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Oilers will try to gain ground in Toronto

Saturday, 03.07.2009 / 9:00 AM / Game-Day Skate

By Adam Schwartz - NHL.com Staff Writer

The Oilers will try to gain ground on their Western Conference playoff rivals when they visit the Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET CBC, NHLN-US) in one of seven games on the NHL's docket Saturday night.

Four other 7 p.m. starts with major playoff implications feature the Sabres playing their second game in two nights as they visit Ottawa; the red-hot Predators going for their seventh win in a row against the Flyers; the Panthers trying to strengthen their hold on a playoff spot against the Blues; and the Blue Jackets looking to bounce back from a loss at Nashville when they take on the Red Wings.

At 7:30, the Hurricanes and Lightning renew their rivalry, and at 10 p.m., the Canucks attempt to stave off the competition for fifth place in the Western Conference against the suddenly struggling Sharks (CBC, NHLN-US).

Here are some things to keep an eye out for:

* Edmonton right wing Andrew Cogliano, who scored 18 goals in 82 games last season as a rookie, has 15 goals in 64 games and is on pace to finish this season with 19 goals. Cogliano, who has just 10 of his 32 points on the road, has 3 goals and 5 points in 15 games against Eastern Conference teams.

* Maple Leafs left wing Jason Blake, who had just 3 goals and 10 points in 19 games in October and November, scored at least 5 goals and had 11 points in each of the next three months. Blake, who has 8 goals and 20 points in his last 18 games, is just 1 assist shy of reaching the 30-assist mark for the third time in his career.

 
* Ottawa right wing Dany Heatley, who is second in the Northeast Division and tied for seventh in the League with 13 power-play goals, has scored the first goal of a game nine times -- more than anyone else in the League. Heatley, who has 9 goals and 14 points in his last 11 games, has 22 goals and 49 points in 38 career games against the Sabres, including 3 points in four games this season.

* The Predators, who own the League's longest winning streak (six games), are in sixth place in the Western Conference with 70 points. Nashville, which would play Calgary if the playoffs started today, has a 20-11-5 record when outshooting its opponent.

* The Flyers, the only Eastern Conference team with 1,000 penalty minutes, have yielded a power-play goal in six of their last eight games. Philadelphia, which is in fourth place in the conference with 78 points and is nine points behind the Devils for first place in the Atlantic Division with a game in hand, is the only team in the East that is currently in a playoff spot with 10 combined overtime and shootout losses.

* Florida left wing Cory Stillman, who plays on a line with rookie Michael Frolik and Stephen Weiss, has scored 20 goals eight times in his career, but has never scored 30. He'll have to step it up to get to 20 this season: Stillman is pace to finish this season with just 18 goals because he missed 20 games due to assorted injuries. He averaged 18:58 of ice time with the Senators and the Hurricanes last season, but is averaging 16:23 with the Panthers this season.

* Blue Jackets center Manny Malhotra, who has been centering a line with Rick Nash and Kristian Huselius but may be moved to a different trio with the acquisition of Antoine Vermette from Ottawa, has taken 215 more faceoffs than any other Columbus player. Malhotra, who has a minus-14 rating in 35 career games against the Red Wings, has 3 assists and 5 points in his last three games, including the game-winning goal Tuesday in the Blue Jackets' 5-4 win against the Kings.

* Detroit center Pavel Datsyuk has 32 assists and 48 points in 35 career games against Columbus, including 5 assists and 6 points in three games this season. Datsyuk is one of four Red Wings with 25 goals, but has scored just once in his last 11 games.

* San Jose, which has the same number of points as Detroit (94) for the most in the League, has two games in hand on the Red Wings. The Sharks, who have scored 20 fewer third-period goals than the Red Wings, are one of just two teams in the League with 10 wins in games which they trailed after one period.

* Canucks forwards Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who play on a line with Alex Burrows, have never had more than a 12-point difference between the two of them. Henrik, the playmaker of the twins, has 24 home and 24 road assists this season. Daniel, who has just 3 goals in his last 15 games, is tied for the Northwest Division lead with 20 even-strength goals.

Contact Adam Schwartz at aschwartz@nhl.com





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They said, 'You're going to love the city. It's smaller than Philadelphia, but you're going to love it. You're going to love the fans.' Just watching the playoffs last year, the fans seemed louder there than they did anywhere. I'm really excited about that.

— Forward Scott Hartnell on his upcoming season with the Columbus Blue Jackets