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Canadiens host Rangers in Original Six matchup

by Adam Schwartz /
Twenty of the League's 30 teams hit the ice Thursday night, including a rare mid-week CBC broadcast when the New York Rangers play their second game in two nights when they visit the Montreal Canadiens (7 p.m. ET, CBC).

Three other 7 p.m. starts feature the Philadelphia Flyers playing the New Jersey Devils for the third time this season, the Southeast Division-leading Washington Capitals hosting the New York Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins trying to hand the Carolina Hurricanes a loss in coach Paul Maurice's first game back behind the Carolina bench.

A half-hour later, the Boston Bruins visit the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Florida Panthers look to get at least a point in their sixth-consecutive game when they play the Buffalo Sabres and the Detroit Red Wings try to tie their season series with the Vancouver Canucks in their final meeting of the season at Joe Louis Arena.

Later, the Colorado Avalanche play the middle game of their three-game road trip in Nashville, the Phoenix Coyotes finish their four-game homestand against the Toronto Maple Leafs and the San Jose Sharks try to become the first team to reach 45 points this season when they take on the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Here's what to watch:

* Montreal left wing Christopher Higgins, who has had at least 20 goals in each of his last three seasons, has just 5 goals through 18 games this season and has just 1 goal in his last 11 games. Higgins, who averages 16:58 of ice time per game, is eighth on the team in scoring with 9 points.

* Rangers right wing Nikolai Zherdev, who leads the team with 24 points, has scored the most shootout goals in the League with 5. Zherdev, who has never had a plus-minus rating better than minus-9, leads the team with a plus-9 rating.

* New Jersey center Travis Zajac, who plays alongside Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner, has 11 assists in 22 games. Zajac, who had 20 assists last season, is on pace for 41 assists this season.

* Sharks right wing Devin Setoguchi, who plays on a line with Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, is tied for the team lead and second in the Western Conference with 29 points. Setoguchi, who has six multiple-point games in his last nine, is averaging 16:08 of ice time per game after averaging 14:14 last season.

* Coyotes right wing Mikkel Boedker, drafted No. 8 last June, leads Pacific Division rookies with 11 points. Boedker, who helped the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League win the OHL championship and get to the Memorial Cup Final, snapped a four-game pointless streak Tuesday in Phoenix's 4-2 win against the Los Angeles Kings.

* Washington, which has a 9-1-1 home record, has the best home power play in the Southeast Division with a 23.3 success rate. The Capitals, who are the only team currently in the top eight in the Eastern Conference to have given up 80 goals this season, have the 25th-best power play in the League with a 78 percent success rate.

* Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik, whose defense partner is Kris Letang, leads the League's defensemen with 94 hits. Orpik, who averaged 16:57 of ice time last season, is averaging 21:29 this season and is likely seeing an increase of ice time due to injuries to Penguins defensemen Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney.

* Boston right wing Chuck Kobasew, who missed 12 games with an ankle injury earlier this season, is one of seven Bruins with a plus-10 rating. Kobasew, who has never had more than 39 points in a season, has 7 points in his current six-game point-scoring streak.

* Panthers defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who is scheduled to be a free agent at the conclusion of this season, is tied for the team lead with 11 assists. Bouwmeester, whose 28:00 of ice time per game leads the League, has 9 points in his last eight games.

* Detroit left wing Jiri Hudler, who is one of five Red Wings with at least 20 points, averages just 12:56 of ice time per game. Hudler, who has never scored more than 15 goals in a season, has 9 in just 24 games this season and is on pace to finish the season with 30.

* Predators right wing J.P. Dumont, who leads the team with 24 points, has the most assists in the Central Division with 19. Dumont, who has 12 assists and 18 points in 19 career games against Colorado, has scored 4 of his 5 goals away from the Sommet Center this season.

* Carolina coach Paul Maurice, who became the youngest NHL coach when he was hired at 28 to coach the Hartford Whalers in 1996, begins his second stint as the Hurricanes coach. Of Maurice's nine seasons as a coach, he has only made the playoffs four times, but he was able to guide the Hurricanes to a surprise berth in the 2002 Stanley Cup Final.

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