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Daily Primer Jan. 10: March of the Penguins

by John Kreiser

The Pittsburgh Penguins are perfect in 2014. They'll try to stay that way Friday night.

The runaway leaders in the Metropolitan Division will try to go 4-for-4 in the new year when they visit the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night. The Penguins started 2014 with home victories against the New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets, then opened a Western Canada trip by beating the Vancouver Canucks 5-4 in a shootout Tuesday. The Penguins rallied for two sixth-attacker goals in that game to force overtime after they were unable to hold an early 2-0 lead.

Here's a look at all of the action Friday night:

Dallas Stars at New York Rangers -- The Stars come to Madison Square Garden looking to avoid a fifth straight loss and a sweep by the three New York-area teams. Dallas tightened up defensively Thursday after a 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders on Monday, but the one shot that beat Kari Lehtonen was enough to give the New Jersey Devils a 1-0 victory. The Rangers are back at Madison Square Garden after one of their best efforts of the season, a 3-2 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday. The good news for the Rangers is that they play their next four games at home; the bad news is that they're 8-10-3 in their own building.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals -- The euphoria of the Maple Leafs' Winter Classic victory on Jan. 1 has melted away. A 6-1 road loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night was Toronto's third straight since the New Year's Day win. The Maple Leafs have been outscored 18-5 in the three games. Washington couldn't hold a 3-1 lead on the road against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night, but Eric Fehr's goal with 52 seconds left in regulation gave the Capitals a 4-3 victory and ended a four-game losing streak (0-2-2).

Carolina Hurricanes at Columbus Blue Jackets -- The Hurricanes are on a roll; their wipeout of the Maple Leafs in Raleigh on Thursday was their fifth win in a row. Jeff Skinner's goal against Toronto was his 17th in 17 games, and he has seven goals and 12 points in his past six games. The Blue Jackets have been off since beating the Rangers 4-3 in a shootout Monday night in New York. That game marked the return of starting goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, and the Blue Jackets expect to have forward Matt Calvert (upper body) available against the Hurricanes.

New York Islanders at Colorado Avalanche -- The Islanders have won five of six, including a 5-3 victory at Toronto on Tuesday in the opener of a six-game trip, as they try to dig out of an early-season hole and get back into the playoff race. New York captain John Tavares has eight points in his past two games and is tied for second in the NHL scoring race. Colorado is finishing up a seven-game homestand; the Avalanche are 4-1-1 in the first six after beating the Ottawa Senators 4-3 in overtime Wednesday. Semyon Varlamov is scheduled to start against the Islanders and again on the road against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night.

Pittsburgh Penguins at Edmonton Oilers -- The Penguins' injury list is still long, but not as long as it was a week or two ago. Evgeni Malkin has four points in two games since returning, and defenseman Kris Letang scored during the Pittsburgh's late-game comeback in Vancouver on Tuesday. While the Penguins' practice Thursday was marked by a visit from defenseman (and Edmonton native) Deryk Engelland's extended family, the Oilers' workout saw coach Dallas Eakins switching up his lines, moving Sam Gagner from his usual spot at center to right wing on the first line with Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Eakins wouldn't say whether he'd keep the new trio intact for the game.

St. Louis Blues at Vancouver Canucks -- The Blues aren't just winning, they're blitzing their opponents. A 5-0 victory against the Calgary Flames on Thursday was their seventh in a row and their second in as many games on a Western Canada trip that ends Friday. St. Louis has outscored its opponents 32-12 in the seven victories, including 21-4 in the past four games. The Blues probably aren't the ideal opponent for a Vancouver team that's dropped five in a row and is coming off a 5-4 shootout loss to the Penguins in which they led 4-2 with less than 75 seconds left in regulation. Coach John Tortorella's team spent part of practice Thursday working on shootouts; the Canucks are 2-6 in the tiebreaker this season, mostly because they've scored four times in 32 tries.

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