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Rangers, Sabres meet in Battle of New York

Friday, 01.09.2009 / 1:50 PM / Game-Day Skate

By Adam Schwartz - NHL.com Staff Writer

A battle of New York between the Rangers and Sabres (7:30 p.m. ET, GameCenter Live) highlights the NHL's five-game schedule Friday night.

Four other games see the Blue Jackets visit Washington (7 p.m. ET, RIS); the Oilers host the Sharks in the fourth game of a five-game homestand; the Blues begin a three-game Western Canada road trip in Vancouver; and the Anaheim Ducks try to get back on track against the Lightning after Thursday's loss to the Kings.

Here's what to watch:

* Columbus center R.J. Umberger, who had 13 goals in 74 games last season, has 11 goals in 40 games this season, putting him on pace for a career-high 22. Umberger, who has 1 goal in his last eight games, is third on the team with 24 takeaways and has scored 7 goals of his goals on the road.

* Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom, who plays alongside Alex Ovechkin, leads the Southeast Division with 33 assists, including 13 third-period assists. Backstrom, who was a finalist for last season's Calder Trophy, has 9 assists and 11 points in his last seven games.

* Rangers left wing Markus Naslund, who leads the team with 14 goals, has the worst plus-minus among Ranger forwards at minus-11. Naslund, 35, snapped a nine-game stretch without an assist Wednesday in the Rangers' 6-3 loss to the Canadiens.

* Buffalo, which is eighth in the Eastern Conference with 45 points, has the best penalty kill in the Northeast Division and the third-best in the League at 86.7 percent. The Sabres, who have scored more goals in the first period (41) than the other two, have won all three home shootouts they've been in this season, but have lost both road shootouts.

* Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov, who speaks five languages, leads the Pacific Division and is second in the League with 21 wins despite missing seven games earlier this season with a knee injury. Nabokov, who has yielded at least 3 goals in each of his last three games, has faced 35 or more shots just twice in his 29 games.

* San Jose, which hasn't lost a home game in regulation (19-0-2), is 10-3-3 when the opposition scores first. The Sharks lead the Western Conference with 63 points, but have lost three of their last five games, allowing three or more goals four times during that span.

* Edmonton defenseman Steve Staios, in his seventh season with the Oilers, leads the team with 77 blocked shots. Staios, who averaged 22:01 of ice time last season, is averaging 18:13 this season.

* Blues center Patrik Berglund, who is tied for second among the League's rookies with 25 points, had 13 points in 15 December games, but has no points in two January games. Berglund is tied for third on the team with 12 goals, has just one in his last seven games.

* Vancouver left wing Mason Raymond, now playing on a line with Kyle Wellwood and Mats Sundin, has just 2 points in his last eight games. Raymond, who averages 15:20 of ice time, played 18:29 Wednesday in the Canucks' 4-2 win against the Oilers.

* Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier, named as an Eastern Conference reserve for the 2009 All-Star Game, has 7 assists and 8 points in 11 career games against the Ducks. Lecavalier has had at least 90 points in each of his last two seasons, but with 34 points in 40 games, he's on pace for 69 points this season.

* Tampa Bay left wing Ryan Malone, who scored 27 goals in 77 games last season playing alongside Sidney Crosby with the Penguins, has 10 goals in 31 games this season.

* Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer leads the Pacific Division and is fourth in the League with an average ice time of 27:06. Niedermayer, who is second among Ducks defensemen with 24 points, has 6 assists and 7 points in his last six games.

* Anaheim, which is sixth in the Western Conference with 47 points, is 19-4-3 when scoring first. The Ducks also have the best home power play in the Pacific Division at 22.3 percent.

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

Not only is it a great idea, but if you don't [start using analytics] you're going to fall behind. You have to be on the cutting edge. It was [Arizona Coyotes assistant general manager] Darcy Regier who said, 'If you didn't invent it, you have to be the second- or third-best copier, because if you're fourth or fifth you've got no chance.'

— Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock on his interest in advanced statistical analysis