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Hungry Cats on prowl for Rangers

by Adam Schwartz

Jaromir Jagr and the New York Rangers head down to Florida to tangle with Tomas Vokoun and the Panthers tonight at the BankAtlantic Center. New York has won two of three meetings.
With 10 of the NHL's 30 teams playing Friday night, the playoff picture undoubtedly will be changed. 

The night starts at 7 p.m. when the Atlanta Thrashers visit the Washington Capitals and the Chicago Blackhawks battle the Columbus Blue Jackets. A half-hour later, the Buffalo Sabres host the Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Rangers face the Florida Panthers. The final game of the night features the San Jose Sharks hosting the St. Louis Blues.

Here's what to keep an eye out for:

* Thrashers defenseman Tobias Enstrom, selected in the eighth round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, leads the team and all rookies with an average of 24:34 of ice time per game. Enstrom also leads rookie defensemen with 37 points.  

* Atlanta goalie Kari Lehtonen, who has won just one of his last nine decisions, has an 8-3-2 career record against the Capitals.


* After winning his first two games as a member of the Capitals, goalie Cristobal Huet has lost his last two decisions. Huet, who was acquired from the Montreal Canadiens for a 2009 second-round draft pick, is sharing goalie duties with longtime Capitals netminder Olaf Kolzig.

* Capitals center Brooks Laich, whose favorite band is Guns N' Roses, has a minus-5 rating in his last six games while playing at least 15 minutes in five games during that span.

* Chicago center Jonathan Toews, who has the highest goal-per-game average among rookies who have played at least 10 games, has scored just one goal in his last 10 games. Toews is second among the League rookies with 19 goals.

* Columbus left wing Rick Nash, who was named Blue Jackets captain Wednesday, set a career-high for points Sunday when he collected two assists in the Blue Jackets' 5-3 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning, giving him 58 points this season.

* Blue Jackets center Derick Brassard, selected No. 6 overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, has just one goal in 17 games this season. Brassard, who averages just 9:03 of ice time per game, has a plus rating in just two games this season.

* Since Carolina center Rod Brind'Amour suffered a season-ending knee injury, the Hurricanes have a 9-2-1 record and have remained at the top of the Southeast Division with 81 points – seven points ahead of the second-place Capitals.


* Hurricanes left wing Erik Cole, who is third among Carolina players with 20 goals, has six goals and three assists for nine points in his last eight games, including three game-winning goals in Carolina's last four games.

* Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller, who has led the Sabres to two consecutive trips to the Eastern Conference final, has lost his last four games while allowing 15 goals on 116 shots.

* Sabres defenseman Andrej Sekera has played just 26 NHL games this season. He's played at least 23 minutes in four of his last five games, but has a minus-4 rating in his last four games.

* Buffalo, which has lost its last four games, is just four points behind the Philadelphia Flyers, who hold the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 79 points. The Sabres will play six of their next eight games in Buffalo and then finish the regular season with a three-game road trip to Toronto, Montreal and Boston.

* Rangers defenseman Fedor Tyutin, who averages 20:37 of ice time per game, is second among Atlantic Division defensemen with 192 hits.

* Florida defenseman Bryan Allen, who averages the second-highest ice time on the club with 21:46 per game, has a plus-4 rating in his last seven games.


* Rangers right wing Brendan Shanahan has nine goals and 22 assists for 31 points in 27 career games against the Panthers, including two assists in three games this season.

* The Panthers, who have won their last five games, have vaulted back into the Eastern Conference playoff race and are just five points out of a playoff spot.

* Blues goalie Manny Legace, who played for the Western Conference in this season's All-Star Game in Atlanta, has lost his last three games and has yielded at least three goals in every game during that span.

* Sharks center Torrey Mitchell is second among rookie forwards with 58 blocked shots.  

Contact Adam Schwartz at


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