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Flames hope to grow lead in Pittsburgh

Wednesday, 03.25.2009 / 2:00 PM / Game-Day Skate

By Adam Schwartz - NHL.com Staff Writer

The Calgary Flames have seen their once seemingly insurmountable Northwest Division lead dwindle to just three points, but they'll have a chance add some distance between them and the idle Vancouver Canucks when they visit the Pittsburgh Penguins (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN, NHLN-US, RIS).

The Penguins are one of the hotter teams in the League, having lost just one game in regulation this month. They have some ground of their own to make up, having fallen to sixth, one point behind fifth-place Carolina.

The Hurricanes will try to hold on to their spot and gain ground on idle Philadelphia in the race for fourth place in the East when they host the Senators (7 p.m. ET, TSN2).

Also tonight, the Sabres try to snap a four-game losing streak and remain in the playoff chase when they host the Panthers, who also are looking to return to the East's top eight; the Wild visit the Islanders as they try to rebound from Tuesday's loss to the Rangers; the Blackhawks try to gain a better footing on fourth place in the West, but they'll have to get past the visiting Sharks to do it; and the Ducks visit the Avalanche in their quest to hold on to the eighth spot in the West.

Here's what to watch:

* Florida defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who is fourth in the League with an average ice time of 26:57 per game, snapped a six-game scoring drought Monday in the Panthers' 3-2 loss to the Hurricanes. Bouwmeester has no goals and just 9 points in 22 career games against the Sabres.

* Wild right wing Cal Clutterbuck, who averages just 12:39 of ice time, is just one hit shy of tying the single-season League record set last season by Dustin Brown with 311. Clutterbuck had eight hits Tuesday in Minnesota's 2-1 loss to the Rangers.

* Buffalo's Jaroslav Spacek leads Sabres defensemen with 35 points, has just 2 points in his last seven games. Spacek had a goal and an assist in his last game against the Panthers.

* The Senators have the longest current winning streak in the League at five games. Ottawa has led after the first period in just 15 of their 72 games, but is a League-best 13-2-0 when ahead after 20 minutes; they're just 5-19-3 when trailing after the first period.

* Carolina center Rod Brind'Amour, who had a minus-29 rating in 48 games prior to the All-Star break, has a plus-6 rating in 25 games since then. Brind'Amour, who won the Selke Trophy as the League's best defensive forward in two of the past three seasons, has 5 goals and 13 points in his last 10 games.

* Flames center Michael Cammalleri, who generally plays on a line with Olli Jokinen and Jarome Iginla, is 5 points shy of tying his career-high of 80 points. Cammalleri, who has 3 points in three career games against the Penguins, has 6 assists and 8 points in his last six games.

* Pittsburgh left wing Chris Kunitz, who usually plays alongside Sidney Crosby and Bill Guerin, has scored 10 of his 22 goals in the first period. Kunitz, who had 16 goals and 35 points in 62 games with Anaheim this season, has 6 goals and 12 points in just 12 games since he was traded to the Penguins for defenseman Ryan Whitney.

* Sharks forwards and linemates Milan Michalek, Joe Pavelski and Ryane Clowe all have 52 points. Michalek, who has 9 goals and 12 points in 15 career games against Chicago, scored the game winning goal Sunday in San Jose's 3-1 win against Colorado.

* Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell, who is fourth among the League's defensemen with 39 assists, has 17 second-period assists. Campbell, who has four straight 40-point seasons, has a minus-9 rating in his last nine games.

* The Ducks have the second-most penalty minutes in the League and the most in the Western Conference at 1,237.

* Colorado defenseman Brett Clark, who is one of three Avalanche players to skate in all 73 games, is second in the League with 232 blocked shots. Clark leads the team with an average ice time of 22:16 per game.

Contact Adam Schwartz at aschwartz@nhl.com.
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