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Canadiens look to continue climb

by Adam Schwartz

Saku Koivu and the Montreal Canadiens host Martin Gerber and the Ottawa Senators tonight at the Bell Centre.
There promises to be a frenzy of activity in the NHL Tuesday, with 12 scheduled games.

The night starts at 7 p.m. when the Buffalo Sabres play the Boston Bruins, the Anaheim Ducks face off against the New York Islanders, the Los Angeles Kings continue their Eastern road trip when they travel to Madison Square Garden to play the New York Rangers, the Philadelphia Flyers visit the Atlanta Thrashers and the Columbus Blue Jackets play the Washington Capitals.

Later, the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Florida Panthers, the Montreal Canadiens battle the Ottawa Senators in a Northeastern Division battle, the Carolina Hurricanes visit the Sommet Center in Nashville to play the Predators and the Minnesota Wild host the Detroit Red Wings.

Two 8:30 p.m. starts feature the Tampa Bay Lightning playing the St. Louis Blues and the Vancouver Canucks skating into Dallas to take on the Stars. A half-hour later, the Phoenix Coyotes travel to Calgary to square off against the Flames.

Here’s what to watch:

* Buffalo right wing Jason Pominville is scoring at a pace which would see him top his previous career best of 68 points, set last season.

* Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara, who is the biggest player in the NHL at 6-foot-9 and 255 pounds, has the fifth-most hits in the League with 160.

* After an initial resurgence when defenseman Scott Niedermayer returned to the Ducks, Anaheim has started to slip. The Ducks have lost their last six games and are sitting in third place in the Pacific Division – six points behind the division-leading Stars.

Hunter

* Islanders right wing Trent Hunter, who was selected No. 150 overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, is third in the League with 175 hits.

* Los Angeles left wing Matt Moulson, who only averages 12:12 of ice time, has three points in his last four games.

* With wins in five of their last six games, the Rangers have vaulted up the Atlantic Division standings and now are just three points out of first place.

* Philadelphia defenseman Braydon Coburn, who claims his best Halloween costume growing up was Yoda, leads the team with a plus-14 rating.

* The Thrashers have won their last three games and have moved into a tie for first place in the Southeast Division with the Carolina Hurricanes with 56 points – three fewer points than the Bruins, who hold the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

* Washington rookie center Nicklas Backstrom has taken advantage of playing alongside Alexander Ovechkin. The 20-year-old pivot has nine goals and 33 points for 42 points in 53 games, which is good enough for second in the League among rookie scorers.

* Columbus defenseman Ron Hainsey, who averages 21:40 of ice time, has the most points among Blue Jackets defensemen, with five goals and 19 assists for 24 points.

* Panthers right wing Radek Dvorak leads the team with 26 takeaways.

* Toronto left wing Jason Blake is in the midst of a disappointing campaign, but the 34-year-old has two goals and two assists for four points in his last three games.

* The Senators have relinquished their stranglehold on the Northeast Division and are just three points ahead of the surging Canadiens. The Habs, who have the best power play in the NHL (25.0 percent), have won four of their last six games.

Whitney

* Carolina left wing Ray Whitney has five assists in his last five games, but also has a minus-6 rating during that span.

* Detroit center Pavel Datsyuk, who is sixth in the League with 31 goals, is tied for eighth in the NHL with 74 missed shots.

* St. Louis left wing Paul Kariya, who knows how to surf, has nine goals and 10 assists for 19 points in 16 career games against the Lightning.

* Tampa Bay defenseman Dan Boyle has five points in four games since returning from a wrist injury, which has limited him to just eight games this season.

* Vancouver center Henrik Sedin, who likes to play backgammon during road trips, is recording points at a career-high pace, which would see the 27-year-old pivot score 83 points. He currently has 54 points in 53 games.

* Dallas is two points ahead of the San Jose Sharks in the Pacific Division, but has played four more games than their northern California competition.

* Zbynek Michalek leads Coyotes defensemen with a plus-9 rating.

* Calgary lost its first game with Curtis Joseph in goal Monday when the Flames dropped a 5-0 decision to the Edmonton Oilers. Calgary starter Miikka Kiprusoff most likely will get the nod in net Tuesday night.

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