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Six games to take you into the weekend

by Adam Schwartz / NHL.com

The rivalry continues tonight in Detroit when the Central Division-leading Red Wings host the Colorado Avalanche, who
are 0-2 against them this season, at Joe Louis Arena.
There are six games in the NHL on Friday night to kick off an exciting weekend.

Four early games feature the New York Rangers visiting the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center, the Atlanta Thrashers hosting the Buffalo Sabres, the Vancouver Canucks continuing their Eastern road trip when they visit the Florida Panthers, and the Colorado Avalanche playing their long-time rival the Detroit Red Wings.

Later, the Anaheim Ducks face off against the St. Louis Blues, and the Dallas Stars take on the Edmonton Oilers.

Here’s what to watch:

* The Rangers have won three of their last four games and are just three points behind the Devils, but New Jersey has three games in hand.

* Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who played guitar in a band in his hometown of Frolunda, Sweden, is 2-1 in his last three games and only yielded even-strength goals in one of the three games.

* The Devils have a 0-2-2 record against the Rangers this year and have not beaten the Rangers since Feb. 22, 2007.

Langenbrunner

* Devils right wing Jamie Langenbrunner plays a good two-way game against the Rangers. The Cloquet, Minn., native, whose favorite non-hockey team is the Minnesota Vikings, has a plus-17 rating in 37 career games against the Blueshirts.

* Sabres forward Tim Connolly, who was drafted No. 5 overall by the New York Islanders in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, is scoring at a pace which would see him finish the season with a career-high 56 points. But, he has been out since Jan. 8

* Buffalo left wing Thomas Vanek, who has nine goals and five assists for 14 points in 11 career games against the Thrashers, has two goals and five assists for seven points in his last six games and has a plus-6 rating during that span.

* Thrashers defenseman Garnet Exelby, whose coach with the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL was Atlanta’s associate coach Brad McCrimmon, leads the team with 114 hits.

* Atlanta goalie Kari Lehtonen, who was selected No. 2 overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, snapped his four-game winless streak Wednesday with a 4-1 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

* Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo and defensemen Lukas Krajicek will play their first game in Florida against the Panthers since being traded by them June 23, 2006 for Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen and Alex Auld. Allen is the lone player in the deal still playing for the Panthers, although Florida was able to deal Bertuzzi to the Red Wings for promising prospect Shawn Matthias.

* Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler, who was picked No. 91 overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, leads rookies with a plus-15 rating.

Horton

* Florida right wing Nathan Horton, whose favorite player growing up was Marty McSorley, leads the Panthers with 26 assists.

* Panthers captain Olli Jokinen, who leads the team with 24 goals, is fifth in the League with 75 missed shots, but is fourth in the League with 213 shots on goal.

* The Avalanche have scored the second-most goals in the Northwest Division with 144 and sit just three points behind the first-place Minnesota Wild.

* Colorado defenseman Brett Clark is second in the NHL with 131 blocked shots. The 6-foot, 195-pound blueliner has played at least 20 minutes in all but three games this season.

* After a rare two-game losing streak, the Red Wings have reeled off five-straight wins. The winning streak has extended Detroit’s lead atop the Western Conference to 17 points ahead of the second-place San Jose Sharks.

* Detroit right wing Daniel Cleary, who idolized Gary Roberts growing up, trails only superstars Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk among Red Wings forwards with a plus-22 rating.

* Ducks defenseman Chris Pronger, who is the only player to have played in the two previous Stanley Cup Final series, has the fourth-highest average of ice time in the League with 26:54 per game.

* No Blues defenseman has more than 85 hits, but 6-3, 215-pound center David Backes has 105.

* Recently acquired Ducks right wing Brandon Bochenski has two goals and two assists for four points in 10 games with Anaheim while seeing more than 15 minutes of ice time just once during that span.

* Stars captain Brenden Morrow, whose parents own a sporting goods store in Saskatchewan, leads the team with eight power-play goals.

* Edmonton defenseman Steve Staios, who has been the subject of trade rumors around the League, has the most giveaways among players in the Northwest Division with 52.

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