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Battle of Alberta highlight's Friday's schedule

by Adam Schwartz
A busy weekend in the NHL begins with 7 games Friday.

At 7 p.m. ET, the Phoenix Coyotes take on the Ottawa Senators, the Toronto Maple Leafs battle the New York Rangers in an Original Six match, and the Columbus Blue Jackets host the Nashville Predators.

Later, the Vancouver Canucks play their second game in two nights, against the Buffalo Sabres; the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks square off in a California rivalry; the Carolina Hurricanes face the Los Angeles Kings; and the Battle of Alberta is renewed when the Edmonton Oilers visit the Calgary Flames.

Here's what to keep an eye out for:

* Phoenix center Olli Jokinen, who was acquired from the Florida Panthers at the 2008 Entry Draft for defensemen Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton, is tied for the team lead with 4 points in the club's first 3 games. In fact, Jokinen and rookie Kyle Turris have been involved in 3 of the team's 8 goals this season.
* Ottawa right wing Dany Heatley, who leads the team with 3 goals in 3 games, has a minus-3 rating. Heatley, who led the Senators with a plus-33 rating last season, has 3 goals and 5 points but a minus-4 rating in 6 career games against the Coyotes.

* The Maple Leafs, who beat the defending Stanley Cup-champion Red Wings opening night, have since lost to the Blues and the Canadiens. Toronto, which allowed 260 goals last season, the most goals in the Northeast Division, has allowed 11 goals in its 2 losses.

* The Rangers, who won their first 5 games, lost their first game Wednesday, 3-1 to the Sabres. The Rangers, who had 41 shots in their season-opening victory against the Lightning in the Czech Republic, have had a decreasing number of shots in every game since, bottoming out with just 15 in their loss to the Sabres.

* Nashville, which had five players with at least 100 hits last season, has 2 players with at least 10 hits through 4 games this season -- defensemen Shea Weber and Dan Hamhuis. Weber, who had 6 goals in 54 games last season, has 2 in just 4 games this season.

* Blue Jackets left wing Nikita Filatov, who had 24 goals and 47 points in 23 games for CSKA Moscow's junior team last season, was called up Wednesday from the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League. Filatov, the No. 6 pick of the 2008 Entry Draft, joins 9 other 2008 first-round picks in the League.

* Buffalo right wing Maxim Afinogenov, who has 2 assists in 3 games, has just 1 assist and a minus-4 rating in 9 career games against the Canucks. Afinogenov, who had 61 points in 56 games in 2006-07, had just 28 points in 56 games last season.

* Oilers center Shawn Horcoff, who had the second-most faceoff wins among the Oilers last season with 487, has a 36-percent faceoff winning percentage in his first 2 games this season. Horcoff, who has never scored more than 22 goals in a season, has scored in both of Edmonton's games this season.

* Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, who was 1 victory shy of 40 wins for the third consecutive season in 2007-08, has let in at least 4 goals in each of his first 3 starts this season. Kiprusoff, who was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the best goalie in the NHL in 2007, has yielded 15 goals on 86 shots this season, a .826 save percentage.

* Sharks center Joe Thornton, who led the League with 67 assists last season, has 4 assists in San Jose's first 4 games this season, including 2 assists Tuesday in the Sharks' 5-2 victory against the Blue Jackets. Thornton, who owns two cats, named Lenny and Indy, had 41 more points than any other Shark that played the entire season in San Jose last season.

* Carolina center Rod Brind'Amour, who won the third-most faceoffs in the League last season with 851 despite missing 23 games, has won 40 in his first 3 games this season and has a 56.3-percent faceoff winning percentage. Brind'Amour, who has been the Hurricanes' captain since 2005, has had at least 70 points in eight seasons.

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