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Sabres on the Island, Kings visit Motown

by Adam Schwartz

At 7 p.m. the Buffalo Sabres visit the New York Islanders.
With only four games scheduled, Wednesday is a light night in the NHL.

At 7 p.m. the Buffalo Sabres visit the New York Islanders, and at 7:30 p.m. the Los Angeles Kings travel to Joe Louis Arena in Detroit to face off against the Red Wings.

Later, the Chicago Blackhawks play host to the Nashville Predators and the Colorado Avalanche take on the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center.

Here’s what to watch:

* The Islanders can’t wait for December to end. They have a 2-5-1 record so far this month, only defeating the struggling Tampa Bay Lightning and the Phoenix Coyotes.

* Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro is a workhorse for coach Ted Nolan, playing in 29 of the club’s 31 games this season.

* Speedy Buffalo forward Derek Roy has played 20 minutes in his last five games, including a season-high 24:39 Dec. 8 against the San Jose Sharks. Prior to this stretch, Roy had not played 20 minutes in the seven previous contests.

* The Sabres have won their last three games and are clawing their way back up the Eastern Conference standings. Buffalo is two points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Philadelphia Flyers for seventh place in the Eastern Conference. Buffalo has played three fewer games than Toronto and one fewer than Philadelphia.

* The Los Angeles defense is not getting the job done. The Kings have given up a Western Conference-high 113 goals. The Los Angeles penalty kill, which is ranked No. 27 in the League and is operating at a paltry 78.1 percent, has contributed to the Kings’ defensive inabilities.

* The Kings, who are in last place in the League, have lost their last four games and are 2-7-1 in their last 10 contests.

* The President’s Trophy-race leading Red Wings are the League’s best home team, with a 15-2-1 record at Joe Louis Arena.


* Detroit forward Pavel Datsyuk, tied for eighth in the League scoring race, has points in 11 of his last 12 games and has recorded 21 points over that span.

* Despite Nashville’s four-game losing streak, the Predators remain within striking distance of second place in the Central Division. The Predators are just four points behind the St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets, who are tied for second in the division.

* Nashville defenseman Marek Zidlicky has been playing important minutes for the Predators. The Most, Czech Republic native has played 20 minutes in six of his last eight contests, highlighted by a 23:47 performance Dec. 4 against the Maple Leafs.

* Chicago will only play one road game – the Blackhawks face off Saturday at Scotiabank Place against the Ottawa Senators – over the remainder of the calendar year. Chicago stumbled at the start of this stretch of five home games in six, losing Sunday to the Florida Panthers, 3-1. The Panthers hadn’t beaten the Blackhawks since Oct. 30, 1998.

* Chicago forward Patrick Sharp has scored five short-handed goals this season, which is more than 21 of the NHL’s 30 teams.

* The Avalanche have won their last three games and are tied for third place in the Northwest Division with the surging Calgary Flames. Colorado and Calgary only trail the Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks by one point for the Northwest Division lead.


* Colorado rookie defenseman Jeff Finger quickly has acclimated to the NHL and is coming of age as a stay-at-home backliner. Finger has the third-highest plus-minus rating on the club with a plus-10 and has played 20 minutes or more in seven games this season.

* Anaheim defenseman Scott Niedermayer is not easing back into his role as a top defenseman. Sunday, Niedermayer played 23:52 in Anaheim’s 2-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks. Tuesday the All-Star defenseman played 21:57 in the Ducks’ 2-0 victory against the Sharks.

* Ducks forward Samuel Pahlsson is a deceiving minus-3; Anaheim’s top defensive center logs major minutes and faces the best players in the League every night.


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