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Sharks ready to put Red Wings loss behind them

by Adam Schwartz
The San Jose Sharks had a four-game win streak snapped with Wednesday's loss to the Red Wings, which saw their lead atop the Western Conference drop to just three points. They'll have a chance to open a bit more distance tonight when they visit the Ottawa Senators (7:30 p.m. ET, RDS), in one of 10 games tonight.

Other early games feature the Ducks continuing their road trip against the Bruins; Martin Brodeur making his long-awaited return to the net for the Devils, who face the Avalanche; the Maple Leafs clashing with the Islanders as both teams play for the second time in two days; the Panthers visiting the struggling Rangers in coach John Tortorella's home debut; the Capitals hosting the Thrashers in a Southeast Division battle; and the Hurricanes taking on the Sabres.

Later, the Coyotes are in Nashville; the Stars continue their six-game homestand when they face the Blues; and the Blue Jackets try to solidify their Western Conference playoff spot in a matchup with the Oilers.

Here's what to watch:

* Anaheim right wing Bobby Ryan, who is tied for the team lead with 21 goals despite averaging just 14:38 of ice time per game, has 3 goals and 4 points in his last five games while playing more than 14 minutes in just one game during that span. Ryan, who had 11 goals and 16 points in 14 games in January, has 4 goals and 5 points in 10 February games.

* Devils defenseman Colin White, who leads the team's defensemen with a plus-18 rating and 96 hits, has a minus-5 rating in his last three games. White, who is partnered with Bryce Salvador and is known as a defensive defenseman, has 3 assists and 4 points in 8 career games against the Avalanche.

* Florida defenseman Karlis Skrastins is one of five Florida defensemen to average more than 20 minutes a game, but he's played less than 20 minutes in four of his last five games. Skrastins, who didn't miss a game from the 2000-01 season through the 2005-06 season, is second among Florida defensemen with a plus-8 rating.

* The Capitals, who lead the Southeast Division by 13 points, have the best power play in the division at 23.8 percent. Washington, which is 24-3-3 going into the first intermission with the lead and 26-3-1 when heading into the third period with a lead, is just 3-13-0 when trailing heading into the third.

* Carolina left wing Ray Whitney, who has had seven 60-point seasons, has 6 assists and 7 points in his last five games.

* Senators center Jason Spezza, who has had at least 50 assists and 85 points the three previous seasons, but with just 27 assists and 49 points in 59 games this season, he's on pace for 37 assists and 68 points.

* Phoenix center Peter Mueller, who had 22 goals last season, has no goals and just 2 assists in his last seven games. Mueller, who averages 3:35 of power-play ice time per game, hasn't had a power-play point since Jan. 15.

* Stars defenseman Matt Niskanen, who leads Dallas defensemen with 25 points, has no goals and just 1 assist in his last seven games. Niskanen, who had 12 assists and 16 points in 43 games before the All-Star break, has 9 assists in 14 games since.

* Columbus defenseman Mike Commodore, who leads the team with 150 hits, has a minus-6 rating in his last five games. Commodore, who has a plus-24 rating in 29 Blue Jackets wins and minus-17 in 31 losses, has a minus-3 in eight career games against the Oilers, including a minus-2 in the last meeting.

* Oilers left wing Ales Hemsky, who generally plays alongside Shawn Horcoff and Dustin Penner, has 9 goals and 16 points in 16 games since returning from a concussion, which sidelined him for 10 games.

* Boston right wing Byron Bitz, who had an assist Jan. 10 in his first NHL game, scored 2 of his 3 goals this season Tuesday in the Bruins' 6-1 win against the Panthers. Bitz, who averages just 10:44 of ice time per game as an energy forward, hasn't taken a penalty in his last eight games.

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