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Sens host Thrashers; Stars look to regain form

by Adam Schwartz / NHL.com
The Ottawa Senators look to begin their climb out of the Northeast Division basement when they host the Atlanta Thrashers (7 p.m. ET, TSN) while the Dallas Stars look to regain the form which saw them advance to the Western Conference Finals last season when they battle the Edmonton Oilers (9:30 ET, TSN) Wednesday night.

Three other games Wednesday see the top two teams in the Atlantic Division clashing when the Pittsburgh Penguins visit the New York Rangers, the Minnesota Wild play the St. Louis Blues in their seventh home game in a stretch that has them playing eight of nine at the Xcel Energy Center, and the Chicago Blackhawks return home to play the Anaheim Ducks after being sent out on their annual road trip when the circus comes to the United Center.   

Here's what to watch:

* Atlanta left wing Ilya Kovalchuk, who has just 2 goals in his last nine games, has been moved to a line with Marty Reasoner and Chris Thorburn, who have combined for 11 points this season. Kovalchuk -- a four-time 40-goal scorer -- has 21 points in 23 games.

* Ottawa left wing Dany Heatley, who has 12 goals, five more goals than any teammate, is averaging the most ice time among Ottawa forwards at 21:30 per game. Heatley, who has a plus-93 rating in his last three seasons, has a minus-1 rating in 22 games this season.

* The Rangers, who are tied for the Eastern Conference lead with the Bruins with 36 points, have won more shootouts than any team in the League, with six. The Rangers, who have played two more games than any team in the conference, were shut out for the first time this season Sunday when Florida Panthers goalie Craig Anderson made 37 saves in a 4-0 win.

* Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, who leads the League with 29 assists and 39 points, has 5 assists and 8 points in his last three games. Malkin, who had an assist in Pittsburgh's other game against the Rangers this season, is on pace to record the first 100-assist season in the NHL since Wayne Gretzky had 122 assists in 1991. 

* St. Louis left wing Brad Boyes, who became the first Blue to score 40 goals in a season since 2000-01 by scoring 43 last season, leads the team with 12 goals. Boyes, who has a Western Conference-worst minus-14 rating, has 4 goals in his last five games.

* Wild captain Mikko Koivu, who won a silver medal with Finland at the 2006 Olympics, has had back-to-back three-point games. Koivu had 2 goals and an assist in the Wild's 6-2 defeat of the Nashville Predators on Saturday and had a goal and 2 assists in Minnesota's 6-5 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Monday.

* Anaheim right wing Teemu Selanne, who holds the franchise record with 338 goals, leads the team with 13 goals in 26 games this season. Selanne, who has played in 10 NHL All-Star Games, has scored just one even-strength goal this season.

 
* Chicago right wing Patrick Sharp, who set career-highs of 36 goals and 62 points last season, leads the team with 13 goals and is second on the team with 22 points, putting him on pace for new career-bests of 48 goals and 82 points.

* Blackhawks right wing Kris Versteeg, who the Blackhawks acquired from the Bruins for Brandon Bochenski, leads NHL rookies with 20 points. Versteeg, who had 8 points in a five-game scoring streak Nov. 14-22, has no points in his last three games.

* Stars left wing Loui Eriksson, who had 14 goals in 69 games last season, leads Dallas with 12 goals in just 24 games this season. Eriksson, who had a goal and an assist in seven career games against the Oilers coming into this season, had an assist against the Oilers the first time the two teams clashed this season and has 8 points in his current six-game point-scoring streak.

* Edmonton right wing Ales Hemsky, who leads the team with 17 assists, has 11 power-play assists, which is as many assists as any Oiler has in all situations. Hemsky, who has a minus-28 rating in his last four seasons, has an even rating in 23 games this season.

* The Oilers, who are tied for last place in the Western Conference with 22 points, have scored 11 first-period goals, the fewest in the League. Edmonton, which won 15 games in a shootout last season, has won just one game in a shootout this season.   

Contact Adam Schwartz at aschwartz@nhl.com.
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