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Sharks could put bite on Pacific

by Adam Schwartz / NHL.com

The Flyers look to win their first game against the Devils since their 4-0 shutout victory on Oct. 18.
With eight divisional matches taking place Friday night, there is bound to be plenty of entertaining hockey.

At 7 p.m. the Philadelphia Flyers take on the slumping New Jersey Devils, the Atlanta Thrashers travel to Carolina and the Nashville Predators begin a three-game road trip in Columbus.

Later, the Buffalo Sabres host the Montreal Canadiens, the St. Louis Blues renew their rivalry with the Detroit Red Wings, the Vancouver Canucks battle the Minnesota Wild, the Colorado Avalanche conclude their three-game homestand against the Edmonton Oilers and the red-hot San Jose Sharks face the Anaheim Ducks, with a chance to clinch the Pacific Division on the line.

Here's what to watch:

* The Flyers, who have lost five straight games to the Devils, have stayed afloat in the Eastern Conference playoff race thanks to its current overall four-game winning streak. The Flyers, who have the second-best power play in the League with a 22.3-percent success rate, are tied with the Boston Bruins with 88 points, which is just two ahead of the ninth-place Washington Capitals. The Flyers play four of their final five games against teams that currently have at least 90 points.

* After being placed alongside New Jersey's defensive-minded duo of forwards John Madden and Jay Pandolfo on March 1, Devils right wing Brian Gionta has scored just two even-strength goals in his last 12 games. Gionta, who scored a franchise record 48 goals in the 2005-06 season, has just 21 this season.

* Atlanta defenseman Niclas Havelid, who leads Atlanta defensemen with a minus-3 rating, leads the Southeast Division with 177 blocked shots. Havelid, who runs a community program called Havelid's Helpers, is just one of four Atlanta players to average at least 20 minutes of ice time, with an average of 20:34.

* The Hurricanes, who have six players on injured reserve, including major components Rod Brind'Amour, Matt Cullen and Ray Whitney, are just two points ahead of the Capitals for the Southeast Division lead. Carolina, which suffered a 3-2 defeat to Washington on Thursday night, plays the Capitals once more this season, April 1 in Washington.

* Nashville, which is just 16-17-4 away from the Sommet Center, has the best penalty kill in the Central Division, with an 84.9-percent success rate.

Norrena
* Since Columbus goalie Pascal Leclaire was sidelined with a head injury, Fredrik Norrena is 3-3, but Wednesday night he shut out the Chicago Blackhawks, 4-0, and March 18 he blanked the Calgary Flames, 3-0, at Nationwide Arena.

* Montreal left wing Andrei Kostitsyn, who is one of three Canadiens with at least 25 goals, has four goals and one assist for five points and a plus-5 rating in his last three games.

* The Sabres, who have lost two of their last three games, have fallen five points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

* St. Louis right wing Brad Boyes has just one goal in his last six games. Boyes, who leads the team with 38 goals, has scored 12 more goals this season than he has in either of his other two seasons in the League.

* Detroit center Pavel Datsyuk, who has at least one point in 60 of the 77 games he has played this season, has 10 goals and nine assists for 19 points in his last 14 games.

* Vancouver goalie Curtis Sanford, who will start Friday for the Canucks while Roberto Luongo is with his wife in Florida for the birth of their child, has not recorded a decision since Jan. 11, when the Canucks lost to the Phoenix Coyotes. Sanford, in his first season with the Canucks, has lost his last three decisions after winning four of his first five.

Rolston
* Wild right wing Brian Rolston is one goal shy of his fourth 30-goal season.

* Edmonton left wing Dustin Penner, who leads the team with 22 goals, has three goals in his last five games. Penner also leads the team with 12 power-play goals and 191 shots on goal.

* The Avalanche, who have a 17-10-1 divisional record, are just four points ahead of the ninth-place Predators in the Western Conference playoff race.

* The Sharks have a 15-0-2 record in their last 17 games and have not lost a game in regulation since Feb. 20.

* Anaheim right wing Teemu Selanne, who has had five 90-point seasons, has 44 goals and 42 assists for 86 points and a plus-19 rating in 62 career games against the Sharks.   



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