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Sabres-Hurricanes Preview

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GAME: Buffalo Sabres (51-24-6) at Carolina Hurricanes (52-21-8).

TIME: Tuesday, 7 p.m. EDT.

The Carolina Hurricanes try to clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs when they host the surging Buffalo Sabres in the regular-season finale for both teams.

The Hurricanes hold a one-point lead over Ottawa in the conference and will earn the top spot with a victory in this contest or a Senators' loss to the New York Rangers on Tuesday. If the teams finish the season tied in points, Ottawa would earn the No. 1 seed because of a better goal differential.

Carolina is making its first playoff appearance since 2001-02, but has struggled lately. The Hurricanes were 43-14-4 after a 2-1 win over the Rangers on March 6, but have since lost 11 of 20.

Carolina rallied from a two-goal third-period deficit Saturday, but lost 3-2 in overtime to Tampa Bay.

"We had a chance to close out the conference and it's disappointing," Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. "It's all about the playoffs. We play these games, but you want to get all the rounds at home. That's why you battle. It's not over. There's still one game left."

Eric Staal had two assists to become the first player to reach 100 points in a full season with the Hurricanes since Ron Francis accomplished the feat in 1989-90. Staal also extended his point streak to six games, and has three goals and five assists over that span.

Carolina is trying for its first season sweep of the Sabres, but Buffalo has won four straight and six of its last seven.

Ryan Miller made 31 saves Sunday to lead the Sabres to their first shutout of the season, 6-0 over Toronto.

"It wasn't real high on my list," Miller said of his second career shutout. "But with the success we've had, it is a little bonus on top. Just trying to get tuned up, ready to go."

That success includes a franchise-best 51 wins and the team's first trip to the playoffs since 2000-01. Buffalo has locked up the fourth seed in the East.

Chris Drury scored twice Sunday, Brian Campbell added a goal and two assists and Paul Gaustad had a goal and an assist for Buffalo. Maxim Afinogenov added two assists, and has three goals and 11 assists during a seven-game point streak.

The Sabres were 2-for-7 on the power play, setting a franchise record by scoring at least one extra-man goal in 60 games this season.

STANDINGS: Sabres - 108 points, 2nd place, 3 PB, Northeast Division. Hurricanes - 112 points, 1st place, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Sabres - Drury, 29 goals; Afinogenov, 50 assists and 72 points; Andrew Peters, 100 PIM. Hurricanes - Staal, 45 goals and 100 points; Staal and Cory Stillman, 55 assists; Mike Commodore, 136 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Sabres - Power play: 21.1 percent (99 for 470), 3rd in NHL. Penalty killing: 86.4 percent (375 for 434), 2nd. Hurricanes - Power play: 18.1 percent (95 for 526), 17th. Penalty killing: 82.0 percent (359 for 438), 16th.

GOALTENDERS: Sabres - Miller (30-14-3, 1 SO, 2.60 GAA); Martin Biron (20-8-3, 2.98). Hurricanes - Martin Gerber (38-13-6, 3, 2.76); Cam Ward (14-8-2, 3.68).

SEASON SERIES: Hurricanes, 3-0.

LAST MEETING: March 22; Hurricanes, 4-3. At Buffalo, N.Y., the Hurricanes scored four times in the second period and held on after allowing three unanswered scores in a 10-minute span of the third.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sabres - 24-13-3 on the road; Hurricanes - 31-7-2 at home.

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