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Devils, Lightning square off in Jersey

by Adam Schwartz

Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils host Martin St. Louis and the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight at the Prudential Center
The NHL begins the weekend when 10 of the League’s 30 teams hit the ice Friday night.

The action starts when the Tampa Bay Lightning visit the New Jersey Devils, the Edmonton Oilers face off against the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Atlanta Thrashers host the Minnesota Wild.

Later, the San Jose Sharks battle the Chicago Blackhawks and the Nashville Predators travel to Calgary.

Here’s what to keep an eye out for:

* Tampa Bay right wing Martin St. Louis, who leads the team with 51 assists, has just one point and a minus-9 rating in his last eight games while playing at least 22 minutes during seven games of that span.

* Lightning defenseman Brad Lukowich, who has the Stanley Cup and his No. 37 tattooed on his ankle, leads the team and Southeast Division defensemen with 147 hits.

* New Jersey right wing Brian Gionta, who set the franchise record with 48 goals in the 2005-06 season, has three goals in his last four games. Gionta, who worked at his parents’ hardware store growing up, has recently been playing alongside the Devils defensive forward tandem of John Madden and Jay Pandolfo.

* The Devils, who have allowed the least goals in the Eastern Conference with 157, are just one point out of first place in the Atlantic Division and have played two fewer games than the first-place Penguins.

* Edmonton defenseman Tom Gilbert, who is second in the NHL among rookie defenseman with 26 points, has the third-highest average of ice time for the Oilers with 22:14.


* Oilers center Sam Gagner, who is fourth among the League’s rookies with 28 assists, has 11 assists in his last 13 games. Gagner, who is averaging 14:55 of ice time per game, has a minus-16 rating.

* Columbus defenseman Jan Hejda, who leads the team with a plus-12 rating, has a plus-6 rating in his last nine games. Hejda, whose favorite player growing up was Ulf Samuelsson, averages the most shorthanded ice time for Columbus with 3:48 per game.

* Blue Jackets left wing Rick Nash, who shared the Rocket Richard Trophy victory for most goals in a season in 2003-04, has four goals in three games against the Oilers this season.

* Wild right wing Brian Rolston, who leads the team with nine power-play goals, has just one goal in his last 10 games.

* Minnesota, which has lost its last two games to the Carolina Hurricanes and the Blackhawks, have lost sole possession of first place in the Northwest Division and is now tied with the Flames with 79 points.

* Atlanta center Erik Christensen, who was traded to the Thrashers from the Penguins as part of the Marian Hossa deal, has a minus-5 rating in his first four games in an Atlanta jersey.


* Thrashers right wing Mark Recchi, who was waived by the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this season, has 10 goals and 20 assists for 30 points in 39 games for Atlanta.

* San Jose, which has won its last seven games, is just three points behind the first-place Dallas Stars in the Pacific Division with three games in hand.

* Sharks right wing Jonathan Cheechoo, who won the Rocket Richard Trophy for most goals with 56 in 2005-06, has six goals in his last eight games.

* Chicago goalie Corey Crawford, who was called up from Rockford IceHogs of the AHL, recorded a 19-save shutout in just his fifth NHL game Wednesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

* Blackhawks rookie sensation Patrick Kane, who is second in rookie scoring with 57 points, is in a 10-way tie for second in the League with the second-most shootout goals with five.

* Nashville, which is tied for the final playoff spot with 76 points, has won two of its last three games against the Oilers and the Stars.


* Predators right wing Martin Erat, who is one of four Nashville players with at least 20 goals, has three goals and three assists for six points in his last five games. Erat, who has a black lab named Max, set a career-high with 21 goals this season.

* Calgary captain Jarome Iginla, who has three goals and two assists for five points in three games against Nashville this season, leads the team in goals (40), assists (39) and points (79).

* The Flames, who have won six of their last eight games, have allowed more than three goals just twice and have recorded shutouts against the Detroit Red Wings and the Blue Jackets during that span.

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