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Western Conference shakeup coming

Thursday, 03.19.2009 / 2:00 PM / Game-Day Skate

By Adam Schwartz - NHL.com Staff Writer

The Predators, Oilers, Blues and Ducks all are in action Thursday as they fight for the last two Western Conference playoff spots.

Nashville currently sits seventh, but they'll be in San Jose (10:30 p.m. ET, GCL), which has the League's best home record (27-3-4) and is in its own battle with the Red Wings for the top spot in the West.

Edmonton is eighth, one point behind Nashville, and starts a three-game road trip tonight in Colorado (9 p.m. ET, GCL).

St. Louis, 11th in the conference, is two points behind the Oilers, but they'll have their work cut out for them in Vancouver, where the Canucks have won 10 in a row (10 p.m. ET, GCL).

Anaheim is 12th, but has won two of its last three to climb just four points out of a playoff spot. Tonight they face the Coyotes, who have lost eight of their last 10 (10 p.m. ET, GCL).

In the Eastern Conference, Montreal is in Ottawa (7:30 p.m. ET, RDS) with a chance to move past the idle Rangers for sixth place.

At the top of the conference, the Bruins try to expand their conference lead to six points when they host the Kings, while the Capitals are in Tampa Bay with a chance to pass the Devils for second in the East.

The Panthers, who have slipped three points out of a playoff spot in the East, hope to snap their four-game losing streak when the Maple Leafs visit.

Here's what to keep an eye out for:

* Boston center David Krejci, who is second on the team with 63 points, has just 4 goals and 11 points in 24 games since the All-Star break. Krejci, who generally plays on a line with Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder, is tied for third in the League with a plus-33 rating.

* Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov, who has 55 points, is one of just two defensemen in the League to lead their team in scoring. He has a career-high 45 assists this season, and is just 3 points shy of matching his career-high of 58.

* Washington defenseman Milan Jurcina, who usually is paired with John Erskine, leads Capitals defensemen with 141 hits. Jurcina, who averages just 16:07 of ice time per game, leads the team with 119 blocked shots.

* Maple Leafs left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky, who is third on the team with 48 points, had 4 assists Saturday in Toronto's 8-6 win against the Flames and has 7 assists and 9 points in his last seven games.

* Edmonton center Patrick O'Sullivan, who was acquired at the trade deadline from the Kings in a three-way deal, has just a goal and an assist in six games with the Oilers. O'Sullivan, who has 7 assists and 9 points in 11 career games against the Avalanche.

* The Canucks, who are just one point behind the Blackhawks for fourth place in the Western Conference, have won their last three games by identical 4-2 scores. Vancouver is 22-4-4 when leading after the first period, but 8-15-2 when trailing after the first period.

* Anaheim right wing Corey Perry, who is second on the team with 23 goals and just one behind Bobby Ryan for the team lead, has just 2 goals in his last nine games.

* Predators defenseman Greg Zanon, who leads the Central Division and is third in the League with 209 blocked shots, has a minus-5 rating in nine career games against San Jose. Zanon, who leads the team with an average of 4:05 of shorthanded ice time per game, is two penalty minutes shy of 100 in his career.

 
* Coyotes right wing Shane Doan, who has 27 more points than any teammate, has 3 goals and 7 points in his last five games, including a four-point effort Tuesday in Phoenix's 4-3 win against the Sharks. Doan has 4 goals in three games against Anaheim this season.

* San Jose right wing Devin Setoguchi, who averaged 14:14 of ice time per game as a rookie last season, is averaging 16:04 this season while generally playing on a line with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Setoguchi has 3 goals and 5 points in three career games against the Predators, has just 1 point in his last 11 games.

* Jay Bouwmeester leads Panthers defensemen in scoring with 35 points, but Bryan McCabe is just two points behind him despite missing 13 games due to a strained lower back and a broken nose.

Contact Adam Schwartz at
aschwartz@nhl.com.
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