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'Canes-Flames highlights light Friday slate

by Adam Schwartz
The streaking Toronto Maple Leafs will take on the Atlanta Thrashers.
It will be a light night in the NHL, as only four games are on Friday’s schedule.

A pair of 7 p.m. contests pits the Buffalo Sabres against the Washington Capitals, while the Calgary Flames travel south to face off against the Southeast Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes.

At 7:30 p.m., the streaking Toronto Maple Leafs will take on the Atlanta Thrashers.

In the late game, the Minnesota Wild visit the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center.

Here’s what to watch for:

* Buffalo sits 13th in the Eastern Conference, but is just three points out of a playoff position.

* The Sabres scored 13 goals over their past three games, including Wednesday night’s 5-3 win against the New York Islanders and Saturday’s 7-1 triumph against the Pacific Division-leading San Jose Sharks.

* Buffalo forward Derek Roy has five points in his last four games. The speedy center leads the club with 11 goals and 24 points.

* The Capitals will attempt to sweep their four-game homestand. Washington earned a 5-4 overtime victory Wednesday against the New York Rangers, halted the New Jersey Devils’ 10-game streak without a regulation loss Monday with a 3-2 victory, and Saturday defeated divisional foe Atlanta, 6-3.

* Washington defenseman Mike Green has five points in his last three games, highlighted by a three-point effort Wednesday night which Green scored the game-winning goal in overtime in a Capitals’ 5-4 victory against the Rangers.

* Washington rookie forward Nicklas Backstrom is starting to prove why he was drafted No. 4 overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. The Swedish rookie has a plus-5 rating in his last three games and played more than 22 minutes, which he has only done five times this season, in three of his last four contests.

* Calgary will play one of its nine games in the Eastern time zone this season when they face the Hurricanes.

* Flames star center Jarome Iginla has seven points in his last four games, highlighted by a hat trick and an assist Thursday in Calgary’s 9-6 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, Iginla wasn’t the highest scoring Flame in Thursday’s contest; that honor belonged to Kristian Huselius, who scored three goals and assisted on two others.

* Calgary forward Matthew Lombardi is on a nine-game pointless streak and played his fewest minutes (14:34) Thursday since his third game of the season.

* Carolina has yielded 11 goals in its last two games, but in all fairness they were playing against stiff competition. Wednesday the Hurricanes were shut out, 6-0, by the Eastern Conference-leading Ottawa Senators, and on Sunday they dropped a 5-2 decision to the Detroit Red Wings, who lead the President’s Trophy race.

* Hurricanes center Rod Brind’Amour takes all of the team’s important faceoffs. Brind’Amour has won 465 draws, which is the most in the league. He has taken 816 faceoffs this season, which is 73 times more than anyone in the League.

* Toronto has won five of its last six games and is tied with the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.     

* Mark Recchi is off to a good start in Atlanta. The 39-year-old scored two goals Wednesday as the Thrashers lost 5-3 to the Boston Bruins in Recchi’s first game wearing a Thrashers jersey.

* The Wild is 10-5 at the Xcel Energy Center but their overall record is dragged down by a 6-7-2 road record. Minnesota concludes its four-game road trip Friday. The Wild are 2-1 on the trip, and have dropped games to the San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings, but defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets

* Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf is a vital cog in Anaheim’s lineup. He leads the team in assists (22), points (35) and plus-minus rating (plus-9). Getzlaf, 22, also doesn’t shy away from rough play despite his offensive prowess. 

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