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Defending champs host greatest champs tonight

Wednesday, 11.26.2008 / 4:00 PM / Game-Day Skate

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

A prime-time NHL Network/TSN hockey doubleheader highlights the action on the night before Thanksgiving.

First, the defending Stanley Cup-champion Detroit Red Wings host the franchise with the most Stanley Cups, the Montreal Canadiens (7:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-U.S., TSN, RDS). The second game features the Los Angeles Kings traveling to Edmonton (10 p.m. ET, NHLN-U.S., TSN).

While the turkey may come out in U.S. homes Thursday, there's a cornucopia of action tonight.

There are five 7 p.m. ET starts -- the Bruins at the Sabres, the Penguins at the Islanders, the Thrashers in Washington, the Flyers at the Hurricanes and the Coyotes at the Blue Jackets.

Beside the Red Wings-Canadiens, two other 7:30 p.m. matches see the Lightning hosting the Rangers and the Devils traveling to the Panthers.

Four late games see the Stars in Minnesota, the Blues at the Avalanche, the Kings at the Oilers, and Brian Campbell and the Blackhawks going to San Jose.

Here's what to watch:

* The Bruins enter tonight's game against the Sabres as the hottest team in hockey. In their last 10 games, Boston is 9-0-1, a surge that has carried them to the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

* The Sabres enter Wednesday with a five-game losing streak, during which they've been outscored 25-9.

* Thomas Vanek is tied for the League lead with 15 goals, but he has just 3 goals and 4 points in his last seven games.

* Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, who leads the League with a 1.80 goals-against average and .944 save percentage, has allowed two goals or fewer in seven straight starts.

* The Islanders enter tonight's game against the Penguins winners of five of their last six, thanks mostly to an improve power play that is 8-for-29 (27.6 percent) in the last six games.

* The Penguins, who had the fourth-best power play in the League last season at 20.4 percent, currently is 16th at 18.3 percent, and they're 1-for-12 in the last three games.

* Pittsburgh goalie Dany Sabourin will start his fourth straight game in place of injured starter Marc-Andre Fleury. Sabourin is 1-1-1 in his last three starts, but he's allowed just five goals on 66 shots in that time.

* A home game tonight against the Thrashers could be just what the Capitals need. The Caps lost the last three games of their road trip, but have won six straight at home.

* Alex Ovechkin, who had just 2 goals and 8 points in his first 11 games, has 7 goals and 17 points in his last eight games, and he's scored at least a point in each of them. And he has 20 goals and 40 points in 25 games against the Thrashers.

* Thrashers center Todd White had 2 goals Tuesday against the Maple Leafs. It snapped a five-game goal drought, and was his first multi-goal game since Dec. 8, 2007 -- when he scored two in Washington.

* The Flyers travel to Carolina for the first of a home-and-home series with the Hurricanes with a five-game win streak. A win tonight would match their longest streak in three years.

* The Flyers and Hurricanes will play four times in the next 16 games. The Flyers are 9-2-3 against the Hurricanes since Nov. 28, 2003, including a 3-0-1 mark last season.

* Flyers forward Simon Gagne, who leads the team with 27 points, has 13 points during his eight-game scoring streak.

* Hurricanes forward Sergei Samsonov had 2 assists Monday at Florida, his first multi-point game of the season.

 
 
* The Phoenix Coyotes have lost six straight, but a trip to Columbus could be an elixir. The Coyotes have won both meetings this season with the Blue Jackets by a combined 8-3 margin, including a season high five goals in a 5-2 win in Columbus on Nov. 12.

* Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash has a goal and an assist in three straight games and goals in five straight. Said coach Ken Hitchcock to the club's Web site: "He's really stepped it up now. He's sending a message to our own team and to the opposition early in games which I think is really helping us."

* Rangers forward Chris Drury is happy to see the Lightning on the schedule tonight. In the teams' last meeting, he had his first hat trick since Oct. 14, 2006.

* After going 33 games without a goal dating to last season, Lightning forward Radim Vrbata has 2 goals in his last four games, which coincides with Rick Tocchet taking over as interim coach.

* Devils forward Brian Gionta has a goal and an assist in three straight games, at least a goal in four straight, and at least a point in five straight.

* After being shut out for the first 18 games of the season, Panthers forward Ville Peltonen has goals in two straight games.

* The Red Wings enter tonight's game against the Canadiens second in the League in scoring at 3.65 goals per game, and first on the power play at a remarkable 32.9 percent. The Wings are 11-0-0 against the Canadiens since 1994 when they've scored at least three goals; they're 2-4-0 when they haven't.

* Henrik Zetterberg hasn't scored a goal in five games, but he has 5 assists during a four-game point streak. In four career games against the Canadiens, he has a goal and 4 assists.

* The Canadiens, who have had the League's best power play the last two seasons, currently are 23rd at 15.0 percent. Alex Kovalev, who was tied for fourth in the League last season with 17 power-play goals, has just one in 20 games this season.

* After being held scoreless for the first 18 games of his NHL career, Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck had 2 goals Monday against Washington.

* Stars center Mike Modano, the NHL's all-time leading U.S.-born scorer, needs 2 points for 1,300 in his career. Modano has 24 points in 28 career games against the Wild.

* The Blues' recent improved play can be traced to their penalty killing. St. Louis has allowed just one power-play goal in its last 34 shorthanded situations over the last six games.

* Avalanche goalie Peter Budaj is 4-3-0 with a 2.36 GAA in seven starts against the Blues.

* Expect Mathieu Garon to be in net for the Oilers tonight against the Kings. Garon is 3-1-0 with a 2.95 GAA against Los Angeles since 2003-04.

* Kings center Anze Kopitar has just 4 goals this season, but two in his last three games. He led the team with 32 goals last season. He has 3 goals and 10 points in seven career games against the Oilers.

* The Sharks will try for their 13th straight win over the Blackhawks, a stretch which dates back to a Chicago 3-2 overtime win March 17, 2003. San Jose hasn't lost to Chicago in regulation since Dec. 14, 1999.

* This could be a high-scoring affair. The Sharks lead the League at 3.71 goals per game, while the Blackhawks are third at 3.36 goals per game.

* Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov will play tonight after missing seven games with a lower-body injury. He's beaten the Blackhawks nine straight times.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com.
Quote of the Day

It's pretty crazy, but believe me when I say we didn't draft these players with the mindset we had to because they had good hockey-playing dads. It just turned out that way. But we're certainly glad they're a part of our organization.

— Arizona Coyotes director of amateur scouting Tim Bernhardt regarding the coincidence that six of the organization's top prospects are sons of former NHL players