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First Penguins-Capitals match highlights schedule

by Adam Schwartz
The NHL has seven games on Thursday, highlighted by the first meeting of the season between Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins and Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals (7:30 p.m. ET, RDS).

Four other early games will see the New Jersey Devils play their third game of a four-game road trip against the Atlanta Thrashers, the Tampa Bay Lightning host the New York Islanders, the Vancouver Canucks look to rebound from their first loss of the season against the Detroit Red Wings (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN), and the Minnesota Wild look to remain undefeated when they visit the Florida Panthers.

Later, the Dallas Stars try to get their second win in two nights when they take on the St. Louis Blues and the Colorado Avalanche battle the Philadelphia Flyers.

Here's what to watch:

* New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur, who is 12 wins shy of breaking Patrick Roy's record for career wins, allowed just 2 goals while facing 39 shots in his first 2 games, but then allowed 3 goals while facing 23 shots in the Devils' first loss of the season Monday, to the New York Rangers.

* Atlanta center Bryan Little, who had just 16 points in 48 games with the Thrashers last season, leads the team with 3 goals and 5 points in their first three games. Little, who twice had 100-point seasons with the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League, is averaging 16:11 of ice time this season, up from the 15:36 he played last season.

* Capitals center David Steckel, who led rookies with a 56.3 faceoff winning percentage last season, is at 46.3 percent through 3 games this season. Steckel, who is a defense and faceoff specialist for coach Bruce Boudreau, has not played more than 14 minutes in a game this season.

* Pittsburgh right wing Miroslav Satan, who is playing on a line with Sidney Crosby, has 28 goals and 41 points in 44 career games against the Capitals. Satan, who had his nine-season streak of 20-goal seasons snapped last season, has 2 points in the Penguins' first 4 games.

* Islanders center Andy Hilbert, who had just 8 goals and 16 points in 70 games and was the last Islander to record a point last season, has 2 points in the Islanders' first 3 games this season. Hilbert, who has not played more than 13 minutes in a game this season, averaged 13:28 of ice time last season.

* Tampa Bay coach Barry Melrose vowed to reduce center Vincent Lecavalier's ice time this season. So far Lecavalier, who averaged the ninth-most ice time among forwards last season with 22:57, averaged 20:03 through 3 games this season.

* The Wild, who won their first 2 games this season, are one of two teams in the Northwest Division without a loss. Minnesota, which had a 19-17-5 road record last season, will play their second game on a three-game road trip Thursday.

* Florida left wing David Booth, who was named one of the NHL's Three Stars of the Week last week, has 3 goals, 4 points and a plus-4 rating in the Panthers' first 2 games. The Panthers, however, are the only team in the Southeast Division to have played fewer than 3 games.

* Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, who was a runner-up for the Vezina Trophy as the League's best goalie in 2008, had a shutout in his first game against the Flames, but has yielded 9 goals on 54 shots in his last two outings. In Luongo's last game, a 5-1 loss to the Capitals, he was pulled after two periods.

* Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski, who won the Stanley Cup with the Devils in 2000 and 2003 in addition to winning it in 2008 with Detroit, is tied for fourth in the League among defensemen with 4 points. Rafalski, who studied economics at the University of Wisconsin, was eighth among the League's defensemen with 55 points last season.

* St. Louis center Andy McDonald, who was traded to the Blues from the Anaheim Ducks last season for a package that included Doug Weight, is tied for the League lead with 6 assists.

* The Flyers, who led the Atlantic Division with 248 goals last season, have scored just 8 in their first 3 games. Philadelphia, is winless in its first 3 games, has given up 12 goals, the most in the division.

* Colorado left wing Ryan Smyth, who failed to record at least 50 points for the first time since the 1998-99 season last season, has 2 points in his first 3 games. The Avalanche, who have lost all three of their games, have 10 goals, the second-most goals in the Northwest Division.
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