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Daily Primer Dec. 7: Homecoming for Henrik

by John Kreiser

Henrik Lundqvist can expect a lot of cheers when he leads the New York Rangers onto the ice Saturday night at Madison Square Garden to face the New Jersey Devils. Not only has he dominated the Devils during his career, but he'll be playing at home for the first time since signing a seven-year contract extension earlier this week, a deal that figures to keep him with the Rangers for life.

What New York (15-14-0) needs now is to take advantage of the schedule. This is the opener of a franchise-record nine-game homestand, the longest stretch at home for any team this season.

Here's a look at all of the action Saturday:

Philadelphia Flyers at Dallas Stars -- The ice storm that has snarled Dallas cost the Flyers their practice Friday when the rink where they were supposed to skate lost power. That came after their flight to Dallas hit some turbulence. The Flyers have won their past six games against the Stars and haven't lost at American Airlines Center since March 13, 2007. The Stars are back home for a Saturday matinee after going 1-0-1 on a trip that saw them beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 despite being outshot 50-18, then lose 3-2 in overtime to the Toronto Maple Leafs despite a 50-24 advantage in shots.

Pittsburgh Penguins at Boston Bruins -- The Eastern Conference finalists meet for the final time this season after splitting the first two games, including a 4-3 overtime win by the Bruins at TD Garden in a game the Penguins tied with 0.3 seconds remaining in regulation. Pittsburgh again will be without forward Evgeni Malkin, who's out with a lower-body injury, but his absence didn't hurt Thursday, when the Penguins steamrolled the San Jose Sharks 5-1. Boston dropped to second place in the Atlantic Division after a 2-1 road loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.

Buffalo Sabres at Montreal Canadiens -- The first- and last-place teams in the Atlantic Division get together at Bell Centre, where the Canadiens moved into first place Thursday by beating Boston. Montreal has ridden a hot streak by Max Pacioretty (nine goals in nine games) to four straight wins and an 8-0-1 mark in its past nine. Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller told the media Friday he's had exploratory talks about his future with new president of hockey operations Pat LaFontaine. Miller's present has included too many nights like Thursday, when the Sabres lost 3-1 to the New York Rangers. Buffalo has scored eight goals in its past seven games, going 1-5-1.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Ottawa Senators -- Goaltending is keeping the Maple Leafs afloat in the Stanley Cup Playoff race. Toronto goaltenders are seeing an NHL-high average of 36.6 shots per game, a number that grew Thursday when Jonathan Bernier faced 50 shots from the Dallas Stars. He stopped 48, and Trevor Smith's goal with 41.4 seconds left in overtime gave the Maple Leafs a 3-2 win. Ottawa lowered its shots-per-game average to 34.4 by limiting the Tampa Bay Lightning to 22 on Thursday, but the Lightning scored three times against Robin Lehner for a 3-1 victory.

Florida Panthers at Detroit Red Wings -- The Panthers spent Friday night in Detroit, where they could watch on TV as the Red Wings limited the New Jersey Devils to 11 shots on goal in a 3-1 victory in Newark. Florida finished a five-game homestand on a positive note with a 5-2 victory against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday. The Red Wings spotted the Devils an early lead but completely shut them down after that, and third-period goals by Johan Franzen and Tomas Tatar gave goaltender Jonas Gustavsson all the support he needed.

Winnipeg Jets at Tampa Bay Lightning -- The Jets play the finale of a six-game trip on which they'll go home with no worse than a .500 record. They won the first two games but have dropped two of the past three, including the loss to the Florida Panthers on Thursday. Tampa Bay has had trouble scoring since forward Steven Stamkos went down with a broken right tibia nearly a month ago. But the Lightning got two goals from Martin St. Louis, one by Valtteri Filppula and 33 saves by Ben Bishop against the Ottawa Senators in a 3-1 win after being shut out in back-to-back games.

Nashville Predators at Washington Capitals -- It's the first game between the teams since the trade last April that sent longtime Nashville regular Martin Erat to Washington and top prospect Filip Forsberg to Nashville. The trade has yet to work out for either team. Erat recently asked to be traded, and Forsberg is injured. The Predators might get captain Shea Weber back after he missed a week with an eye injury; that could help an offense that has produced five goals during a four-game losing streak. The Capitals have had two days off to regroup after a 4-1 home loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday.

New Jersey Devils at New York Rangers -- The Devils managed no more than four shots in any period and matched their all-time franchise low with 11 in their home loss to Detroit on Friday. But they've beaten their rivals in two games this season, including a 3-2 win in their previous visit to Madison Square Garden on Nov. 12. The Rangers started the season with nine straight road games; the payback begins Saturday when they begin their long homestand, which will take them through the Christmas holiday. They'll have to play better at home to make the playoffs; New York is 5-6-0 at the Garden this season.

Anaheim Ducks at St. Louis Blues -- The Ducks and Blues, two of the top teams in the Western Conference, get together for the first time when Anaheim wraps up a quick two-game swing through the Midwest. The Ducks continued their mastery of the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday with a 3-2 shootout victory, their fifth consecutive win against the reigning Stanley Cup champs. The Blues had a day off after a 5-1 home victory against the New York Islanders on Thursday in which their power play scored on three of its first four tries.

Calgary Flames at Edmonton Oilers -- Each team enters Round Two of this season's Battle of Alberta coming off a home game against the Colorado Avalanche. But the results were completely different. The Oilers raced to a 3-0 lead on Thursday and buried the Avalanche 8-2, with Taylor Hall scoring three goals. One night later, the Flames led 1-0 late in the second period but surrendered three goals in a span of less than five minutes of playing time and wound up losing 3-2. The Flames and Oilers haven't played since Edmonton scored four times in the third period on Nov. 16 at Calgary to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 4-2 victory.

New York Islanders at Los Angeles Kings -- The road has not been kind to the Islanders this season. They're 3-10-0 away from Nassau Coliseum, and their 5-1 loss against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday was their eighth straight road loss, all in regulation. They're facing a well-rested Kings team that's been off for three days after sweeping a tough back-to-back, beating the Blues 3-2 at home on Monday and outlasting the Ducks in Anaheim on Tuesday by winning a nine-round shootout for another 3-2 win. The Islanders have lost their past three visits to Staples Center, where they haven't won since Feb. 15, 2003.

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