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Sabres hoping to go home happy

by Adam Schwartz
The Buffalo Sabres try to climb the Eastern Conference standings when they conclude their three-game road trip against the Pittsburgh Penguins (7:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN2) in one of five games Monday night.

In addition to the Sabres-Penguins game, the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins go for their fifth straight win when they play the Tampa Bay Lightning; the New York Islanders begin a four-game road trip when they travel to Toronto; the Ottawa Senators try to win their fourth game in the last five when they host the Florida Panthers (7:30 p.m. ET, RDS); and the Nashville Predators look to improve their 7-7-1 road record when they play the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center.

Here's what to keep an eye out for:

* Lightning right wing Martin St. Louis, a four-time 30-goal scorer, has just 7 goals in 26 games this season and is on pace for just 22 this season. St. Louis, who had 4 goals in 14 games in November, has 2 goals in three December games.

* Boston right wing Chuck Kobasew, who has 9 of his 14 points at home this season, has a point in 10 of the 14 games he has played this season, including seven of his last eight games. Kobasew, who is averaging just 13:29 of ice time per game, played a season-high 16:24 Saturday in Boston's 4-0 win against the Panthers.

* Bruins left wing Blake Wheeler, who was signed as a free agent this summer, leads the team and the League's rookies with a plus-16 rating. Wheeler, who is fifth among League rookies with 15 points, has 3 goals and 6 points in his last four games.    

* Islanders right wing Trent Hunter, who has 66 hits, 27 more hits than any teammate, also leads the team with 11 goals. Hunter, who had 41 points last season, is on pace for a career-high of 63 this season.

* Toronto center Mikhail Grabovski, who was traded from the Montreal Canadiens to the Leafs this summer for Greg Pateryn and a 2009 second-round draft pick, leads the League's rookies and is tied for the team lead with 10 goals. Grabovski, drafted in the fifth round in 2004, has 9 points at home and 9 away from the Air Canada Centre.

* The Panthers, who are just four points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, have a 5-8-1 road record. Florida, which has a 10-1-1 record while taking the lead into the third period, has been outshot in 19 of their 26 games this season.

* Ottawa goalie Alex Auld, who has usurped Martin Gerber as the Senators' starter, is fourth in the League with a 1.97 goals-against average. Auld, who hasn't faced 30 shots in any of his last seven games, earned Ottawa at least a point in six of seven games during that span.

* The Sabres, who got at least one point in their first eight games of the season, have lost 10 of their last 14 games (4-9-1). Buffalo, which has yielded the second-most goals in the Northeast Division with 76, has the third-best penalty killing in the League at 88.1 percent.

* Pittsburgh center Sidney Crosby, who is second in the League with 27 assists, has 9 assists and 15 points in 12 career games against the Sabres. Crosby, who is on pace for 126 points this season, has had six games with at least 3 points this season, including two 4-point games in his last four games.

* Nashville defenseman Greg Zanon, drafted No. 156 in 2000, leads the Central Division with 74 blocked shots. He also leads the team with an average of 4:33 of shorthanded ice time per game.

* Blues center David Backes, who idolized Mario Lemieux growing up, leads the team with 79 penalty minutes. Backes, who has 7 points in 13 career games against the Predators, has 3 goals and 4 points in his last four games.

* St. Louis, which is just five points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference, has scored 70 goals, the fewest in the Central Division. The Blues, who have the best penalty kill in the division at 83.5 percent, have the third-best power play in the League at 23.8 percent.

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