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Caps, Ovechkin visit Buffalo

by Adam Schwartz

Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals head to Buffalo
to tangle with Toni Lydman and the Sabres tonight.
Wednesday's six-game slate is ripe with playoff implications.

In early games, Southeast Division-leading Carolina travels to Atlanta, Buffalo hosts the Washington Capitals in a matchup of two teams looking to crack the playoff field and the St. Louis Blues battle Detroit, which is looking to ride out a serious slump without losing first place in the West.

Later, hard-charging Anaheim visits Chicago, a hungry Phoenix squad squares off with Dallas in a Pacific Division showdown, and slumping Ottawa faces red-hot San Jose.

Here's what to watch:

* Carolina, which sits at the top of the Southeast Division with 73 points, has a 15-17-2 road record.

* After scoring just four points in 23 games with the Blackhawks this season, Sergei Samsonov was waived and picked up by Carolina. The left wing made has made it a good move, totaling 11 goals and 10 assists for 21 points and a plus-10 rating in 24 games with the Hurricanes.

* The Thrashers, who are eight points behind the Hurricanes for the Southeast Division lead, have lost their last seven games, including four straight since trading star right wing Marian Hossa. Atlanta, which is one of two current NHL teams to never have won a playoff game, has allowed the most goals (219) in the Eastern Conference.


* Atlanta left wing Ilya Kovalchuk, who is second in the League with 42 goals, has two goals and seven assists for nine points in five games against the Hurricanes this season.

* Capitals defenseman Mike Green, who leads NHL defensemen with 17 goals, has played at least 25 minutes in eight of his last 10 games, including a season-high 33:59 Feb. 20 in a 3-2 Washington victory against the New York Islanders.

* Washington center Viktor Kozlov, whose favorite NHL arena is the Bell Centre in Montreal, has three points and a plus-6 rating in his last three games.

* After a disappointing start to the season, the Sabres are just one point out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Buffalo, which has scored the third-most goals in the conference with 205, has 17 goals in its last four games.

* Buffalo right wing Steve Bernier, who was traded from San Jose to the Sabres as part of the Brian Campbell deal, has two goals and three assists for five points and a plus-2 rating in four games with the Sabres.


* St. Louis goalie Manny Legace, who played for the Western Conference in this season's All-Star Game in Atlanta, snapped a six-game losing streak Tuesday night in the Blues' 3-2 victory against the Los Angeles Kings.

* Blues left wing David Perron, who has been an occasional healthy scratch, leads the team with a plus-12 rating. St. Louis, which is eight points out of a playoff spot, has a 9-18-3 record without Perron in the lineup, and a 20-9-7 record with the rookie playing.

* Detroit defenseman Andreas Lilja, who has a minus-6 rating in his last 12 games, is the only Red Wing with more than 100 hits, racking up 116.

* Anaheim goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who has a yellow lab named Henri, has won nine of his last 10 games, and has given up more than two goals just once during that span.

* Chicago left wing Andrew Ladd, who was acquired from Carolina for Tuomo Ruutu on trade-deadline day, has two goals and one assist for three points in four games with the Blackhawks.


* Phoenix right wing Shane Doan, who leads the team with 43 assists and 63 points, has three goals and six assists for nine points and a plus-10 rating in four games against the Stars this season.

* Stars defenseman Mark Fistric, who has played 27 games this season since being called up from the Iowa Stars of the AHL, is second among Dallas blueliners with a plus-9 rating. Fistric, who was selected No. 28 overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, has had a minus rating in just three games.

*Ottawa goalies, Ray Emery and Martin Gerber each has 12 losses this season, but Gerber has played 12 more games.

* Sharks center Torrey Mitchell, who was selected in the fourth round, No. 126 overall, of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, leads Pacific Division rookies with an average of 2:40 of shorthanded ice time per game.

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