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Metropolitan rivalry renewed

by Adam Schwartz
Zach Parise and the New Jersey Devils host Brandon Dubinsky and the division-rival New York Rangers tonight at the Prudential Center.
New York has won all five meetings this season.
An action-packed Wednesday night in the NHL sees 14 of the League's 30 teams hit the ice.

The night begins when the Tampa Bay Lightning face the Buffalo Sabres, the New York Rangers make the shortest NHL road trip to New Jersey, and the Carolina Hurricanes square off against the Atlanta Thrashers.

Later, the Columbus Blue Jackets host the Detroit Red Wings, the Washington Capitals visit the Chicago Blackhawks, the Anaheim Ducks travel to Dallas and the Minnesota Wild take on the San Jose Sharks.

Here's what to watch:

* Sabres left wing Thomas Vanek, who scored 43 goals last season, has eight goals and four assists for 12 points and a plus-6 rating in 11 career games against the Lightning, including four goals and one assist for five points and a plus-5 rating in three games this season.

* Upon ending a season-long 12-game goal drought March 9 against the Blue Jackets, Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier has scored five goals in his last four games. Lecavalier, last season's Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy winner for most goals scored with 52, has recorded at least 80 points for the second consecutive season.

* Rangers right wing Brendan Shanahan, selected No. 2 overall by the Devils in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft, has a minus-14 rating in 34 career games against New Jersey. Shanahan, who played four seasons in New Jersey, is on a pace which would see him fail to record 50 points for the first time in 12 seasons.

* Devils defenseman Paul Martin returned from a lower-body injury Thursday and played 27:44 with a plus-2 rating in his first game in his home state of Minnesota. Two days later, Martin played 24:44 in the Devils' win against the Colorado Avalanche.

* Carolina, which has allowed four more goals than it has scored, leads the Southeast Division with 83 points. The Hurricanes have scored the most goals in the division with 225.

* After being in the thick of the race for the Southeast Division title, the Atlanta Thrashers have fallen to No. 14 in the Eastern Conference. The Thrashers have yielded 249 goals, the most goals in the League.

* Columbus defenseman Jan Hejda, who leads the team with a plus-20 rating, has a plus-8 rating in his last four games while playing at least 20 minutes in three games during that span.

* Detroit defenseman Brett Lebda, who generally is regarded as a defensive defenseman, has two goals and seven assists for nine points and a plus-6 rating in 15 career games against the Blue Jackets. 

* After recording just one point in his first five games with the Capitals, center Sergei Fedorov has one goal and three assists for four points in his last five games.

* The Blackhawks have not beaten the Capitals in Chicago since Jan. 19, 2001 when the Capitals suffered a 3-1 loss. Chicago, which has faced Washington in the Windy City just twice since that loss, is 3-5-1 against the Eastern Conference.

* Anaheim defenseman Francois Beauchemin, who has at least 20 points in three consecutive seasons, has no points in his last eight games, but has a plus-4 rating during that span.

* Dallas center Mike Modano, whose first car was a dark green 1976 Chevy Impala, has 23 goals and 52 assists for 75 points and a plus-14 rating in 67 career games against the Ducks, including one goal and three assists for four points in six games this season.

* Minnesota, which is in first place in the Northwest Division with 86 points, has a 23-13-3 record against non-divisional Western Conference opponents. The Wild, who have just four losses after scoring first, have the third-best penalty kill in the League with an 84.8 percent success rate.

* San Jose right wing Mike Grier has had a minus rating in just two of his last 14 games, while playing at least 14 minutes in 11 games during that span. Grier, whose father works for the Houston Texans of the National Football League, beat the odds to make it to the NHL after being selected in the ninth round of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft.
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