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Ovechkin goes for 50, Panthers go for playoff spot

by Adam Schwartz
There's a lot on the line tonight in Florida.

Capitals left wing Alexander Ovechkin is one goal away from his third 50-goal season, and a Washington win, coupled with a New Jersey loss, would see the Caps pass the Devils for second in the Eastern Conference. But while Washington is mostly locked into a postseason spot, the Panthers need the win to move ahead of idle Carolina for eighth place in the East (7:30 p.m. ET, GCL).

Also looking to move up in the East are the Rangers and Canadiens, who go into tonight's game in Montreal (7:30 p.m. ET, RDS) tied for sixth in the East with 80 points each.

In the West, Minnesota will try to join the playoff party when they try to snap a four-game losing streak tonight against the Avalanche (8 p.m. ET, GCL). The Wild currently is 11th in the West, so they'll need to jump over a few teams. Ahead of them are the Blues and Oilers, who meet tonight in Edmonton (10 p.m. ET, GCL), and the Stars, currently the No. 8 seed, look to defend their position tonight against the Canucks (10 p.m. ET, TSN).

In New Jersey, Martin Brodeur takes his first shot at passing Patrick Roy's all-time wins record when the Devils host the Blackhawks (7 p.m. ET, NHL NET).

Other games on a busy Tuesday include the Sabres at the Senators; the Penguins, winners of eight of their last 10, visit the Thrashers, who have won six straight; the Maple Leafs are in Tampa Bay (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN); the Flyers look to snap a 20-year losing streak in Detroit (7:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS); and the Sharks look to keep pace with the Red Wings atop the West standings when they visit the Coyotes.

Here's what to watch:

* Devils goalie Martin Brodeur has won seven of eight games with two shutouts since returning from a torn distal biceps tendon that kept him out for 50 games, and he's yielded more than two goals just once during that span. Brodeur is 7-2-0 with four ties and a 1.88 goals-against average in 14 career games against the Blackhawks.

* Canadiens right wing Andrei Kostitsyn leads the team with 23 goals, but has just 1 goal in his last 10 games. Kostitsyn, who has 6 assists and 9 points in nine career games against the Rangers, had six shots Saturday in Montreal's 3-1 loss to the Devils, the most he's had in a game since Dec. 27.

* Buffalo center Derek Roy leads Northeast Division forwards with an average ice time of 21:32 per game. Roy leads the team with 38 assists and 18 power-play assists.

* Pittsburgh, which has earned at least a point in each of their last 10 games (8-0-2), is 24-10-5 when scoring first, but just 13-16-3 when allowing the first goal. The Penguins, who have the fifth-worst road penalty killing in the Eastern Conference at 78.8 percent, have the fourth-best man-down unit in the conference at home, at 83.6 percent.

* Lighting goalie Karri Ramo, who was selected No. 191 in the 2004 Entry Draft, has earned Tampa Bay at least a point in four of his last five games. Ramo, who has become Tampa Bay's starting goalie since Mike Smith has been sidelined with a concussion, has won two straight games after dropping six straight.

* Florida left wing David Booth, whose 26 goals are seven more than any teammate, has 5 goals and 9 points in his last four games, including a three-point game Saturday in Florida's 4-3 shootout loss to Tampa Bay.

* Canucks right wing Pavol Demitra, who generally plays on a line with Mats Sundin and Ryan Kesler, has 5 assists and 6 points in his last six games. Demitra, who hasn't been a minus player in his last 12 seasons, is a plus-9 this season. He has 20 goals and 46 points in 44 career games against the Stars.

* Detroit right wing Marian Hossa, who is tied for the Western Conference lead fourth in the League with 25 even-strength goals, has just 2 points in his last seven games. Hossa, who has a plus-21 rating in 30 home games, has a minus-3 rating in 34 road games.

* Sharks center Joe Thornton, who has led the League in assists the three previous seasons, is tied for fifth in the League this season with 54 assists, and has just 1 assist in his last 12 games. Thornton had a plus-23 rating in 45 games prior to the All-Star break, but has a minus-5 rating in 23 games since then.

* Edmonton right wing Ales Kotalik, who mostly has played on a line with Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff, has no points in five games since being acquired by the Oilers on March 4. Kotalik, who was a minus player in each of his six previous seasons, has a minus-8 rating in 61 games this season.

* The Wild, who are 21-1-1 when leading after two periods, is 2-21-3 when trailing after two periods. Minnesota, which has yielded the second-fewest goals in the Western Conference with 169, has been outshot in 39 of their 69 games but is 16-19-4 in those games.

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