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Struggling Penguins, Canadiens meet in Pittsburgh

Thursday, 02.19.2009 / 4:00 PM / Game-Day Skate

By Adam Schwartz - NHL.com Staff Writer

 
Two talented yet struggling teams try to right the ship when the Canadiens visit Pittsburgh (7 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS). It's the first home game for interim Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, who replaced Michel Therrien on Feb. 15. In Bylsma's first game, the Pens dropped a 3-2 shootout decision at the Islanders on Monday.

Six other early games feature the Islanders hosting the Hurricanes; the Flyers going for their third win in a row when they face the Sabres; the Maple Leafs visiting Columbus; the Canucks trying for their seventh win in eight games when they play the Senators; the Devils continuing their three-game road trip in Tampa Bay; and the Panthers hosting the Blackhawks.

Later, the Blues clash with the Predators in a Central Division matchup; the Wild play their first game since Saturday when they skate against the Flames; the Oilers battle the Stars; the Thrashers are in Phoenix; and the Kings and Sharks renew their California rivalry.

Here's what to watch:

* Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo, who is playing alongside Josh Bailey and Blake Comeau, leads Atlantic Division rookies with 21 points. Okposo averages the second-most ice time among rookie forwards at 16:35, and has played more than 18 minutes in each of his last three games.

* Buffalo right wing Drew Stafford, who had 9 points in seven games for the United States at the 2005 World Junior Championship, leads the Sabres with a plus-11 rating. Stafford, who has 4 goals in his last seven games, has scored 10 of his 17 goals on the road.

* The Canadiens, who are second in the League with 936 blocked shots, have given up at least four goals in four of their last six games, and they've lost five games during that span.

* Columbus right wing Jakub Voracek, who is second among the League's rookies with 20 assists, has just 4 assists on the road. Voracek, who is averaging just 12:26 of ice time, is tied for fourth among the League's rookies with a plus-13 rating.

* Canucks right wing Steve Bernier, who has scored 8 of his 12 goals on the road this season, is just three goals shy of his career-high of 15. Bernier, who has 23 more hits than any teammate, has a plus-6 rating in 9 Thursday games.

* New Jersey right wing Jamie Langenbrunner, who has 14 assists and 19 points in 29 games against the Lightning, is third among American-born players with 49 points this season. Langenbrunner, who was named New Jersey's captain last season, has 10 goals and 15 points in his last 11 games.

* Panthers left wing David Booth, who leads the team with 20 goals, has just 1 goal in his last 10 games. Booth, who had just the third multiple-assist game of his career Tuesday in Florida's 4-0 victory against the Devils, has a plus-6 rating in his last eight games.

* St. Louis right wing David Backes, who is second on the team with 18 goals, leads the Central Division with 142 hits. Backes, who is three assists away from his career-high, has 7 assists and 10 points in 15 games against the Predators, including a goal and an assist in their last meeting.

* Wild defenseman Marek Zidlicky, who leads Minnesota defensemen with 29 points, has the most power-play points among Northwest Division defensemen with 20. Zidlicky, who was traded to the Wild from the Predators last summer for Ryan Jones and a 2009 second-round draft pick, is averaging 21:53 of ice time this season after averaging 20:49 last season.

 
* Edmonton right wing Ales Hemsky, who plays on a line with Shawn Horcoff and Dustin Penner, leads the Northwest Division and is fourth in the League with 21 power-play assists. Hemsky, who has 5 assists and 7 points in his last five games, had a goal and an assist in his last game against the Stars.

* The Coyotes have yielded the most goals in the Pacific Division with 176, and have division's worst penalty kill at 78.6 percent. They've lost six of their last seven games and slipped into a tie for last place in the Western Conference with 55 points, after being as high as fifth place.
 
* Sharks left wing Milan Michalek, who plays with Joe Pavelski and Ryane Clowe, is one of five San Jose players with at least 15 goals and 20 assists. Michalek, who has a plus-49 rating in 290 NHL games, is a plus-12 in 26 games against Los Angeles.

* Chicago right wing Martin Havlat, who was limited to just 109 games the previous three seasons, hasn't missed a game yet this season and is second on the team with 47 points. Havlat, who is scheduled to become a free agent this summer, has 2 goals and 5 points in his last two games.

Contact Adam Schwartz at aschwartz@nhl.com.


Quote of the Day

A piece of scar tissue breaks off, pinches the nerve, and every time you move your leg it's almost like having a root canal in your stomach and groin.

— Detroit Red Wings center Stephen Weiss on his sports hernia surgery