tiebreaker for the second wild card spot in the East as it
 has played one fewer game than Boston. The Florida Panthers are three points
 off the pace and the Sens host the Panthers on Sunday.
 
 Goaltending could become an issue for the Sens though. Lehner remains out with
 a concussion and Hammond admitted he is dealing with an injury suffered in
 Monday's win over San Jose.
 
 Craig Anderson briefly returned to the lineup recently from a bruised hand,
 but has again dealing with the injury. He did skate with the club on Friday
 and was expected to make the trip to Toronto as he is close to returning.
 
 Whoever gets the call in net will square off against a Maple Leafs club that
 has lost seven in a row. That rut was extended with Thursday's 4-1 loss to the
 Panthers.
 
 Jonathan Bernier started in net for Toronto but was pulled in the second
 period after surrendering three goals on 16 shots. James Reimer made 11 saves
 in relief.
 
 The first career NHL goal by Sam Carrick was all the offense mustered by the
 Maple Leafs. Carrick, playing in his 14th NHL game, scored off a feed from
 Morgan Rielly at 9:13 of the third period.
 
 Forward Nazem Kadri is eligible to return to Toronto's lineup tonight as he
 finished serving a four-game ban for an illegal elbow delivered versus
 Edmonton on March 16.
 
 Reimer, meanwhile, will get the start in Toronto's third contest of a four-
 game homestand. He is a solid 10-3-1 with a 2.33 GAA, .934 save percentage and
 three shutouts in 16 career meetings with the Sens.
 
 However, Reimer was lifted early in a 5-3 loss in Ottawa last Saturday, giving
 up three goals on 18 shots in 23:09 of action. Bernier stopped 21-of-22 shots
 in relief.
 
 Kyle Turris had two goals, Lazar scored and Hammond made 22 saves as the Sens
 beat the Leafs for the third time in the last four matchups. They have lost
 four in a row at Toronto, though.
 
 
 LOS ANGELES KINGS (37-23-14) AT MINNESOTA WILD (43-25-7), 8 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Los Angeles Kings look to keep their perfect record
 on this key road trip intact on Saturday night when they visit the rolling
 Minnesota Wild.
 
 The Kings have opened this five-game trek with victories over the New Jersey
 Devils, New York Rangers and New York Islanders, topping the latter club 3-2
 on Thursday.
 
 Anze Kopitar notched the deciding tally with 4:23 left to play as Los Angeles
 moved a point ahead of the Calgary Flames for third place in the Pacific
 Division.
 
 "We have eight games left and we have to win a few more of them to get the
 (playoff) spot. It was a great team win," said Kopitar, who has four goals and
 11 assists over his club's past 12 games.
 
 Nick Shore notched his first career goal, Tyler Toffoli had a short-handed
 marker and Jonathan Quick finished with 25 saves as the Kings moved to 8-2-2
 in their past 12 games.
 
 The Kings will end their road trip on Monday in Chicago and have a game in
 hand over the idle Flames, who lost to the Wild 4-2 on Friday night.
 
 Minnesota aided both its own and Los Angeles' playoff chances with the win
 over Calgary, with Thomas Vanek, Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise all netting
 third-period goals.
 
 Matt Dumba also lit the lamp and Devan Dubnyk made 23 saves in his 33rd
 consecutive start for the Wild, who have won four straight games and six of
 their last seven.
 
 "These points are huge right now," Dumba said. "When it comes game time,
 everyone is focused and ready to go to war."
 
 Minnesota, which plays the second of five-game homestand tonight, is building
 a comfortable lead for a wild card spot in the Western Conference and is now
 within a point of the Blackhawks for third place in the Central Division.
 Chicago, though, has played one fewer game and is not in action on Saturday.
 
 Vanek's goal on Friday night saw him reach the 20-goal mark for the 10th time
 in as many NHL seasons and he has potted six goals in his last 10 games.
 Parise, meanwhile, recorded his 30th tally of the season to reach that plateau
 for the sixth time in his career.
 
 The Kings have won the first two of three meetings with the Wild this season,
 including a 4-0 triumph in Minnesota on Nov. 26. Backup goaltender Martin
 Jones recorded a 28-save shutout.
 
 Quick is 9-4-3 with a 2.39 goals against average and .904 save percentage
 versus Minnesota, while Dubnyk has gone 4-4-1 with a 2.38 GAA and .927 save
 percentage in his career versus L.A.
 
 
 COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (35-35-4) AT ST. LOUIS BLUES (46-21-7), 8 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The St. Louis Blues' return home is expected to feature
 a familiar face in the lineup as defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk makes his return
 on Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
 
 Shattenkirk has been out of action since suffering an abdominal injury on Feb.
 1. He underwent surgery a few days later and has missed the past 25 games, but
 the 26-year-old former All-Star practiced on Friday and is set to return.
 
 "I've done what I've got to do rehab-wise," said Shattenkirk on Friday. "It's
 time to jump back into it."
 
 Shattenkirk will likely see limited minutes Saturday. He is expected to play
 on the third defensive pairing with Barret Jackman and has eight goals with 32
 assists in 49 games this season.
 
 His return to the blue line comes on the heels of a 3-1-2 road trip, with St.
 Louis avoiding a fourth loss in a row with Tuesday's 3-2 overtime victory
 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Alex Steen had the winner just 35 seconds
 into the bonus frame as he deflected a cross-ice pass from defenseman Zbynek
 Michalek.
 
 Robert Bortuzzo and Marcel Goc scored in the second period for the Blues and
 Jake Allen emerged victorious with a 24-save effort.
 
 "Jake played great," Bortuzzo said of his goaltender. "It was a good win for
 us after a long road trip."
 
 The Blues sit second in the Central Division with 99 points, one behind the
 front-running Nashville Predators, who have played one more game than St.
 Louis and visit the Washington Capitals on Saturday.
 
 Brian Elliott is expected to get the start tonight for the Blues and is 6-1-1
 with a 2.38 goals against average and .909 save percentage in eight meetings
 with the Blue Jackets.
 
 That regulation loss came in a 7-1 setback at Columbus on Feb. 6, with Elliott
 allowing four goals on 14 shots before getting lifted in favor Allen. The
 backup yielded three goals on 19 shots faced.
 
 That setback was only the Blues' fourth in their past 16 against the Blue
 Jackets and they have won three in a row, six of seven and 16 of the past 19
 encounters in St. Louis.
 
 Nick Foligno paced the six-goal win with a pair of tallies and an assist, Ryan
 Johansen tallied a short-handed goal with two assists and Curtis McElhinney
 made 32 saves.
 
 The Blue Jackets are looking to end the season strong and have picked up a
 victory in five straight and eight of their past nine, extending that run with
 last night's 5-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
 
 Three nights after Scott Hartnell notched a hat trick in a win over the
 Anaheim Ducks, Cam Atkinson posted a pair of goals in the first period and
 capped off a three-goal effort by scoring into an empty net with 59 seconds to
 play.
 
 It marked the first time that Columbus picked up back-to-back hat tricks in
 team history.
 
 "I'm happy to get (the hat trick) and happy to get the win," Atkinson said.
 
 Ryan Johansen and Kevin Connauton also tallied in a four-goal first period for
 the Blue Jackets, who recorded a franchise-record seventh straight road win.
 Sergei Bobrovsky picked up the victory with 31 saves.
 
 Bobrovsky is 1-3-0 with a 2.51 GAA and .905 save percentage in four games
 against the Blues, while McElhinney is 1-5-0 with a 4.22 GAA and .879 save
 percentage in seven meetings (6 starts).
 
 
 BUFFALO SABRES (20-46-8) AT COLORADO AVALANCHE (34-28-12), 9 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The last-place Buffalo Sabres were forced to watch their
 home fans cheer a loss last time out.
 
 The Colorado Avalanche probably won't see the same reaction if they were to
 lose on Saturday night to the Sabres for the first time in over nine years.
 
 The Avalanche are in an uphill battle for a postseason spot thanks to a recent
 2-2-1 road trip that concluded with Thursday's 4-1 win over the Vancouver
 Canucks. Colorado is 10 points back of the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild
 card berth in the Western Conference with eight games to play to the idle
 Jets' seven.
 
 Gabriel Landeskog and Alex Tanguay each had a goal and an assist in the win
 over the Canucks, while Jarome Iginla and John Mitchell added tallies. Ryan
 O'Reilly had two assists, giving him four goals and seven helpers over a six-
 game point streak, while Iginla tied Jean Beliveau for 40th place on the NHL's
 all-time points list with 1,219.
 
 "We were skating well tonight," said Avs coach Patrick Roy. "It was probably
 one of our best (first two periods) of the season. They were fun to watch."
 
 Reto Berra stopped 33 shots in the win as he got the start over Semyon
 Varlamov. Berra relieved Varlamov in a loss to Edmonton the previous night and
 made his first start since Nov. 25. He picked up his first victory since Nov.
 6.
 
 Regardless, Varlamov could return to action tonight and is 4-0-1 in five
 career meetings with the Sabres, posting a 2.16 goals against average and .919
 save percentage.
 
 The Avalanche have won eight in a row versus the Sabres, including a 5-1
 triumph in Buffalo on Dec. 20. They haven't lost to the Sabres since Dec. 4,
 2005.
 
 The Sabres are last in the NHL with 48 points and have lost four in a row
 while picking up only one victory in their past 12 games (1-8-3). That does
 have Buffalo as the front runner to land the top pick in the upcoming draft,
 which includes a pair of stud prospects in Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel.
 
 The idea of securing one of those players was probably behind the reaction of
 the fans in Thursday's 4-3 overtime loss to the Arizona Coyotes. Brian Gionta
 scored a power-play goal to tie the game for the Sabres with 3:37 to go in
 regulation, but defenseman Mike Weber took a tripping penalty with 30 seconds
 on the clock and Arizona's Sam Gagner tallied 56 seconds into overtime.
 
 Weber heard the cheers and called it "extremely frustrating" and "a whole new
 low."
 
 "I've always spoken extremely high of the fans," Weber said. "I don't even
 know if disappointed is the word. ... They scored (the first goal) and our
 fans are cheering. Late penalty, they cheer. They cheer when they score to win
 the game. ...
 
 "We don't want to be here. We understand where we are. We understand what this
 team's doing, what the organization's doing, the place we put ourselves in,
 but I've never been a part of something like that where the away team comes
 into a home building and (our fans are) cheering for them."
 
 Tyler Ennis and Rasmus Ristolainen had the other two goals for Buffalo and
 goaltender Matt Hackett was shaken up by a collision in the third period but
 remained in the game and finished with 38 saves.
 
 Ennis was not as lucky as he exited the contest early with an upper-body
 injury and is not expected to play tonight.
 
 Anders Lindback is in line to start for the Sabres in net and is 1-1-0 in two
 games versus the Avalanche with a 3.53 GAA and .927 save percentage.
 
 
 DALLAS STARS (36-29-10) AT VANCOUVER CANUCKS (43-27-4), 10 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - In the thick of a tight playoff race, the Vancouver
 Canucks hope to rebound on Saturday night when they play host to the Dallas
 Stars.
 
 The Canucks had a three-game winning streak snapped on Thursday with a 4-1
 setback to the Colorado Avalanche and the second-place club has just a two-
 point lead over the Los Angeles Kings in the Pacific Division. The fourth-
 place Calgary Flames also are lurking at just three points back of Vancouver.
 
 The Kings visit the Minnesota Wild on Saturday, while the Flames are not in
 action.
 
 Yannick Weber had the only goal for his club in Thursday's loss as he tallied
 for a third game in a row to give the defenseman nine on the season. Fellow
 blueliner Alexander Edler had an assist to notch a goal and three helpers over
 a four-game point streak.
 
 Eddie Lack made 34 saves in defeat.
 
 "They won battles. We didn't play desperate enough," said Weber.
 
 The Stars are a desperate team as well, but were handed a crushing 4-0 setback
 by the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night. That left Dallas eight points behind
 the idle Winnipeg Jets for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference
 with seven games to play.
 
 Edmonton's Richard Bachman posted his first shutout of the season against his
 former team. Bachman, who was a fourth-round draft pick of the Stars in 2006
 and played parts of three seasons with the team, made 29 saves for his first
 win since April 13.
 
 Kari Lehtonen allowed all four goals on 28 shots as the Stars' four-game
 winning streak came to an end. Edmonton got its first goal off Lehtonen just
 33 seconds into the game.
 
 "That's really the type of game we have been trying to get away from," Stars
 forward Shawn Horcoff said. "It's pretty disappointing."
 
 The Stars are ending a three-game swing through Western Canada tonight and
 have won six in a row versus the Canucks. They also have won four of their
 past five trips in Vancouver.
 
 
 
 
 03/28 10:56:11 ET

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