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Canadiens look to continue great start

by Adam Schwartz
The Montreal Canadiens, who have a League-best 1 regulation loss in 10 games this season, visit the Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m. NHLN-CA, RDS) in 1 of 4 games Friday night.

In addition to the Montreal-Columbus game, the Carolina Hurricanes begin a 3-game homestand with a game against the Ottawa Senators; the surging Anaheim Ducks clash with their Pacific Division rival, the Dallas Stars; and two teams with 2-game-winning streaks collide when the Buffalo Sabres face the Atlanta Thrashers.

Here's what to keep an eye out for:

* The Senators are tied for last place in the Northeast Division with 14 points, but they have the second-best power play in the Eastern Conference, at 23.7 percent. Ottawa, which has made the playoffs the last 11 seasons, has an impressive 3-1-1 road record, but is just 3-4-1 record at Scotiabank Place.

* Carolina left wing Ray "the Wizard" Whitney, 36, leads the Hurricanes with 11 points. Whitney, who was held pointless in Carolina's last game, had 3 assists and 5 points in the 3 previous games.

* Montreal center Saku Koivu, who is No. 23 in games played in Canadiens history with 737, is third in the League with a plus-9 rating. Koivu, who is second on the team with 7 assists, has 1 assist in his last 5 games.

* Columbus right wing Jakub Voracek, who is tied for the team lead with 7 assists, has 6 of his assists at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. Voracek, the seventh pick of the 2007 Entry Draft, is tied for second in the League among rookies in scoring with 10 points, behind only teammate Derick Brassard.

* Blue Jackets rookie right wing Derek Dorsett, who averages 8:19 of ice time per game, leads the League with 56 penalty minutes. Dorsett had 289 penalty minutes in 64 games with the Syracuse Crunch, the Blue Jackets' American Hockey League affiliate, last season.

* Thrashers left wing Ilya Kovalchuk, who has scored 50 goals twice and at least 40 goals in each of the last 4 seasons, has just 2 goals in his last 5 games. Kovalchuk, who spends his summers in France and Russia, leads the team's forwards with an average ice time of 21:02 per game.

* Atlanta defenseman Garnet Exelby, who was a fan of the Winnipeg Jets growing up in Manitoba, leads the team with 26 hits. Exelby has a plus-1 rating; he's 1 of just 5 Thrashers with a plus rating. 

* Buffalo left wing Clarke MacArthur, who has never scored more than 8 goals in a season, is second on the team with 5 goals in 12 games. MacArthur, who has taken just 19 shots on net, has a team-leading 26.3 shooting percentage.

* The Sabres, who have a 4-2-0 home record, are in first place in the Northeast Division with 18 points. Buffalo, which has gotten to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2 of the past 3 seasons, has a 1-1-1 record against the Southeast Division, including a 3-2 shootout loss to the Thrashers on Oct. 18. 

* Stars center Mike Modano, whose role has been reduced to a third-line center since the acquisition of Brad Richards last February, has 10 points in 12 games this season. Modano, who has been with the Stars franchise since it was in Minnesota, is averaging just 11:18 of even-strength ice time per game.

* Dallas defenseman Philippe Boucher, whose favorite NHL city is New York, leads the team with 31 blocked shots, which is 14 more than any teammate. Boucher, who has a career plus-47 rating, has a minus-4 rating in 12 games this season.        

* Anaheim defenseman Chris Pronger, who is tied for third in the League among defensemen with 13 points, has 5 assists and 8 points in his current 5-game point-scoring streak. Pronger, who is 1 of just 2 players other than Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom to have won the Norris Trophy since 2000, has never scored more than 14 goals in a season but has 4 in 15 games this season.

* Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin, who usually is paired with All-Star defenseman Scott Niedermayer, is second only to Niedermayer among Anaheim players with an average ice time of 26:13 per game. Beauchemin, who has a famous family recipe for marinara sauce, is 1 of just 2 Ducks to have at least 19 hits and 22 blocked shots.

Contact Adam Schwartz at
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