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Saturday's loaded with teams battling for playoffs

Saturday, 04.04.2009 / 10:00 AM / Game-Day Skate

By Adam Schwartz - NHL.com Staff Writer

It's the second-to-last Saturday in the NHL's regular season, and the playoff races are coming down to the wire. The Montreal Canadiens will try to solidify a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs against the Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET, CBC, NHLN-US). In the Western Conference, the slipping Oilers will try to gain ground against the Canucks, who are trying to regain the Northwest Division lead.

Three other Saturday night games with playoff implications in the Eastern Conference include the Devils playing their second game in two nights when they travel to Buffalo to try to shrink the gap between them and the second-place Capitals; the Flyers go for home-ice advantage in the first round when they face off against the Senators (7 p.m. ET, CBC), and the Penguins battle the Hurricanes in a game where both teams are separated in the standings by just one point.

There also are three other games with playoff significance in the West. The Predators will try to jump back into the top eight against the Blue Jackets; the Blues are seeking their first playoff berth since 2004, but the Stars will try to play spoiler, and the Ducks must hold their ground in the playoffs when they face the Sharks.

Two other games see the Lightning playing on back-to-back nights against the Islanders and the Kings hosting the Coyotes.

Here are some fast facts about some of the teams:

* Montreal has won four of its last five games, but four of those games were at home and the Habs play three of their next four games away from the Bell Centre. The Canadiens have a 26-6-5 record when scoring the first goal, but have a 14-21-5 record when allowing the first goal.

* Senators left wing Dany Heatley reached the 35-goal mark for the fifth time in his seven-season career with a game-winning goal Sunday in Ottawa's 3-0 win against the Lightning. Heatley has 14 goals and 25 points in 23 career games against the Flyers, including 5 goals and 1 assist in three games this season.

* Islanders center Frans Nielsen has just eight goals, but has two in his last four games, including the game-winning goal March 27 in the Islanders' 2-0 win against the Red Wings. Nielsen is averaging the most ice time among Islanders forwards expected to play Saturday at 16:31 and has scored just two of his eight goals at home.

* Pittsburgh center Sidney Crosby is just one point shy of hitting the 100-point plateau for the third time in his fourth season in the NHL -- last season Crosby failed to hit the 100-point mark largely because he missed 29 games with an ankle injury. Crosby has 12 assists and 17 points in 13 career games against the Hurricanes, including 6 assists and 7 points in three games this season.

* Blue Jackets defenseman Jan Hejda is second on the team with 162 hits and is third among Columbus players with an average ice time of 22:21. Hejda leads the team with a plus-23 rating and has a plus-15 rating in his last 40 games.

* St. Louis defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo had just one assist in 10 games with the Maple Leafs, but has 26 assists and 29 points in 59 games with the Blues since being traded with Alex Steen for Lee Stempniak. Colaiacovo is averaging 3:26 of power-play ice time this season after averaging just 0:16 of power-play ice time with Toronto last season.

* Ducks right wing Teemu Selanne has 3 goals and 7 points in his last seven games, including two goals Thursday in Anaheim's 6-5 win against Vancouver. Selanne normally fares well against the Sharks and has 44 goals and 86 points in 67 career games against San Jose, but has no points in four games this season.

* Vancouver defenseman Alex Edler is third among Swedish-born defensemen and second among Canucks defensemen with 34 points. Edler has missed only two games with the flu this season and has 12 more assists this season than he did as a rookie last season.

* Oilers defenseman Steve Staios leads the team with 147 blocked shots and an average of 3:37 of shorthanded ice time. Staios has missed just two games this season after missing none last season.

* Los Angeles left wing Dustin Brown is just 1 goal short of becoming the third King to score 25 this season. While Brown knows how to put up points, he also isn't afraid to be physical either and has 80 more hits than any of his teammates.

Contact Adam Schwartz at aschwartz@nhl.com


Quote of the Day

One player does not make your team. One player can help your team, but one player does not make your team. We're not a bare-bones organization.

— Columbus Blue Jackets president John Davidson
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