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Southeast remains wide open

by Adam Schwartz

Paul Martin and the New Jersey Devils host Todd White and the Atlanta Thrashers toinght at the Prudential Center in Newark.
Three of the five NHL games Friday night are divisional matchups in what promises to be an action-packed night.

Two early games feature the Atlanta Thrashers facing off against the New Jersey Devils and the Washington Capitals visiting the Florida Panthers.

Later, the Columbus Blue Jackets travel to Detroit to face the Western Conference-leading Red Wings, the Dallas Stars play their second game in two nights when they face the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings host the Calgary Flames.

Here’s what to keep an eye out for:

* Atlanta defenseman Tobias Enstrom, who was selected in the eighth round, No. 239 overall, in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, averages the most ice time among rookies at 24:01 per game.

* The Thrashers have an impressive 12-7-1 divisional record, but are just 13-16-3 against the rest of the Eastern Conference.


* Devils left wing Jay Pandolfo, who is best known for his defensive play, has two goals and two assists in five games since returning to the lineup Feb. 4 against Pittsburgh from a pelvic bone injury.

* Devils right wing Brian Gionta broke a career-high 13-game goal drought Wednesday night when he scored the game-winner in New Jersey’s 3-2 triumph against the Eastern Conference-leading Ottawa Senators.

* Washington center Nicklas Backstrom, who has five assists in his last five contests, has four assists but a minus-3 rating in five games against the Panthers this season.

* Capitals left wing Alexander Ovechkin, who leads the League with 48 goals, also leads the NHL with 141 missed shots. Ovechkin has spearheaded Washington’s turnaround, which has found them in a fight for the Southeast Division crown.

* The Panthers, who are in the thick of the Southeast Division race, have allowed the fewest goals in the division with 168. Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester is the only Florida player with more than 30 giveaways.

* Florida right wing Nathan Horton, who was drafted No. 3 overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, has five goals and three assists for eight points in his last seven contests. Horton, who is scoring at a career-high pace, is tied for the club lead with a plus-10 rating.


* Columbus left wing Rick Nash has two goals and three assists for five points and a minus-1 rating in three games against the Red Wings this season.

* Blue Jackets defenseman Ron Hainsey, who has the most points among Columbus blueliners with 26, has played at least 23 minutes in four of his last five games. The 26-year-old defenseman has a plus-1 rating, which is a gigantic improvement compared to his minus-19 mark last season.

* Only the San Jose Sharks have given up fewer first-period goals than the Blue Jackets. Columbus, which has allowed 55 second-period goals and 54 third-period goals, has yielded just 37 first-period goals this season.

* The Red Wings have lost four straight games but still hold a 12-point lead in the Presidents’ Trophy race.

* Despite Detroit’s dominance of the schedule this season, the Red Wings have a 7-8-2 divisional record.

* The Stars had their seven-game win streak snapped Thursday, but remain four points ahead of Anaheim for the top spot in the Pacific Division.

* Dallas forwards Brenden Morrow (24), Mike Ribeiro (23) and Niklas Hagman (20) have at least 20 goals this season.


* Anaheim right wing Teemu Selanne scored his first goal since returning to the Ducks on Feb. 5 on Tuesday in a 2-1 victory against the Colorado Avalanche.

* After Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf’s season-high 15-game point-scoring streak, the 6-foot-3, 221-pound pivot has just three assists in his last nine games and hasn’t scored a goal since Jan. 20.

* Where would the Flames be without Jarome Iginla? Calgary’s captain leads the team in goals (35), assists (34), points (69), power-play goals (12) and plus-minus rating (plus-20).

* Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf, who is averaging the highest ice time among Flames players at 26:36 per game, has the most hits in the Northwest Division with 156 – 38 hits more than any Calgary player.

* The Kings, who are mired in last place in the Pacific Division with 51 points, have scored the second-most goals in the division, with 167. Los Angeles’ defense, however, is the only team in the Western Conference to have allowed at least 190 goals.

* Los Angeles center Anze Kopitar, who leads the team with 54 points, has five goals and five assists for 10 points, but has a minus-5 rating in seven career games against Calgary.

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