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Blackhawks, Red Wings start celebration in Detroit

by Adam Schwartz
The Blackhawks and Red Wings will kick off their historic home-and-home series tonight at Joe Louis Arena (7:30 p.m. ET, GameCenter Live), one of eight games on Tuesday's schedule.

The second game will be the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic 2009 on New Year's Day from Chicago's historic Wrigley Field (1 p.m. ET, NBC< CBC, RDS, NHL Radio, XM Radio).

Also on tonight's slate are the New Jersey Devils, who have won four of their last six -- including a 4-2 win at the Rangers on Wednesday -- traveling to St. Louis (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN2). The Devils are unbeaten (3-0-1) in their last four road games.

Other games feature the Southeast Division-leading Capitals traveling to Buffalo; the Thrashers looking to extract some revenge for last Monday's 6-2 loss to the Maple Leafs when they travel to Toronto (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN); the red-hot Bruins going for their ninth consecutive win when they face the Penguins; the Canadiens visiting Tampa Bay (7:30 p.m. ET, RDS); and the Red Wings playing the first half of their home-and-home series with the Blackhawks. The second half will be the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic 2009 at Wrigley Field on New Year's Day.

Later, the Flyers continue their six-game road trip in Vancouver, and the Oilers try for their fourth win in a row when they host the Senators. Ottawa has lost 12 straight on the road.

Here's what to keep an eye on:

* Washington left wing Alex Ovechkin, who is tied for second in the League with 49 points, has 13 multi-point games in his last 26 outings. Ovechkin has been held pointless in just one of his last 10 games, and has 11 goals and 15 points during that span.

* Sabres left wing Thomas Vanek, who is tied for second in the League with 25 goals, is the only player with more than 30 points and less than 10 assists. Vanek, who has scored 16 of his goals on the road, has 6 goals and 11 points in 14 career games against the Capitals, including 3 goals in two games this season.

* Toronto right wing Jeremy Williams, who had just 2 goals in 18 games with the Leafs last season, has 5 goals and 7 points in nine games this season. Williams, who was recalled by Toronto from the minor leagues on Dec. 8, has no points in his last three games.

* Thrashers center Marty Reasoner, who is second among Atlanta forwards with an average of 3:14 of shorthanded ice time, leads the club with 30 takeaways. Reasoner, who was a combined minus-32 in his previous two seasons, is plus-3 this season.

* Boston, which leads the Eastern Conference by nine points, is 18-0-2 when they lead after two periods. The Bruins, who have not won a playoff series in eight seasons, have won the most road games in the League, with 14.

* Penguins left wing Matt Cooke is second on the team and third in the Atlantic Division with 114 hits. Cooke, who has scored more than 35 points in his career just once, has 1 point and a minus-5 rating in his last seven games.

* Montreal center Saku Koivu, who has been the Canadiens' captain since 1999, is one of three teammates with a faceoff winning percentage better than 50.0. Koivu, who was a combined minus-25 his two previous seasons, is second on the team at plus-11 this season.

* The Blackhawks, who only have one player with more than 30 points, have 121 goals, the fifth-most in the League with 121. Chicago, which is just four points behind the Red Wings for first place in the Central Division, has allowed the fewest goals in the Western Conference (79).

* Detroit goalie Ty Conklin has started the Red Wings' last five games, but he's yielded at least three goals three games in that span. Conklin, playing for his fourth team in three seasons, never has played more than 38 games in a season but is on pace to play 40. It could be more if Chris Osgood continues to suffer from a strained groin.

* Blues center Alexander Steen, who averaged 18:05 of ice time last season, is down to 16:35 this season. Steen, who had 4 points in 20 games with the Maple Leafs before being traded this season, has 7 points in 17 games with the Blues.

* Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa, who leads Canucks blueliners with 19 points, has just 1 point in his last five games. Bieksa, who has not had a plus rating in his last 11 games, has played the Flyers just once in his career, and he was scoreless and a minus-2.

* The Oilers, who are 6-5-3 at home, have the worst home power play in the Northwest Division at 15.3 percent. Edmonton, which has played the fewest home games in the League with just 14, has the fewest hits in the League, with 520.

* Ottawa left wing Antoine Vermette, who had 24 goals and 53 points in 81 games last season, has just 3 goals and 7 points in 34 games this season. Vermette, who has just 1 goal in his last 23 games, is a minus-7 in his last five games.

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