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Ducks, Sabres battling for playoff lives

by Adam Schwartz
The Ducks look to climb back into the top eight in the Western Conference while the Sabres look to solidify their postseason spot in the Eastern Conference tonight when they meet in Buffalo tonight (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN2).

Five other early games see the Panthers visiting the Eastern Conference-leading Bruins; the Capitals renewing their rivalry with the Flyers; the Avalanche continuing their road trip in Atlanta; the Canadiens hosting the surging Canucks (7:30 p.m. ET, RDS); and the Hurricanes try to claw their way into a playoff spot when they take on the Senators.

Later, the Blackhawks are in Nashville in a Central Division showdown; the Kings begin a five-game road trip in Minnesota; the Coyotes go for their third straight win when they face the Blues; the Flames try to lengthen their Northwest Division lead when they host the Blue Jackets; and the Oilers try to end a three-game losing streak when they face the Lightning.

Here's what to watch:

* The Panthers, who haven't made the playoffs since 2000 and haven't won a playoff game since 1997, are tied for seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 68 points. They've allowed the fewest goals in the Southeast Division and sixth-fewest in the League with 153. Florida, which is 19-7-2 when scoring first, is 11-14-6 when allowing the first goal.

* Buffalo goalie Patrick Lalime, who replaced an injured Ryan Miller on Saturday in the Sabres' 4-2 win against the Rangers, will make his first start since Feb. 2 -- against the Ducks, in Anaheim. He stopped 34 of 37 shots in a 3-2 loss.

* Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who leads Atlantic Division defensemen and is tied for fifth among all NHL defensemen with 18 power-play assists, is one of just six defensemen in the League with at least 27 assists and a plus-15 rating. Timonen, who has just 1 assist in his last nine games, leads the Flyers with an average ice time of 24:55.

* Atlanta left wing Ilya Kovalchuk, who is second in the Southeast Division and seventh the League with 30 goals, is tied for the team's second-worst plus-minus at minus-14. Kovalchuk, one of three Thrashers with at least 9 power-play goals, has 9 goals and 13 points in his last seven games.

* Canucks left wing Daniel Sedin, who leads the team with 59 points and leads Vancouver forwards with a plus-16 rating, has 8 assists and 11 points in his last nine games. Sedin, who plays on a line with brother Henrik and Alex Burrows, had a goal and an assist Feb. 15 in Vancouver's last meeting with Montreal -- a 4-2 Canucks win.

* Carolina goalie Cam Ward, who won the 2006 Conn Smythe Trophy, leads the Southeast Division with 25 wins. Ward has a 2.78 goals-against average in 10 Tuesday games.

* The Blackhawks, who have the third-best road power play in the conference at 23.3 percent, have 3 power-play goals in their last four games. Chicago, which is 19-3-3 when leading after the first period, is 7-7-3 when trailing after the first period.

* Wild defenseman Brent Burns, who had 43 points and a plus-12 rating in 82 games last season, has just 24 points and a minus-8 rating in 54 games this season. Burns, who is averaging the second-most ice time on the team at 22:24 per game, has 4 points in his last five games.

* St. Louis defenseman Barret Jackman, who is second on the team with 101 blocked shots, has a minus-26 rating since the start of the 2007-08 season. Jackman, who leads the team with an average shorthanded ice time of 4:20 per game, has the most penalty minutes among Blues defensemen with 68.

* Flames right wing Todd Bertuzzi, who is tied for third on the team with 42 points, is tied for the worst plus-minus among Calgary players at minus-11. Bertuzzi, who has 26 points on the road, has 11 goals and 29 points in 26 career games against the Blue Jackets.

* The Oilers, who are 13-11-4 at home, are tied for the third-most road wins in the Western Conference with 16. Edmonton, which has the worst home power play in the Northwest Division at 15.2 percent, has the worst penalty kill in the division and second-worst in the Western Conference at 77.6 percent.

Contact Adam Schwartz at
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