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Sens, 'Canes clash in Carolina

by Adam Schwartz

The last two Eastern Conference champions meet tonight at the RBC Center in Raleigh, when Daniel Alfredsson and the Ottawa Senators pay a visit to Cam Ward's Carolina Hurricanes
Wednesday night will be another busy one in the NHL, with seven games scheduled.

Four 7 p.m. starts include the New York Islanders facing the Buffalo Sabres, the New York Rangers against the Washington Capitals, the Boston Bruins facing off against the Atlanta Thrashers and the Columbus Blue Jackets playing host to the Colorado Avalanche.

Later, the Ottawa Senators take on the Carolina Hurricanes and the Los Angeles Kings travel to Chicago.

The late game features the Vancouver Canucks and the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center.

Here’s what to look for:

* The Senators and Hurricanes game features two Eastern Conference division leaders -- Carolina in the Southeast and Ottawa in the Northeast. The Senators have a four-point edge for the top spot in the East over the Bruins, Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils.

* It appeared that Ottawa goalie Ray Emery had lost his starting job to Martin Gerber early in the season, but after the Senators’ recent six-game losing streak Emery has once again become the club’s “go-to guy” in net. He has started the last three games and recorded wins against the Dallas Stars Friday and the Florida Panthers last Wednesday.

* The Islanders have 30 points and are in last place in the Atlantic Division. Yet, they are still just five points behind the division-leading Devils. The Islanders have played two fewer games than every other team in the division, excluding the Philadelphia Flyers.

* Buffalo has scored 10 goals in its last three games. The only problem is seven of those goals came in a 7-1 victory in San Jose Saturday. The Sabres were defeated by Boston, 4-1, Monday and the Kings, 8-2, Thursday.

* Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (1.94 GAA) is one of only two goalies in the League, Chris Osgood (1.75 GAA) is the other, to have a goals-against average under 2.00. Lundqvist has played in 27 of the Rangers’ 30 games this season and is a major reason why the club has allowed the second-fewest number of goals in the League.

* Recently acquired Bruins goalie Alex Auld has been spectacular in his first two contests for Boston, allowing two goals on 71 shots. He recorded a 2-1 victory against Buffalo on Monday and a 2-1 triumph against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.

* Atlanta goalie Kari Lehtonen has won two his last three starts, but he has allowed nine goals during that span, including six Saturday against Washington. Lehtonen and Johan Hedberg have alternated starts since the Helsinki native returned from his injury Dec. 1.

* Thrashers star forward Ilya Kovalchuk leads the League in goals with 23 and is on pace to score 65.

* Colorado Paul Stastny has seven points in his last three games, including a five-point effort in the Avalanche’s 9-5 victory Sunday against the St. Louis Blues. But the super sophomore wasn’t Colorado’s leading scoring in that contest. Forward Milan Hejduk tallied six points (three goals, three assists). Hejduk has 14 points during a seven-game point-scoring streak.

* Columbus forward Michael Peca is plus-3 in his last six games. During that span, Peca played more than 20 minutes in every game except one. He was on the ice for a season-high 25:11 against Dallas on Dec. 3.

* Los Angeles forward Dustin Brown has 14 points (six goals and eight assists) during a nine-game point-scoring streak. The Kings second-year sensation, Anze Kopitar, is averaging a little more than a point per game. The 20-year-old has 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists) in 30 games.

* The Ducks are two points behind the first-place Stars and the San Jose Sharks in the Pacific Division. With a win, Anaheim would move into a three-way tie with the idle division leaders.

* Canucks star goalie Roberto Luongo is out of the lineup with a rib contusion. He could not play in Monday’s 4-2 loss to the Kings. Curtis Sanford is expected to start in net again.

* Chicago’s Patrick Kane is first in rookie scoring with 28 points and has a seven-point lead over teammate Jonathan Toews.

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