The NHL’s schedule is full of excitement Thursday night, when 20 of the League’s 30 teams take the ice.
At 7 p.m. the Anaheim Ducks continue their Eastern road trip with a visit to Madison Square Garden to face the New York Rangers, the Vancouver Canucks make a rare visit to Atlanta and the Montreal Canadiens host the Toronto Maple Leafs when one of the League’s oldest rivalries is renewed.
A half-hour later a trio of games feature the New York Islanders against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Ottawa Senators hosting the Florida Panthers and the Los Angeles Kings facing off against the Detroit Red Wings.
Later, the Tampa Bay Lightning travel to Nashville to take on the Predators, the Dallas Stars go to Minnesota to play the Wild, the Calgary Flames continue their three-game homestand against the Chicago Blackhawks, and the Columbus Blue Jackets square off against the Phoenix Coyotes.
Here’s what to watch:
* The Ducks snapped a six-game losing streak Tuesday when they shut out the New York Islanders, 3-0, in Uniondale. Anaheim is in the midst of a nine-game bicoastal road trip, which includes remaining stops in New Jersey, Detroit and Colorado.
* The New York Rangers have not lost to the Ducks at Madison Square Garden since Nov. 19, 2002, when they dropped a 3-2 decision.
* The Canucks have lost their last four games and have fallen to fourth place in the Northwest Division. Vancouver also has dropped two points out of a playoff spot.
* Atlanta Thrashers defenseman Niclas Havelid, who has the second-highest average ice time among Thrashers backliners with 20:30 per game, has a plus-6 rating in his last four contests.
* The Maple Leafs and Canadiens have played each other 687 times, with Montreal holding a 325-269-93 record.
* A Habs win tonight, coupled with a Senators loss, would mean the soaring Canadiens, who have scored the second-most first-period goals in the League, would supplant the Ottawa Senators as the top team in the Eastern Conference and the Northeast Division.
* The Penguins have gone 3-3-1 since superstar center Sidney Crosby was sidelined with a high ankle sprain. With the dynamic 20-year-old out of the lineup, other players will have to step up other than just star sophomore Evgeni Malkin.
* Kings defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, who owns a horse named Tamino, leads the League with 73 giveaways.
* There is a 39-point difference between the President’s Trophy-race-leading Red Wings and the last-place Kings.
* Tampa Bay center Brad Richards is No. 11 in the NHL with 200 shots on goal, but is third in the League with 83 missed shots.
* Nashville right wing Alexander Radulov, who leads the team with 20 goals, has a seven-game point-scoring streak, during which he’s posted seven goals and two assists for nine points.
* Dallas has won its last four games, all with Marty Turco in net. The former University of Michigan goalie has yielded just seven goals while facing 121 shots during that span.
* Minnesota forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard, whose favorite breakfast is pancakes, leads the team and is tied with the likes of Evgeni Malkin and Brian Rafalski at No. 17 in the League with 35 assists.
* Chicago center Tuomo Ruutu leads the club with 116 hits, which are 43 more than any other Blackhawks forward.
* Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf, who signed a six-year, $39 million contract extension Wednesday, has the most hits among Northwest Division players with 150.
* Columbus defenseman Adam Foote, who typically is known for his steady play in the defensive zone, has a minus-4 rating in his last three games.
* Blue Jackets defenseman Jan Hejda, who idolized hulking Swedish defenseman Ulf Samuelsson growing up, leads the club with a plus-8 rating.
* Phoenix right wing Peter Mueller, who leads the League’s rookies with 19 goals, has six goals and one assist for seven points in his last five games and is a strong candidate for the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year.
* After a slow start to the season, the Panthers have reeled off three consecutive victories and have surged to within two points of the Southeast Division-leading Washington Capitals.
* Senators wing Dany Heatley is expected to return to the lineup tonight after suffering from a dislocated shoulder. The Senators have won just three of the 11 games Heatley has missed.