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Struggling Preds hope to take advantage of Sabres

Mar 21, 2015 - 3:16 PM ( - The Nashville Predators once seemed poised to waltz to a Central Division title, but after Saturday they could find themselves in third place.

The slumping Predators hope to take advantage of the NHL's last place club on Saturday when they host the Buffalo Sabres at Bridgestone Arena.

Nashville held the NHL's best record for a large portion of 2014-15 and were still leading the Presidents' Trophy race earlier this month. The Preds also once held a nine-point lead atop the Central Division standings, but enters Saturday two behind St. Louis for that distinction.

The Predators also hold a two-point lead over third-place Chicago, which has won four straight and eight of its last 10 games compared to a Nashville club which is just 2-8-1 over its past 11 tilts. The Blackhawks visit Dallas tonight and if they win and Nashville fails to get a point against Buffalo, then Chicago will hold second place in the division by virtue of a tiebreaker.

The Blues play Saturday in Minnesota and they also hold the current tiebreaker over Nashville.

Nashville has dropped two straight, but did earn a point from Tuesday's home game against the Wild. The Preds carried a 2-1 lead into the third period, but allowed Charlie Coyle to tie it up with 6:41 remaining in regulation before Matt Dumba netted the game-winner 22 seconds into overtime.

Roman Josi recorded both scores for the Predators, while Pekka Rinne halted just 18 shots in defeat.

"It's frustrating because nobody wants to lose games," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette told his team's web site on Thursday. "You do a lot of things right and there's things that you can do better, or you're not getting the results that you want."

Nashville is playing the middle test of a three-game homestand tonight and will close the residency Tuesday against Montreal. The Preds are 26-7-2 as the host this season, but have lost five straight (0-4-1) as the host.

Preds forward James Neal has missed the last three games with an upper-body injury and is questionable for tonight. Centerman Colin Wilson left Thursday's practice with a lower-body issue and is day-to-day.

The Sabres are coming off their eighth loss in nine games, as they dropped a 3-1 decision to visiting New Jersey on Friday. Steve Bernier scored two goals to lead the Devils to the win.

Anders Lindback gave up three goals on 27 shots for Buffalo, which has dropped eight of nine. Matt Moulson scored the Sabres' only goal when he tallied on the power play with 8:19 left in the third period.

Beginning with tonight's test, the Sabres are playing four of their next five on the road where they hold an awful 8-24-3 record this season.

Nashville has won three straight meetings versus the Sabres, but Buffalo has claimed six of the nine all-time encounters in the Music City.