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Western Finals rematch leads Thursday action

Thursday, 01.08.2009 / 1:00 PM / Game-Day Skate

By Adam Schwartz - NHL.com Staff Writer

The Dallas Stars and Detroit Red Wings meet tonight (7:30 p.m. ET, GameCenter Live) in a rematch of last season's Western Conference Finals, one of 11 games Thursday.

At 7 p.m. ET the Bruins look to get back on track after losing two in a row for the first time since late October when they face the Senators; the Thrashers continue their three-game road trip in New Jersey; and the Flyers return home from the season-long six-game, 12-day road trip to host the Wild.

Later, the Canadiens host the Maple Leafs in an Original Six matchup (7:30 p.m. ET, RDS); the Panthers face the Hurricanes in a Southeast Division showdown; and the Penguins look to avoid their sixth loss in seven games when they play the Predators.

Three 9 p.m. ET starts feature the Blackhawks facing the Avalanche; the Islanders concluding a four-game road trip in Calgary; and the Coyotes hosting the Lightning. The lone late game sees the Ducks and Kings clash in the latest installment of the freeway faceoff.

Here's what to keep an eye out for:

* Ottawa center Jason Spezza, who has had at least 50 assists in each of his last three seasons, has just 15 through 38 games this season, putting him on pace to finish with 32. Spezza, who switched to a composite stick from a wooden one this season, leads the team with 17 goals.

* Ducks defenseman Chris Pronger, who is second on the team and fifth in the League with an average ice time of 26:38, leads the team with 62 blocked shots. Pronger has 25 assists, 30 points and a plus-21 rating in 51 career games against the Kings, including 3 points and a plus-4 in four games this season.

* Atlanta's Ron Hainsey, who leads Thrashers defensemen with 20 points, has a team-worst minus-17 rating. Hainsey, who has 11 power-play points, has been held pointless in 10 of his last 11 games and has a minus-6 rating during that span.

* Coyotes left wing Shane Doan, who leads his team in scoring by 10 points, is one of only two players in the League - - Alex Ovechkin being the other -- with at least 100 hits and at least 38 points. Doan, who has scored eight of his 18 goals in the third period, only has 3 assists and a minus-6 rating in 15 career games against the Lightning.

* Minnesota right wing Cal Clutterbuck, who averages just 11:04 of ice time, leads rookies and the Northwest Division with 132 hits. He got his first NHL assist last Saturday in the Wild's 3-2 shootout loss to the Red Wings.

* Islanders defenseman Mark Streit, who leads the League's defensemen with 20 power-play points, leads the team with 69 blocked shots. Streit, who was used as a power-play specialist and as a forward in his 17:31 of ice time per game with the Canadiens last season, but he's averaging 25:15 strictly as a defenseman with the Islanders this season.

* Montreal center Robert Lang had his second career hat trick Wednesday in the Habs' 6-3 victory against the Rangers. Lang, who had 21 goals in 76 games last season with Chicago, has 15 goals in 39 games this season, putting him on pace for 31, which would be one shy of his career-high.

* The Hurricanes, seventh in the Eastern Conference with 47 points, have won four straight and have not yielded more than two goals in any of those games. Carolina, which has scored its most goals in the second period (41), has an 11-8-3 record when the opposition scores first.

* Detroit left wing Henrik Zetterberg, who is one of three Red Wings with at least 15 goals and 20 assists, has 4 assists and 5 points in his last three games. Zetterberg, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last June, has 18 assists and 21 points in 19 career games against the Stars.

* Nashville defenseman Greg Zanon, who does charity work for the March of Dimes, leads the Central Division and is third in the League with 111 blocked shots. Zanon leads his team with 4:22 of ice time per game shorthanded.

* The Blackhawks, who have won 12 of their last 15 games -- they've only lost to the Red Wings during that span -- have allowed just 91 goals, the fewest goals in the Central Division and third-fewest in the League. Chicago, which has the best penalty kill in the division at 84.3 percent, has the second-best power play in the Western Conference -- behind only the Red Wings -- at 23.1 percent.

* Calgary right wing David Moss, who is one of five Flames with at least 13 goals, scored twice Tuesday, including the game-winner, in Calgary's 5-2 victory against the Sharks.

Contact Adam Schwartz at aschwartz@nhl.com.
Quote of the Day

We think that Randy is a very good coach. Our players think that Randy is a very good coach. We think that he's going to get the most out of this group. With the addition of the two assistants, a bit of a different dynamic, we're very comfortable that this is a quality coaching staff that's going to maximize the potential of this team.

— Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis on head coach Randy Carlyle and his staff