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Jackets can clinch, but 'Hawks playing for home-ice

Wednesday, 04.08.2009 / 2:00 PM / Game-Day Skate

By Adam Schwartz - NHL.com Staff Writer

The Chicago Blackhawks are fourth in the Western Conference now, three points ahead of the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames. But either the Flames or Canucks will win the Northwest Division and earn the third seed.

Wednesday night, the Blackhawks can grab home-ice advantage in the first round with a win against the Blue Jackets, who are looking to clinch their first playoff berth in franchise history.

The other game on the NHL docket Wednesday has the Buffalo Sabres in Toronto (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN). Although the Maple Leafs have been mathematically eliminated and the Sabres appear destined to miss the playoffs, a Buffalo-Toronto clash is always an emotional bout.

Here are some quick facts about the four teams in action Wednesday:

* Toronto center Mikhail Grabovski is first among Eastern Conference rookies and third among NHL rookies with 27 assists and has 52 of his 92 penalty minutes in the third period. While Grabovski has only played 103 NHL career games, he is familiar with the Sabres since they are Northeast Division rivals. He has six assists in seven career games against the Sabres, including an assist in his last game against Buffalo.

* Maple Leafs defenseman Tomas Kaberle leads Toronto defensemen with an average of .56 points per game, but has just 31 points because he missed 25 games with a hand injury and a concussion. Prior to this season, Kaberle had missed just eight games in the previous three seasons and is going to see his string of three consecutive 50-point seasons come to an end because of the time he missed.

* Buffalo left wing Clarke MacArthur has five goals in his last eight games and has played more than 12 minutes in just two games during that span. MacArthur makes the most of his ice time and is tied for fourth on the team with 17 goals despite averaging just 13:50 of ice time.

* Sabres defenseman Toni Lydman recorded his fourth 20-assist season Saturday in Buffalo's 3-2 loss to New Jersey and has four assists in his last five games. Lydman had 13 points and a minus-5 rating in 46 games before the All-Star break, but has 10 points and a plus-4 in 32 games since then.

* Columbus defenseman Mike Commodore is just one assist shy of recording 20 assists for the second time in his career, but has no points in his last 12 games. Commodore isn't known as a goal scorer, but he has scored four of his five goals on the road this season. Last season, Commodore averaged just 18:12 of ice time playing for the Senators and the Hurricanes, but this season he is second on the Blue Jackets with an average ice time of 22:56.

* Blue Jackets goalie Steve Mason leads the League with 10 shutouts and is second with a 2.22 goals-against average, but has lost four of his last five games and has yielded three goals in three games during that span. Mason has lost two of the three games he has played against the Blackhawks, but has a 1.95 GAA in those games. Mason has had multiple shutouts in November, December, January and March and could become the first goalie to win the Calder Trophy as the best rookie in the League.

* Last season, the Blackhawks had just one player -- Patrick Sharp -- with more than 25 goals, but this season Chicago has four players with at least 25 goals, including captain Jonathan Toews' team-leading 33 goals. The Blackhawks have the fewest home hits in the Central Division with 693, but have the fewest missed shots at home in the League at 331.

* Chicago center Patrick Kane has avoided the sophomore slump and has scored four more goals than the 21 he had last season and is just four points shy of matching the 72 points he had as a rookie. Kane has four points and plus-6 rating in his last four games and has 6 goals and 13 points in 13 career games against the Blue Jackets, including 2 goals and 5 points in five games this season.

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

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres