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Eastern Conference lead on the line

by Adam Schwartz

Chris Neil and the Ottawa Senators host Mike Richards and the Philadelphia Flyers tonight at Scotiabank Place.
Tuesday night will be exciting in the NHL as 18 of the League’s 30 teams take the ice.

Five early games feature the Boston Bruins facing the Carolina Hurricanes, the Columbus Blue Jackets visiting Toronto to play the Maple Leafs, the Montreal Canadiens hosting the New York Rangers, the slumping Philadelphia Flyers playing the Ottawa Senators and the Florida Panthers traveling to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins.

Later, the Edmonton Oilers square off against the Nashville Predators, the Vancouver Canucks play the Minnesota Wild in a Northwest Division match, the St. Louis Blues host the Chicago Blackhawks and the Calgary Flames pay the Phoenix Coyotes a visit.

Here’s what to watch:

* Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, who has the sixth-most hits in the League with 183, has five points in his last five games while playing at least 27 minutes in four of those games.


* Carolina center Jeff Hamilton snapped a 32-game drought when he scored the Hurricanes’ goal Monday in a 5-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils. Hamilton, who played 16:52 against New Jersey, has played more than 10 minutes just twice during his last nine games.

* Tonight’s game will be just the sixth-ever meeting between the Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets. Toronto is undefeated at home against Columbus with two wins and one tie in three all-time contests at Air Canada Centre.

* Columbus forward Nikolai Zherdev, who leads the team with 27 assists, has 50 points and should easily surpass his career-high of 54 points, which he recorded in the 2005-06 season.

* Rangers defenseman Fedor Tyutin, who has a plus-5 rating in three games against Montreal this season, has the most hits among Atlantic Division defensemen, with 164.

* Montreal has started rookie goalie Carey Price in its last three games and has won all three. Price recorded his first career shutout Saturday with a 34-save performance in a 3-0 triumph over the Flyers.

* Philadelphia goalie Martin Biron, who owns two horses, has lost his last four games while allowing 15 goals on 113 shots.

* The Senators, who are selling red wigs reminiscent of newly acquired defenseman Mike Commodore’s hair, have lost three games in a row and no longer hold sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference. The Senators are tied with the Devils and Canadiens for the top spot in the conference with 73 points.


* Florida left wing David Booth, who was a Detroit Red Wings fan growing up, has three goals and five assists for eight points in his last eight games, and has played less than 18 minutes just once during that span.

* The Penguins, who have scored the second-most goals in the Atlantic Division with 174, have a 17-10-3 record at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh.

* Edmonton goalie Mathieu Garon, who has supplanted Dwayne Roloson as the Oilers’ starting goaltender, has the second-highest save percentage in the Northwest Division at .920 – All-Star Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo has a .921 save percentage.

* Nashville right wing J.P. Dumont, who was selected No. 3 overall by the New York Islanders in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, has two goals and four assists for six points in his last three contests.

* Vancouver defenseman Alexander Edler, who has the highest plus-minus rating among rookie defensemen at plus-14, has two goals and three assists for five points and a plus-4 rating in five games against the Wild this season.

* St. Louis right wing Brad Boyes, who leads the team with 31 goals, has not scored in five games against the Blackhawks this season. Boyes snapped a five-game goal drought Sunday in a Blues 5-1 victory against the Blue Jackets.


* Minnesota right wing Marian Gaborik, who helped open a rink in his hometown of Trencin, Slovakia, has seven points in his last five games and leads the team with 32 goals and 62 points.

* Chicago right wing Martin Havlat, who was selected No. 26 overall by the Ottawa Senators in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, has seven points in his last eight games.

* Calgary has scored the most goals in the Northwest Division with 170, but has yielded the third-most goals in the Western Conference with 174. The Flames are tied for second place in the division with the Vancouver Canucks. Both teams have 66 points – six points behind the division-leading Wild.

* Coyotes center Daniel Winnik, who was drafted No. 265 overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, has three goals and one assist for four points in his last five games.

* Phoenix right wing Craig Weller, who is known for his rugged style of play, has three assists in his last five contests while playing more than 10 minutes just once in that span.

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