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Divisional rivalries on the docket

by Adam Schwartz

The New York Rangers look to gain another two points tonight when they face the Philadelphia Flyers. Watch Flyers-Rangers highlights
All six NHL games Friday night feature divisional matchups and every one of them have playoff implications.

Four Eastern Conference games sees the New York Islanders playing the New Jersey Devils, the New York Rangers visiting the Philadelphia Flyers, the Washington Capitals playing at the Atlanta Thrashers, and Buffalo Sabres renewing their rivalry with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Two Western Conference battles feature the Minnesota Wild traveling to Vancouver and the San Jose Sharks hosting the Anaheim Ducks.

Here’s what to watch:

* Islanders right wing Miroslav Satan, who has scored at least 20 goals in nine-straight seasons, has scored just 14 this season. Satan, selected by the Edmonton Oilers No. 111 overall in the 1993 Entry Draft, is fourth on the club in goals; the Islanders have scored the fewest goals in the League, with 177.

* Islanders defenseman Radek Martinek, who leads the team with an average ice time of 22:39 per game, has a minus-6 rating in his last 10 games. But he’s second among Islanders with 120 blocked shots.

* New Jersey, which has allowed the fewest goals in the Eastern Conference with 170, is tied with the Buffalo Sabres with the best penalty killing in the conference with an 83.3-percent success rate – but nine Western Conference teams have a better penalty kill.

* The Rangers, who have a 6-2-1 record in March, seem to have a stranglehold on an Eastern Conference playoff spot. The Rangers are just four points behind the Devils and Pittsburgh Penguins, who are tied for the Atlantic Division lead. 

* Rangers left wing Nigel Dawes is scoring 0.47 points per game, the fifth-highest average among Eastern Conference rookies who have played at least 10 games.

* Philadelphia left wing Vaclav Prospal, who is in his second stint with the Flyers after being traded by the Tampa Bay Lightning, has two goals and four assists for six points in 11 games with the Flyers.

* Toronto defenseman Bryan McCabe, who has scored at least 15 goals in four seasons, has just five goals this season and one goal in his last 30 games.

* Buffalo left wing Thomas Vanek, who leads the team with 31 goals, is tied for fifth in the League with 15 power-play goals. He’s coming off a hat trick in his last game, when the Sabres scored six third-period goals to beat Tampa Bay on Wednesday.

* Washington goalie Cristobal Huet, who was traded to the Capitals from the Montreal Canadiens for a second-round draft pick, has a 4-2 record with Washington and has allowed more than two goals just once during that span.

* Thrashers left wing Ilya Kovalchuk, who is second in the League with 50 goals, has 20 goals and 24 assists for 44 points and a plus-15 rating in 36 career games against the Capitals, including three goals and five assists for eight points and a plus-2 rating in six games this season. Kovalchuk has scored at least 40 goals in four consecutive seasons.

* Minnesota, which has a 12-9-3 divisional record, is in first place in the Northwest Division with 87 points – just one point ahead of the Vancouver Canucks and the Calgary Flames.

* Vancouver left wing Alex Burrows, who is tied for third on the team with a plus-11 rating, has not been a minus player in his last 18 games. He was a minus-7 last season.

* Anaheim center Samuel Pahlsson, who is renowned for his defensive abilities, has one goal and four assists for five points in his last five games. Pahlsson averages the most shorthanded ice time per game for Anaheim, at 4:36 per game.

* San Jose defenseman Brian Campbell, who was acquired on trade-deadline day from the Sabres, has two goals and nine assists for 11 points in 12 games with the Sharks. Campbell, whose nickname is Soupy, has a career-high of 54 points this season.

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