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Battle of Ontario highlights prime-time action

by Adam Schwartz
The Battle of Ontario plays out its latest chapter as part of a Hockey Night in Canada when the Maple Leafs hit Ottawa (7 p.m. ET, CBC, NHLN-US). The second game sees the Wild travel to Edmonton for a Northwest Division battle for valuable points in the Western Conference playoff race (10 p.m. ET CBC, NHLN-US).

In addition to those two games, the best team in the West is in arguably the most historic hockey city when the Sharks face the Canadiens (7 p.m. ET, CBC); the Sabres take on the Islanders; the Avalanche play at the Rangers; the Hurricanes go for their fifth win in six games when they skate against the Thrashers; the Red Wings play their second game in two nights when they face the Predators; and the Coyotes play their lone home game in a nine-game stretch when they play the Blues.

Here's what to watch:

* San Jose center Patrick Marleau, who leads the team with 34 goals, tied his career-high for goals Thursday when he scored the game-winning goal in the Sharks' 2-1 victory at the Senators. Marleau averaged 18:13 of ice time per game last season, but is averaging 21:32 of ice time this season.

* Maple Leafs left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky, who is two assists shy of tying his career-high of 24, has points in just three of his last 11 games. Ponikarovsky has just 5 goals and a minus-11 in 33 career games against Ottawa, but has 2 goals in three games against the Senators this season.

* Buffalo center Tim Connolly, who missed 24 games with a broken rib earlier this season, is second on the team at 0.93 points per game. Connolly, who hasn't played more than 60 games since the 2005-06 season, played at least 80 games in each of his first four seasons in the League.

* Avalanche center Paul Stastny has played more than 19 minutes in both games since returning from a broken arm that saw him miss 26 games. Stastny, who played on a line with Ryan Smyth and Milan Hejduk in Thursday's 4-0 loss to the Devils, still is fourth on the team with 32 points despite the time lost from his injury.

* Carolina left wing Sergei Samsonov has 23 assists this season, the most he's posted since the 2000-01 season, when he was with the Bruins. Samsonov, who has 8 assists and 11 points in 14 games since the All-Star break, has 16 assists and 24 points in 29 career games against the Thrashers, including 2 goals and 2 assists in five games against them this season.

* Predators defenseman Greg Zanon, who has blocked 92 more shots than any teammate, leads the team with an average of 4:11 of shorthanded ice time. Zanon, drafted No. 156 by the Senators in the 2000 Entry Draft, has a plus-7 rating in 18 career games against the Red Wings.

* St. Louis left wing David Perron, who leads the team with 29 assists, broke his eight-game slump without an assist Thursday in the Blues' 3-1 victory against the Stars. Perron, who is averaging just 15:06 of ice time, has played less than 13 minutes in nine of his last 10 games.

* Oilers defenseman Tom Gilbert, who leads the team with 19 even-strength assists, has just 1 assist in 14 career games against the Wild.

* Ottawa defenseman Filip Kuba, who had 11 assists in 10 games in October, hasn't had more than 6 assists in any month since then and has just 3 assists in 13 games in February. He has just 3 points in his last 16 games.

* The Rangers, who were in first place in the Atlantic Division until Jan. 2, have lost their last four games and are just one point ahead of the ninth-place Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers, who are last in the League with 144 goals, have scored more than two goals just once in their last eight games.

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