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Briere unlikely to return vs. Canadiens

by Adam Schwartz
Philadelphia's Danny Briere is unlikely to return Friday night when the Flyers face the Canadiens (7 p.m. ET, TSN, RDS) in one of five games in the NHL on Friday night.

Briere was expected to return to action for the first time since Dec. 2, but coach John Stevens said after the morning skate that Briere is unlikely to play against Montreal and will be saved for Sunday afternoon's divisional showdown against the New Jersey Devils.

Flu-ridden Kimmo Timonen is also out of the lineup for this matchup between the fourth- and fifth-place teams in the East. If the regular season ended today, these teams would meet in the first round of the playoffs -- a rematch of last season's second-round showdown.

In addition to the Philadelphia-Montreal game, the Kings continue their five-game road trip in Detroit; Sidney Crosby is listed as day-to-day for the Penguins, who face the Blackhawks; the Flames take on the Wild in a Northwest Division showdown; and the Canucks begin a four-game homestand when they face the Lightning.

Here's what to keep an eye on:

* The Canucks, who are tied for fifth in the Western Conference with 68 points, have the best road record in the Northwest Division at 16-11-4. Vancouver, which is one of five teams to not win a home shootout this season, is the only team in the League with fewer than 1,000 hits.

* Tampa Bay right wing Evgeny Artyukhin, who has 14 penalty minutes in 13 games since the All-Star break, is second in the Southeast Division with 184 hits. Artyukhin averages 11:01 of ice time per game, but he hasn't played more than 10 minutes in his last four games.

* Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf, who tied for the most power-play goals in the League among defensemen last season with 10, has just 3 power-play goals this season but scored one Tuesday in the Flames' 4-1 win against the Blue Jackets. Phaneuf, who is second among Northwest Division defensemen with 35 points, is on pace to finish with a career-low 10 goals and 47 points.

* The Wild, who are tied for seventh place in the Western Conference with 65 points, has the best penalty kill in the League at 87.8 percent. Minnesota, which has yielded the fewest goals in the conference with just 135, has scored the fewest goals in the Northwest Division with just 148.

* Pittsburgh right wing Miroslav Satan, a 10-time 20-goal scorer, is tied for fourth on the team with 15 goals. Satan, who has one goal in his last 11 games, has 9 goals, but a minus-11 rating in 20 career games against the Blackhawks.

* Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, who leads the League in scoring by eight points, has 5 assists and 8 points during his current six-game point streak. Malkin, who already has set a career-high of 61 assists this season, leads the team with a plus-18 rating.

* Chicago left wing Kris Versteeg leads the League's rookies with 44 points. Versteeg, who leads rookie forwards with an average ice time of 17:21, has scored 8 goals at home and 8 on the road.

* Kings left wing Dustin Brown, who is third in the League with 213 hits, is one of only two players in the League with 200 hits and 40 points -- Alexander Ovechkin is the other one. Brown, who has 3 goals and 7 points in his last five games, has just 3 goals, 5 points and a minus-13 rating in 15 career games against the Red Wings.

* Detroit center Pavel Datsyuk, who leads the Western Conference with 67 takeaways, has 17 assists and 23 points in his last 16 games. Datsyuk, who has been held without a point in just 14 of 60 games this season, is tied for fourth in the League with 50 assists and fourth with 75 points.

* Red Wings center Jiri Hudler, who already has matched his career-high of 29 assists, is averaging just 13:28 of ice time. Hudler has 4 assists and 5 points in three games against the Kings this season, including 2 assists in their last meeting.

* Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov, who is one of only two defensemen in the League to lead their team in points, has 5 assists and 6 points in his last four games. Markov, who averages the third-most ice time per game among Northeast Division players at 24:26, is second among defensemen with 40 assists.

* Flyers right wing Mike Knuble, who plays on a line with Mike Richards and Simon Gagne, is one of five Philadelphia players with at least 20 goals. Knuble, who now has scored 20 goals in six consecutive seasons, has scored 16 of his 21 goals at the Wachovia Center.

* Philadelphia, which is fourth in the Eastern Conference with 75 points, has the best home power play in the League at 32.1 percent. The Flyers, who are 25-5-5 when scoring first, are 8-12-4 when allowing the first goal.

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