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Eastern Conference lead up for grabs

by Adam Schwartz / NHL.com

Ty Conklin and the Atlantic Division-leading Pittsburgh Penguins head to Long Island to battle Richard Park and the New York Islanders. The Pens have won four of six meetings.
After a busy weekend, there are just four games Monday night in the NHL.

The Pittsburgh Penguins visit the New York Islanders and the Ottawa Senators travel to Montreal. With the Canadiens holding a one-point lead on the Penguins for the Eastern Conference lead, the top spot is on the line.

Also, two crucial Northwest Division matches feature the Colorado Avalanche hosting the Calgary Flames and the Minnesota Wild facing the Edmonton Oilers.

Here’s what to watch:

* Pittsburgh has a 4-1 record since star center Sidney Crosby left the lineup with recurring pain in the ankle he first sprained Jan. 18, but he is traveling with the team and could return for Monday’s game. The Penguins, who play the New York Islanders – No. 11 in the Eastern Conference – twice more in their final seven games, have jumped to the top of the Atlantic Division with 93 points, and are just one point behind the conference-leading Canadiens. 

* Penguins defenseman Kris Letang, whose average ice time of 18:25 is third among Atlantic Division rookies, has a plus-8 rating in his last seven games.

* After recording just 47 points last season, Montreal right wing Alexei Kovalev has 77, the most he’s had since the 2000-01 season.
Dubielewicz

* Since Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro had season-ending hip surgery, Wade Dubielewicz has a 1-1 record and has allowed just three goals while facing 60 shots. Dubielewicz has a 2-0 career record against the Penguins.

* Islanders defenseman Freddy Meyer has one goal and eight assists for nine points and a minus-4 rating in 14 career games against the Penguins, including three assists in three games this season. Meyer, who has a plus-2 rating in his last four games, has played at least 20 minutes in three games during that span.

* Ottawa left wing Dany Heatley, who leads the Eastern Conference with a plus-31 rating, has six goals and two assists for eight points in his last six games. Heatley has three goals and seven assists for 10 points and a plus-9 rating in five games against the Canadiens this season.

* Senators center Mike Fisher, who is considered one of Ottawa’s best defensive forwards, has a plus rating in just one of his last 20 games. Fisher, who has a combined plus-38 rating in his last two seasons, is a minus-9 this season.

Price

* Montreal goalie Carey Price has a 7-3 record and has yielded more than three goals just once since being thrust into the starting role when GM Bob Gainey traded Cristobal Huet to the Washington Capitals on trade-deadline day. Price, selected No. 5 overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, is tied for the fifth-highest save percentage in the Eastern Conference (.917).

* The Flames trail the Wild by one point for the Northwest Division lead, but have a game in hand.

* Calgary center Daymond Langkow, who had at least 60 points in a season just once prior to last season, now has topped that number in his last two seasons. Langkow, who is second on the Flames with 28 goals, has scored at least 20 goals in his last six seasons.

* The Avalanche, who have lost their last four games, are just two points ahead of the Nashville Predators for the final Western Conference playoff spot. Colorado plays just one of its final six games against non-playoff teams, while Nashville plays just one of its final six against a playoff team.

Sakic

* Colorado center Joe Sakic, who has two goals and six assists for eight points in his last six games, has 40 goals and 62 assists for 102 points in 81 career games against the Flames.

* Minnesota, which has allowed one more goal than it has scored, has a 21-11-5 home record. The Wild, who have the best power play in the Northwest Division with an 18.2-percent success rate, have just three wins in their last 10 games (3-3-4).

* Edmonton right wing Ales Hemsky, who leads the team with 47 assists and 67 points, has six assists in his last three games. Hemsky, who has just eight points in 28 career games against the Wild, has two goals and two assists for four points in five games against Minnesota this season.   
 

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