Puck Previews: Caps, Sabres, chase final East seed; Kings, Sharks battle for Pacific title

Here are your Puck Previews: Spotlighting the key games in NHL action, news and views as well as general frivolity. Make sure to stop back here for the nightly Three Stars when the games are finished.

I'm 78% sure those are prop legs and Jeff Deslauriers is standing in a hole in the floor.

Preview: Buffalo Sabres at Philadelphia Flyers, 7 p.m. ET

Before the Sabres left for their two-game road trip to end the season, their fans said, If you don't come home with a playoff berth, don't come home at all. It could all end Thursday. A regulation loss for the Sabres and a win for the Capitals shuts down the miracle run before we even reach the weekend. However, the opposite outcome puts them in the driver's seat going forward. The Sabres are still without Tyler Myers and Christian Ehrhoff, they've surrendered 14 goals in their last 3 games, and the Flyers are the league's second-highest scoring team. Furthermore, Ilya Bryzgalov is back in the net for Philly after surrendering 5 goals on 24 shots in his last outing. I'd expect this to be a high-scoring affair.

Preview: Florida Panthers at Washington Capitals, 7 p.m. ET

The Panthers only need one point to clinch their first Southeast Division ever, which is good, since they've gotten only one point in 5 of their last 8 games. But one suspects they'll be out for much more, as a regulation win would put the Capitals at risk of missing the playoffs and Brooks Laich at risk of looking less like a clairvoyant than some are hoping. This one has awesome drama, as Jose Theodore gets the start for Florida, his first against his former team. If you're reaching for optimism, Capitals fans, your team has never lost a home game to the Florida Panthers in April. Also: 1 million Puck-points to anyone that gets a photo of Ted Leonsis in a rally poncho. Note: Puck-points are not officially recognized as points.

Preview: Dallas Stars at Nashville Predators, 8 p.m. ET

Mired in their longest losing streak since February, an ill-timed 3-game skid, the Stars are in a tenuous position. If the streak hits 4, they're eliminated from the playoffs, giving the Sharks, Kings and Coyotes all tickets to the dance. But, with a win, they'll stay alive, and we'll be in for one Hell of a finish. Hoping to get some more balanced offense, Glen Gulutzan has shuffled his lines, moving Michael Ryder from Mike Ribeiro's wing to Jamie Benn's. For the Predators, Pekka Rinne was at one time questionable with an illness, but with his team chasing home ice in the first round for the first time since 2006, he'll push through it and play.

Preview: San Jose Sharks at Los Angeles Kings, 10:30 p.m. ET

One of these two teams will clinch a playoff berth Thursday. With a single point, the Kings can do it, and the Sharks can clinch with a win. Unfortunately, all the drama could be solved by puck drop, as both teams will know by then if the Stars have won or not. If Dallas loses, the Sharks and Kings will clinch and the game will lose a lot of its lustre. Still, the Pacific Division will remain up for grabs regardless of what Dallas does, so there's that.

Evening Reading:

• So how's that Cody Hodgson trade working out for Vancouver? [PITB]

• Despite being inactive, the Phoenix Coyotes can clinch on Thursday too. They know it. [Arizona Sports]

• Chris Hansen, the financier behind a proposed $490 million hockey and basketball arena in Seattle, will be paying for a transportation, traffic, and parking study in the area. [Publicola]

• Looking at the season's concussion statistics may give you a headache. [CBC]

• Enjoy the awkward and at times unintelligible "Blues Stanley Cup", sung to the tune of "Red Solo Cup."

Puck Buddy Comment of the Day: Court, on Cory Schneider's support for Roberto Luongo:

Schneider was misquoted. He is American. He said he had a ton of respect for Luongo, not tonne.

Bold prediction: Sabres win, Capitals lose.

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