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Conference play the theme of the night

by Adam Schwartz

Milan Hejduk leads the Colorado Avalanche into the Shark Tank tonight to face off against Evgeni Nabokov and San Jose. The Sharks have won two of the three meetings so far.
Wednesday night’s schedule features four intraconference games, each with postseason implications.

At 7 p.m., the New Jersey Devils play the Buffalo Sabres for the last time this regular season, while the Philadelphia Flyers host the Washington Capitals.

Later, the Chicago Blackhawks travel to Edmonton to face off against the Oilers and the Colorado Avalanche visit the San Jose Sharks.

Here’s what to keep an eye out for:

* The Devils have won their past two games despite letting in a total of six goals. New Jersey has only allowed 128 goals this year, which is the fewest in the Eastern Conference.

* The Devils have scored just 138 goals, which is more than only the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference. New Jersey, however, has scored 10 goals in its last two games, recording a 6-3 win Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings and a 4-3 overtime victory Monday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

* New Jersey right wing David Clarkson, who saw a season-high of 19:29 of ice time Saturday in the Devils’ 6-3 victory against the Kings, has three points in his last two games.

* Despite a seemingly troubling season, the Sabres have won four of their five last contests. Buffalo is just four points behind the Boston Bruins, with a game in hand, for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.


* Buffalo defenseman Brian Campbell, whose nickname is Soupy, has just two assists in his last six games and has a minus-3 rating, while playing at least 21 minutes in each contest during that span.

* Buffalo defenseman Dmitri Kalinin, who was drafted No. 18 overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, is garnering less responsibility from coach Lindy Ruff. The 6-foot-3, 206-pound backliner has played less than 20 minutes in each of his last seven games.

* Washington, which is tied with the Florida Panthers for third place in the Southeast Division with 55 points, is just one point out of the division lead. The Capitals have played two fewer games than the Atlanta Thrashers and the Carolina Hurricanes, who are tied for first in the division.

* Washington star left wing Alexander Ovechkin, who leads the League with 45 goals and 72 points, has the most hits among Southeast Division players, with 146.

* Washington goalie Olaf Kolzig, who was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, has a save percentage higher than .900 in just one of his last six contests, but the Caps still are 3-3 during that span.

* The Flyers have won four of their last five games, but have just scored 13 goals during that span. Philadelphia still sits atop the Atlantic Division with 65 points, and has played one fewer game than the Devils and Penguins, who are tied for second place with 63 points.

* Philadelphia forward RJ Umberger, who worked in construction with his dad growing up, has 36 points in 50 games – just two less than his career high.

* Flyers captain Jason Smith, who averages the second-most shorthanded ice time among Philadelphia defensemen with 3:04 per game, is fifth in the League with 130 blocked shots.

* Chicago right wing Patrick Kane, who leads NHL rookies with 45 points, has gone pointless in his last four games. The 19-year-old saw just 13:41 of ice time last game, which is the least he has played since Halloween night.


* Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith leads the team with a plus-17 rating, despite playing for the second-worst team in the Western Conference. Keith also is averaging the most ice time among Chicago players, with 25:01 per game.

* Chicago goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, who has an .899 save percentage on the season, has lost his last 10 games, and the Hawks have fallen to 10 points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

* Left wing Curtis Glencross, who was traded Friday to Edmonton from Columbus for defenseman Dick Tarnstrom, made his Oilers debut Monday night when Edmonton shut out the Calgary Flames 5-0.

* Oilers defenseman Tom Gilbert has been given more responsibility by coach Craig MacTavish. The 6-foot-3, 206-pound 25-year-old defenseman is averaging the second-most ice time among rookies in the League at 22:04 per game.

* Colorado defenseman Brett Clark, whose favorite player growing up was Paul Coffey, is second in the League with 136 blocked shots.

* Avalanche right wing Milan Hejduk, who leads the club with six power-play goals, has just one goal of any kind in his last eight games.

* Sharks defenseman Doug Murray, who rang the opening bell at the New York Mercantile Exchange in the summer of 2006, has the second highest plus-minus rating in the Pacific Division with a plus-18 rating.

* San Jose center Jeremy Roenick, who would have liked to have met Frank Sinatra, has nine goals this year, but six of them are game-winning tallies.


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