Sidney Crosby's closest pursuer in the NHL scoring race will have a chance to gain some ground Thursday.
Crosby and John Tavares will oppose each other when the Pittsburgh Penguins come to Nassau Coliseum for a game against the New York Islanders (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN2). Crosby leads the NHL with 69 points, including a goal in the Penguins' 5-1 home victory against the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday. Tavares is second with 62 points and had three assists Tuesday in the Islanders' come-from-behind 5-3 victory against the New York Rangers. He has 18 points in 11 games since the start of the new year; Crosby has 10 points in eight 2014 games for the Penguins.
Here's a look at all of the action on a busy Thursday:
Carolina Hurricanes at Buffalo Sabres -- The Hurricanes were scheduled to take the ice at First Niagara Center after an off-day Wednesday but that was before Mother Nature intervened. A snowstorm pushed their scheduled road game against the Philadelphia Flyers from Tuesday to Wednesday, but the Hurricanes still got the two points they wanted by beating the Flyers 3-2. The Sabres are winless in four straight, all by the same score: 4-3.
St. Louis Blues at New York Rangers -- Both teams are coming off losses Tuesday. The Blues, one of the NHL's toughest teams to score on, were riddled 7-1 by the low-scoring New Jersey Devils; the Rangers wasted a pair of two-goal leads in a 5-3 loss to the Islanders. New York should have starting goaltender Henrik Lundqvist back in the lineup after he missed the game against the Islanders with an illness. The Rangers also expect to have defenseman Kevin Klein, who was acquired Wednesday in a trade that sent Michael Del Zotto to the Nashville Predators.
Philadelphia Flyers at Columbus Blue Jackets -- The Flyers, third in the Metropolitan Division, are 2-3-2 in their past seven games after the loss to Carolina, meaning they've lost eight points in the standings to the Blue Jackets in that span. Columbus has won a franchise-record seven straight games and is 8-1-0 this month after beating the Los Angeles Kings 5-3 on Tuesday. A victory would leave the Blue Jackets and Flyers even at 56 points, but Columbus would have two games in hand.
Ottawa Senators at Tampa Bay Lightning -- The Senators opened a three-game trip through the Southeast by blanking the Washington Capitals 2-0 on Tuesday. Tampa Bay played five games in seven days last week but had three days off after a 5-3 road win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday. The Lightning hope the mini-vacation will help them find an answer to their struggles at home, where they are winless (0-3-2) since Dec. 21. The Senators have won four of five on the road.
Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Islanders -- The teams have played three one-goal games this season after a six-game battle in their first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series last spring. Crosby has made a career out of torturing the Islanders -- he has 24 goals and 80 points in 44 regular-season games, and scored a spectacular overtime goal at the Coliseum on Dec. 3 to give Pittsburgh a 3-2 win. Tavares has four assists in three games against the Penguins this season and has six goals and 11 points in 25 career games. The Islanders lead the NHL with eight victories in games they've trailed by more than one goal -- and with seven losses in games they've led by multiple goals, including the overtime loss to the Penguins.
Chicago Blackhawks at Minnesota Wild -- This is the second half of a tough road back-to-back for the Blackhawks, who let a two-goal lead get away and wound up losing 5-4 in a shootout to the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday It was Chicago's 12th post-regulation loss, the most in the NHL, and the Blackhawks' seventh in 12 shootouts. The Wild could get a boost from the return of top-line left wing Zach Parise, who's missed 14 games with a foot injury. He took part in all aspects of practice Wednesday, but coach Mike Yeo said only that he would see how Parise felt after the morning skate before making a decision.
Toronto Maple Leafs at Dallas Stars -- Toronto is 2-for-2 on its road trip after beating the Phoenix Coyotes 4-2 and the Colorado Avalanche 5-2 on back-to-back nights, and has won six in a row. One big reason has been the play of Phil Kessel, who scored twice against Colorado and has five goals in his past four games. Dallas is coming off perhaps its best game of the season, a 4-0 home victory against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday in which it dominated from start to finish, limiting the Wild to 18 shots.
Nashville Predators at Vancouver Canucks -- The Predators begin a four-game trip through Canada after making their second trade in eight days. General manager David Poile hopes defenseman Michael Del Zotto can provide the kind of puck movement from the blue line that Kevin Klein, for whom he was traded, could not. The Canucks open a four-game homestand after beating the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 on Tuesday in their first game without coach John Tortorella, who is serving a 15-day suspension.
Los Angeles Kings at Anaheim Ducks -- This is the warmup act for Saturday, when the Kings and Ducks will take it outdoors at Dodger Stadium in the opener of the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series. It's the finale of a five-game trip for the Kings, who started with a 4-1 win in St. Louis but have lost to the Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins and Columbus Blue Jackets. The Ducks still are on top of the League standings but no longer are unbeaten in regulation at home; a 3-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday ended Anaheim's season-starting run at 22 games. They were 20-0-2; one of the two post-regulation losses came against L.A. in a shootout Dec. 3.
Winnipeg Jets at San Jose Sharks -- Having ended the Ducks' home domination, the Jets travel up the coast to SAP Center, where the Sharks are 17-2-3. Winnipeg has looked like a different team since Paul Maurice replaced Claude Noel as coach; the Jets are 4-0-0 and have scored 16 goals. The Sharks begin a four-game homestand after completing a three-game sweep of a trip through the Southeast by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-4 on Saturday.