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Red Wings go for six in a row

by Adam Schwartz
The Red Wings, who have won their last five games on the heels of a five-game losing streak, face off against the Wild, who are struggling just to find their way into the Western Conference playoff picture in one of Thursday's seven NHL games.

In addition to the Detroit-Minnesota game, the Flyers host the Senators, the Hurricanes face the Panthers in a Southeast Division battle, and the Maple Leafs conclude a four-game road trip in Tampa Bay.

Later, the Predators try to avoid their third loss in a row against the Blues, the Canucks play their first of back-to-back games against the Coyotes, and the Flames face off against the surging Kings.

Here's what to watch:

* Ottawa defenseman Jason Smith, who is four games shy of 1,000 for his career, is fourth in the Northeast Division and ninth in the League with 121 blocked shots. Smith, who is playing for his third team in three seasons, is third on the team with an average of 3:18 of shorthanded ice time.

* Flyers center Jeff Carter, who is tied for second in the League with 34 goals and 7 game-winning goals, has 2 goals and 5 points in his last two games. Carter, who scored in his last game against the Senators, has 13 second-period goals.

* Florida, which is in eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 60 points, has allowed the fewest goals in the Southeast Division with 144. The Panthers, who have been outshot in 36 of their 53 games, have a 16-7-2 record when scoring the first goal.

* Hurricanes center Eric Staal, who has 40 assists in each of his past three seasons, has just 16 assists in 54 games and is on pace to finish the season with just 24. Staal, who has been a minus player in each of his first four seasons in the League, has a plus-4 rating this season.

* Toronto left wing Jason Blake, who was a healthy scratch earlier this season, leads the team with 19 goals and 42 points. Blake, who has 8 of his 19 goals in the third period, has 6 goals and 13 points in his last eight games.

* Lightning center Steven Stamkos, who is averaging just 12:49 of ice time per game, leads Southeast Division rookies with 15 assists. Stamkos, who has assists in consecutive games for the fourth time this season, got his first career assist in his lone game against the Maple Leafs in October.

* Minnesota center Mikko Koivu, who has 17 more points than any other Wild player, has 8 assists and 11 points in his last nine games. Koivu, who is two points shy of tying his career-high of 54 points, has already set a career-high of 37 assists.

* Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk, who leads the team with 44 assists and 68 points, leads the Western Conference with a plus-30 rating. Datsyuk, who had 18 points in December and 17 points in January, already has 10 points in February.

* St. Louis center Patrik Berglund, who is second among rookies with 19 assists, had his first three-assist game Tuesday in the Blues' 6-4 loss to the Canucks. Berglund, who averages the sixth-most ice time among rookie forwards at 15:54, leads the team with a plus-15.

* Canucks center Mats Sundin, who had just 3 points in his first nine games, has 4 goals and 7 points in his last three games. Sundin, who has had 70 points in each of his last 12 seasons, is playing for a team other than the Maple Leafs for the first time since 1994 when he was a member of the Quebec Nordiques.

* Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who snapped a six-game losing streak Wednesday with a 1-0 shutout of the Stars, has faced the most shots in the Pacific Division and the third-most in the League with 1,383. Bryzgalov, who had 28 wins last season, is on pace for 28 wins again this season.

* The Flames, who lead the Northwest Division by eight points, have lost five of their last six games. Calgary, which has a 20-7-3 home record, has just an 11-11-2 road record.

* Los Angeles left wing Alex Frolov, who leads the team with 22 goals, has 4 goals and 10 points in his last seven games. Frolov, who had 23 goals last season, has 22 goals and is on pace to finish the season with 34.

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