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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, March 20th (All times Eastern)

Buffalo Sabres (19-42-8) at Edmonton Oilers (25-36-9), 9:30 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - It has already been a trying season for the Buffalo Sabres to say the least. On Thursday, the club will try to avoid its longest losing streak of this difficult campaign when the Sabres visit the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place.

Buffalo is at the bottom of the NHL standings with just 46 points. The next- worst team is the Oilers, but Edmonton is still 13 points ahead of the lowly Sabres, who have lost seven straight in regulation.

The team's current skid matches a season-opening 0-6-1 stretch from Oct. 2-14 for the longest winless drought of 2013-14. Buffalo has managed just six goals over the course of its present slide.

Buffalo began a five-game road trip Tuesday night in Calgary and dropped a 3-1 decision to the Flames. Mike Cammalleri and Paul Byron scored in the third period to help Calgary pull away for the win at the Saddledome.

Drew Stafford scored the lone goal for the Sabres, who have lost four straight on the road and are 7-22-3 as the guest this season.

Nathan Lieuwen made his first NHL start and turned aside 23 shots in the loss. Lieuwen was recalled from Buffalo's AHL affiliate in Rochester on Sunday and made his NHL debut later that day in a 2-0 loss to Montreal after Jhonas Enroth left 36 minutes in with a lower-body injury.

The 22-year-old Lieuwen was playing for the fourth time in five days after starting games for Rochester on Friday and Saturday.

"I thought he (Lieuwen) played well," Sabres interim head coach Ted Nolan said. "The second goal we kind of backed right into him and we lost our positioning. They got a good shot and tipped it in. Overall I thought he played well."

With Enroth and fellow goaltender Michal Neuvirth expected to miss tonight's game with injuries, Matt Hackett will get the call in net.

Hackett, 24, has seen action in 13 NHL games, but last played at this level when he started for Minnesota at Dallas on March 29 of last season and he surrendered five goals on 33 shots to take the loss in that game. Hackett is 3-7-0 with a 2.64 goals against average over his 13 career outings.

Despite sitting last in the Western Conference, the Oilers enter Thursday's tilt on a two-game winning streak and are coming off Tuesday's 5-1 home victory over Nashville.

Jordan Eberle had two goals and an assist to lead the Oilers in the rout of the Predators. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had a goal and two assists while Sam Gagner also scored for Edmonton.

Gagner has 10 points in his last 11 games and recently told the Oilers official web site how he's playing with more confidence since the Olympic break.

"I'm feeling better, I'm feeling more confident," Gagner said. "I'm obviously not happy with how my year has gone. I think the Olympic break was good for me to just kind of refocus and I'm feeling better and our team is playing a lot better"

All told, the 24-year-old Gagner has eight goals and 25 assists in 56 games in 2013-14 after recording 38 points (14 goals, 24 assists) in 48 tilts last season.

Taylor Hall added the other goal for the Oilers and Viktor Fasth stopped 28 shots in the win.

Edmonton improved to 13-16-3 at Rexall Place this season and is playing the second test of a six-game homestand tonight.

The Oilers halted a six-game losing streak in the series with the Sabres by recording a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Feb. 3. Ilya Bryzgalov made 42 saves to help Edmonton register that regulation victory, but the goaltender has since been traded to Minnesota.

Buffalo still carries a three-game road winning streak in this series into Thursday's game.

03/20 10:46:17 ET

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