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Southeast battle tops busy night

by Adam Schwartz /
Get your remote ready because there are 22 NHL teams in action Thursday night, highlighted by a battle between the top 2 teams in the Southeast Division, the Washington Capitals and the Carolina Hurricanes.

At 7 p.m. ET, the Boston Bruins host the Toronto Maple Leafs in an Original Six match, the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers play the Tampa Bay Lightning, the New York Islanders visit the Atlanta Thrashers and the Edmonton Oilers play their second game in 2 nights when they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Later, the Philadelphia Flyers play the Ottawa Senators (7:30 p.m. ET, RDS), the Colorado Avalanche host the Minnesota Wild in a Northwest Division showdown, the Nashville Predators play the Calgary Flames, the Vancouver Canucks continue their 6-game homestand against the Phoenix Coyotes, the Florida Panthers play the third game in their 5-game road trip against the Los Angeles Kings, and the St. Louis Blues face the Western Conference-leading San Jose Sharks.

Here's what to watch:

* Toronto left wing Niklas Hagman, who is tied for the team lead with 10 points, has 3 assists and 5 points in his last 3 games. Hagman, who was signed as a free agent by the Leafs this summer, is on pace for a career-high 63 points; Hagman's previous high was 41 points last season.

* The Sharks, who have a League-best 22 points, have won all 9 games they have led going into the second period. San Jose, which has taken the most shots in the League with 484, has allowed the fewest goals in the Pacific Division with 29.

* Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi, who leads the club's blueliners with 10 points, averages less ice time than fellow Rangers defensemen Wade Redden and Michal Rozsival. Girardi, who is in the midst of a 3-game point streak, leads the team with 41 hits.

* Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty, the second pick of the 2008 Entry Draft, has 1 goal and a plus-5 rating in 11 games. Doughty, who had 50 points in 58 games for the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League last season, is averaging the second-most ice time among Kings players with 21:44 per game.

* Carolina center Rod Brind'Amour, who hasn't been a minus player since the 2002-03 season, has a minus-10 rating in 12 games this season. Brind'Amour, who leads the League with 170 faceoff wins, is tied for second in the League with a 63.2-percent faceoff-winning percentage.

* Canucks defenseman Mattias Ohlund, who has played the fifth-most games in franchise history with 701, leads the team with 22 blocked shots. Ohlund, who averages 20:39 of ice time per game, has played less than 20 minutes in 3 of his last 4 games.

* Nashville right wing Martin Erat, who is 1 of 3 Predators with at least 10 points, has 11 assists and 15 points in 20 career games against the Flames. Erat has never had more than 57 points in a season, but is on pace for 68 points this season.

* Thrashers left wing Slava Kozlov, who plays with rookie Bryan Little and Todd White, is tied with Little for the team lead with 6 goals. Kozlov, 36, played in the 1995 Stanley Cup Final with Detroit Red Wings -- when Little was just 8.

* Pittsburgh defenseman Rob Scuderi, who lists Denis Potvin as his hockey idol, leads the team with 35 blocked shots. Scuderi, who averaged 18:44 of ice time per game last season, is averaging 21:04 this season due to long-term injuries to defensemen Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney.

* Flyers left wing Simon Gagne, who missed 57 games last season with a concussion, is second on the team with 8 goals and is tied for first with 14 points. Gagne, who owns a yellow Lamborghini, has 5 assists and 8 points in his last 3 games.

* Minnesota rookie left wing Benoit Pouliot, selected fourth at the 2005 Entry Draft, leads the team with a plus-5 rating. Pouliot, who had 3 points in 11 games with the Wild last season, has 3 goals and 5 points in 11 games this season, including 2 points in his last 2 games.

* The Coyotes, who haven't made the playoffs since 2002, have 4 rookies on their roster this season, including 3 -- Mikkel Boedker, Kyle Turris and Viktor Tikhonov -- who were drafted in the first round. Kevin Porter, Phoenix's other rookie this season, won the Hobey Baker Trophy last season as the best player in college hockey.

* Calgary captain Jarome Iginla, who was a finalist for the Hart Trophy last season, has 21 goals and 40 points in 33 career games against the Predators. Iginla leads the Flames with 14 points, but also has 14 penalty minutes.  

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