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Division leaders meet in New Jersey

Tuesday, 02.03.2009 / 3:00 PM / Game-Day Skate

By Adam Schwartz - NHL.com Staff Writer

Two division leaders clash when the Devils host the Capitals (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN2) in one of 11 games tonight.

Five other early games feature the Lightning visiting the Islanders; the Blue Jackets concluding their four-game homestand when they face the Blues; Bryan McCabe returning to Toronto; the Penguins visiting Montreal (7:30 p.m., RDS), and the Kings continue their road trip in Ottawa.

Later, the Coyotes look to improve their standing in the Western Conference playoff picture when they face the Predators; the Rangers try to avoid their third consecutive loss when they take on the Thrashers on Adam Graves Night; the Flames are in Dallas; the Blackhawks continue their season-long eight-game road trip in Edmonton; and the Canucks try for their first home win since December.

Here's what to keep an eye out for:

* Washington center Nicklas Backstrom, who plays on a line with Alex Ovechkin, leads the team in assists by 11. Backstrom has 4 assists and 5 points in his last two games.

* The Canucks are 11th in the Western Conference with 52 points, but just one point out of sixth.

* Lightning defenseman Steve Eminger, who had 2 assists in 12 games for the Flyers this season before being traded to Tampa Bay, has 13 assists and 17 points -- more than any other Lightning defenseman -- in 36 games in Tampa Bay. Eminger, who averaged just 11:08 of ice time for the Capitals last season, is averaging 21:32 of ice time this season.

* Blackhawks right wing Patrick Sharp leads the team with 22 goals, but has just 2 goals in his last 12 games. Sharp, who has just 9 of his 22 goals on the road this season, is on pace to finish with a career-high 63 points.

* Columbus center Jason Williams, who had 7 goals and 18 points in 41 games with the Thrashers, has 2 goals and 5 points in seven games since being traded to the Blue Jackets in January for prospect Clay Wilson and a sixth-round draft pick.

* The Panthers, who are one point out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, are in a three-way tie for the most road wins in the Southeast Division with 11. Florida, which has yielded the fewest goals in the Southeast Division with 132, is tied for third in the League with the most overtime or shootout losses, with eight.

* Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov, who is tied for the League scoring lead among defensemen with 40 points, is tied for the League lead among blueliners with 22 power-play points. Markov, who has assists in 11 of his last 12 games, leads the team with an average ice time of 24:35 per game.

* Kings center Jarret Stoll, who had 14 goals, 36 points and a minus-23 rating in 81 games last season, has 12 goals, 27 points and a plus-9 rating in 48 games this season. Stoll has 3 goals and 6 points in his last four games.

* Phoenix center Martin Hanzal is fifth on the team with 24 points. Hanzal has 12 points at home and 12 on the road, and has 11 assists and 18 points in 24 wins but just 4 assists and 6 points in 27 losses.

* The Rangers, who don't have a player with more than 41 points, have scored the third-fewest goals in the Eastern Conference, with 124. The Rangers, who were first in the Atlantic Division until late January, have slipped to fifth in the conference, five points behind the Devils for Atlantic Division lead.

* Dallas, which has won four in a row for the first time this season, has leapt to sixth place in the Western Conference with 53 points.

* Devils center Travis Zajac, who has played with Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner since his rookie season in 2006-07, has 6 assists in his last three games. Zajac, who has already tied his career-high of 42 points in just 50 games this season, leads the Atlantic Division with a plus-25 rating.

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

I downplayed the first one because I thought it's just a hockey game. We just want to win the game; it's against our rival and we want the two points. I downplayed it, but now having gone through the first one I look back and say, 'Geez, that was really cool.' I think as I've grown a bit older I've got a lot more appreciation for what we're allowed to do every day.

— Capitals forward Brooks Laich on the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, the second one of his career after 2011 in Pittsburgh