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Stepping to the plate today: Draft prospects in Buffalo, Las Vegas to NHL expansion

Activities surrounding this weekend's NHL Draft kick off here this afternoon at -- of all places -- home plate in Coca-Cola Field.

Top prospects Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Jesse Puljujarvi, Matthew Tkachuk, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Alexander Nylander will take batting practice at 3 p.m. and fans with tickets for the Bisons' 7 p.m. game against Louisville are invited to watch. Fans must enter through the Pettibones Grille entrance only. Bisons hitting coach Richie Hebner, a diehard hockey fan from Boston, will be throwing to the prospects.

Matthews, the presumptive No. 1 pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs, will then throw the ceremonial first pitch just prior to the game.

The batting practice trip has become a fixture of draft week. Pittsburgh's PNC Park (2012), Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park (2014) and Miami's Marlins Park (2015) have also served as sites. Sabres pick Jack Eichel and Edmonton's Connor McDavid, the top two picks last year, hit and threw first pitches at the game in Miami.

Here's a look at Eichel last year:

Also today:

---The Sabres, like all teams, are expected to continue their trade talk. GM Tim Murray made it pretty clear here Tuesday he expects to be very active. Teams also learned late Tuesday the salary cap next year will be $73 million and the floor will be $54 million. The Sabres have about $23 million in cap space.

---The NHL is expected to gain its 31st team today when the league's Board of Governors approves Las Vegas' application for expansion. Prospective Las Vegas owner Bill Foley is keeping a low profile until the NHL makes its official decision -- and until he can officially unveil his team's nickname and colors. The team is expected to join the Pacific Division for the 2017-18 season.

---The annual NHL Awards show is tonight in Las Vegas, with South Buffalo's Patrick Kane the favorite for the Hart Trophy as most valuable player over Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Dallas' Jamie Benn. Speaking to reporters there Tuesday, Kane revealed he's staying in Chicago most of the summer and returning to his Hamburg home only sporadically. He said it was his decision. In the wake of what happened here last summer, the guess is the Blackhawks made more than a subtle suggestion about Kane's summer workout locales.


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