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Ovechkin goes for 50, Panthers go for playoff spot

Tuesday, 03.17.2009 / 4:00 PM / Game-Day Skate

By Adam Schwartz - NHL.com Staff Writer

There's a lot on the line tonight in Florida.

Capitals left wing Alexander Ovechkin is one goal away from his third 50-goal season, and a Washington win, coupled with a New Jersey loss, would see the Caps pass the Devils for second in the Eastern Conference. But while Washington is mostly locked into a postseason spot, the Panthers need the win to move ahead of idle Carolina for eighth place in the East (7:30 p.m. ET, GCL).

Also looking to move up in the East are the Rangers and Canadiens, who go into tonight's game in Montreal (7:30 p.m. ET, RDS) tied for sixth in the East with 80 points each.

In the West, Minnesota will try to join the playoff party when they try to snap a four-game losing streak tonight against the Avalanche (8 p.m. ET, GCL). The Wild currently is 11th in the West, so they'll need to jump over a few teams. Ahead of them are the Blues and Oilers, who meet tonight in Edmonton (10 p.m. ET, GCL), and the Stars, currently the No. 8 seed, look to defend their position tonight against the Canucks (10 p.m. ET, TSN).

In New Jersey, Martin Brodeur takes his first shot at passing Patrick Roy's all-time wins record when the Devils host the Blackhawks (7 p.m. ET, NHL NET).

Other games on a busy Tuesday include the Sabres at the Senators; the Penguins, winners of eight of their last 10, visit the Thrashers, who have won six straight; the Maple Leafs are in Tampa Bay (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN); the Flyers look to snap a 20-year losing streak in Detroit (7:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS); and the Sharks look to keep pace with the Red Wings atop the West standings when they visit the Coyotes.

Here's what to watch:

* Devils goalie Martin Brodeur has won seven of eight games with two shutouts since returning from a torn distal biceps tendon that kept him out for 50 games, and he's yielded more than two goals just once during that span. Brodeur is 7-2-0 with four ties and a 1.88 goals-against average in 14 career games against the Blackhawks.

* Canadiens right wing Andrei Kostitsyn leads the team with 23 goals, but has just 1 goal in his last 10 games. Kostitsyn, who has 6 assists and 9 points in nine career games against the Rangers, had six shots Saturday in Montreal's 3-1 loss to the Devils, the most he's had in a game since Dec. 27.

* Buffalo center Derek Roy leads Northeast Division forwards with an average ice time of 21:32 per game. Roy leads the team with 38 assists and 18 power-play assists.

* Pittsburgh, which has earned at least a point in each of their last 10 games (8-0-2), is 24-10-5 when scoring first, but just 13-16-3 when allowing the first goal. The Penguins, who have the fifth-worst road penalty killing in the Eastern Conference at 78.8 percent, have the fourth-best man-down unit in the conference at home, at 83.6 percent.

* Lighting goalie Karri Ramo, who was selected No. 191 in the 2004 Entry Draft, has earned Tampa Bay at least a point in four of his last five games. Ramo, who has become Tampa Bay's starting goalie since Mike Smith has been sidelined with a concussion, has won two straight games after dropping six straight.

* Florida left wing David Booth, whose 26 goals are seven more than any teammate, has 5 goals and 9 points in his last four games, including a three-point game Saturday in Florida's 4-3 shootout loss to Tampa Bay.

* Canucks right wing Pavol Demitra, who generally plays on a line with Mats Sundin and Ryan Kesler, has 5 assists and 6 points in his last six games. Demitra, who hasn't been a minus player in his last 12 seasons, is a plus-9 this season. He has 20 goals and 46 points in 44 career games against the Stars.

 
* Detroit right wing Marian Hossa, who is tied for the Western Conference lead fourth in the League with 25 even-strength goals, has just 2 points in his last seven games. Hossa, who has a plus-21 rating in 30 home games, has a minus-3 rating in 34 road games.

* Sharks center Joe Thornton, who has led the League in assists the three previous seasons, is tied for fifth in the League this season with 54 assists, and has just 1 assist in his last 12 games. Thornton had a plus-23 rating in 45 games prior to the All-Star break, but has a minus-5 rating in 23 games since then.

* Edmonton right wing Ales Kotalik, who mostly has played on a line with Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff, has no points in five games since being acquired by the Oilers on March 4. Kotalik, who was a minus player in each of his six previous seasons, has a minus-8 rating in 61 games this season.

* The Wild, who are 21-1-1 when leading after two periods, is 2-21-3 when trailing after two periods. Minnesota, which has yielded the second-fewest goals in the Western Conference with 169, has been outshot in 39 of their 69 games but is 16-19-4 in those games.

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

I feel that responsibility, I've felt it for the last two years. We core guys get a lot of minutes, we get a lot of opportunity out there. Our teammates, the organization and fans look to us to be the guys to put the puck in the net and to create momentum out there.

— Jordan Eberle on taking his game and the Edmonton Oilers to the next level