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Dallas goes for eighth-straight, Carolina seeks division lead

by Adam Schwartz

Cam Ward and the Carolina Hurricanes will try to regain sole possession of first place in the Southeast Division against Petr Sykora and the Pittsburgh Penguins toinght in Raleigh, N.C.
Thursday will be a busy night in the NHL when eight games will take place and at least one team from all six divisions will hit the ice.

In three early games, the Tampa Bay Lightning visit Philadelphia to play the Flyers, the Carolina Hurricanes host the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Islanders play the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Later, the Chicago Blackhawks have a Central Division showdown with the Nashville Predators, the St. Louis Blues travel to Colorado to face the Avalanche and the Phoenix Coyotes host the Dallas Stars.

Two late games feature the Vancouver Canucks taking on the Minnesota Wild in a Northwest Division battle, and the Edmonton Oilers visiting HP Pavilion to play the San Jose Sharks.

Here’s what to watch:

* Tampa Bay center Vaclav Prospal, who is second on the Lightning with 25 goals, has scored six goals in his last seven games. Prospal averages more ice time – at 19:55 per game – than any Lightning forward not named Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis or Brad Richards.

* The Flyers have lost their last four games and have fallen from first to third place in the Atlantic Division. Philadelphia, which has yielded 14 goals in its last four games, is now four points behind the first-place Penguins.


* Pittsburgh goalie Ty Conklin, who was signed as a free agent last summer, has just one regulation loss in his last five games. Conklin, who played college hockey at the University of New Hampshire, has yielded 14 goals while facing 148 shots in his last five games.

* Carolina center Eric Staal, who leads the team with 27 goals, has not scored in his last seven games.

* Islanders center Mike Comrie, who leads the club with 25 assists and 41 points, has two goals and two assists for four points in his last three games. Comrie scored two goals Feb. 7 against Pittsburgh while playing just 16:55 – his lowest total since Dec. 26, when he scored two goals and added an assist in 16:34 against the Maple Leafs.

* After getting off to a hot start this season, Maple Leafs center Nik Antropov, who would like to meet actor Jim Carey, has just one point in his last five games.

* Chicago goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, who was taken No. 204 overall in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft by the Winnipeg Jets, has not lost in regulation in his last four contests and has not allowed more than two goals in any game during that span.

* Predators defenseman Greg Zanon, whose favorite food is sushi, has the most blocked shots in the Central Division with 140.

* The Blues, who are seven points out of a playoff spot, have a 5-2-1 record against Eastern Conference teams.


* Colorado left wing Wojtek Wolski, who speaks Polish fluently even though he grew up in Toronto, has two goals and two assists for four points and a minus-1 rating in three games against the Blues this season.

* Dallas center Mike Modano, who has the most points among American-born NHL players with 1,267, has scored 35 goals and added 55 assists for 90 points in 84 career games against the Phoenix franchise. The 37-year-old has two goals and two assists for four points, but has a minus-4 rating, in four games against the Coyotes this season.

* Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has lost his last five decisions, and the Coyotes have dropped to No. 11 in the Western Conference, five points out of a playoff position.

* The Wild have scored just five more goals than they have allowed this season, yet coach Jacques Lemaire’s squad currently sits in first place in the Northwest Division with 68 points.

* Vancouver forward Ryan Kesler, who was selected No. 23 overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, has scored 13 goals and added 11 assists for a career-high 24 points through 55 games.

* Edmonton forwards Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner are three of five players in the League who have scored five shootout goals. Edmonton, which is 12-3 in shootouts, also has gotten solid goaltending in the shootout from Mathieu Garon, who has only allowed two shootout goals in 26 attempts this season.

* The Sharks, who have scored the fewest goals in the Pacific Division with 149, are the only team in the Western Conference that doesn’t have a 20-goal scorer.

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