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HNIC doubleheader is Saturday's centerpiece

by Adam Schwartz
It's not quite Super Saturday, but close, as 24 of the NHL's 30 teams hit the ice tonight, highlighted by an Original 6 matchup between the New York Rangers and the Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET CBC, NHL Network) and a Western Conference battle between the up-and-coming Los Angeles Kings and the Calgary Flames (10 p.m. ET CBC, NHL Network).

The lone matinee, at 3 p.m. ET, features Erik Cole's return to Carolina as a member of the Edmonton Oilers. At 7 p.m., the Boston Bruins host the Dallas Stars, the Washington Capitals travel to Buffalo, the slumping New Jersey Devils host the Atlanta Thrashers, the Northeast Division-leading Montreal Canadiens take on the New York Islanders and the Chicago Blackhawks pay a visit the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Later, the Tampa Bay Lightning look for their third-straight win at the Ottawa Senators' expense, the Florida Panthers make one of their shortest cross-conference trips when they go to the Sommet Center to take on the Nashville Predators, the St. Louis Blues play their eighth home game in a 10-game span against the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Phoenix Coyotes look for their second set of consecutive wins against the Wild.

Here's what to watch:

* Edmonton defenseman Sheldon Souray, who had 10 points in just 26 games in his first season with the Oilers last season, leads Edmonton defensemen with 6 points in 8 games this season. Souray, who had 26 goals for the Canadiens in the 2006-07 season, is second on the team with an average ice time of 23:34.

* Coyotes center Kevin Porter, who won the Hobey Baker Award as the top college player in the United States last season, scored his first NHL goal Thursday in Phoenix's 4-1 victory against the Penguins. Porter, 1 of 4 rookies playing for the Coyotes, is averaging more ice time than potential Calder Trophy candidate and teammate Kyle Turris.

* Boston center Marc Savard, who has been among the top-10 in assists in the League the past 3 seasons, leads the team with 9 assists this season -- 4 more than any other Bruin. Savard, in his third season with Boston, is tied for third among Bruins with a plus-5 rating.

* Blues center Andy MacDonald, acquired by St. Louis from Anaheim last season for a package that featured Doug Weight, has 5 multiple-assist games this season. While MacDonald leads the team with 11 assists, he still has a minus-5 rating largely because 8 of his assists came while the Blues had a power play.

* Buffalo defenseman Jaroslav Spacek, who leads the team with 19 blocked shots, also leads Sabres defensemen with 6 points. Spacek, who has been to the conference finals two times and the Stanley Cup Final once in his 3 playoff seasons, has played at least 21 minutes in every game this season.

* Maple Leafs right wing Nik Antropov, who is second on the team with 8 points, has 6 points at home this season. Antropov, who plays on a line with Alexei Ponikarovsky and Matt Stajan, leads the team with a plus-5 rating.

* Atlanta center Todd White, who plays on a line with Slava Kozlov and rookie Bryan Little, leads the team with 10 points and averages the second-most ice time among Thrashers forwards with 18:21 per game. In addition to White's offensive abilities, he also has a team-leading 54.2 faceoff winning percentage and has won a team-high 84 faceoffs.

* Canadiens left wing Chris Higgins, a native of Smithtown N.Y., has 7 goals and 9 points in 11 career games against the Islanders. Higgins, who missed 6 games with a groin injury, has played more than 16 minutes in just 1 of his 3 games this season.

* Columbus right wing Derek Dorsett, who leads the team with 56 penalty minutes, played more than 10 minutes in just 1 game this season. Oct. 12 Dorsett played a season-high 12:02 and he scored his first NHL goal -- the game-winning goal -- in a Blue Jackets 4-2 victory against the Vancouver Canucks

* The Senators, who won the Eastern Conference Final in 2007, currently sit in last place in the Northeast Division with 9 points. Ottawa, which has a 1-4-1 home record, has a 3-1 road record, including a 2-1 record on their 4-game road trip, which concludes Saturday night.

* Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne looked shaky in his first outing when he allowed 3 goals while facing just 8 shots, but Rinne proved his worth Thursday in a 3-1 Predators victory against the Oilers in which he stopped 27 of 28 shots. Rinne was the starting goalie for Nashville's American Hockey League affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals, last season and led the league with 36 wins.

Contact Adam Schwartz at
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