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Stamkos to debut in Montreal

by Adam Schwartz /
Tampa Bay rookie Steven Stamkos' first game in Montreal (7 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS) is one of eight games Thursday night.

Three other early games feature the Flyers and Hurricanes playing for the fourth time in two weeks; the Blue Jackets hosting the Predators; and the Pittsburgh Penguins playing their second game in two nights when they skate against the New York Islanders.

Later, the Panthers are in Edmonton; the Wild try to avoid their fourth loss in five games when they play the Coyotes; the St. Louis Blues continue their California road trip in Los Angeles; and the Anaheim Ducks renew their rivalry with the San Jose Sharks.

Here's what to keep an eye out for:

* Carolina center Eric Staal, who has two 80-point seasons, has just 16 points in 28 games this season, putting him on pace for a career-low 47. Staal was a minus player in his first four NHL seasons, but he's a team-best plus-9 this season.

* Flyers right wing Arron Asham, who averages just 7:16 of ice time per game, is second on the team with 42 hits. A fan of Johnny Cash, Asham has 19 penalty minutes in his last six games and is second on the team with 48.

* Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter, who had 24 assists in 76 games last season, is second among Predators defensemen this season with 13 assists in 28 games. Suter, whose father Bob was a member of the 1980 U.S. men's Olympic team, has been held pointless in five of his last six games.

* The Lightning, whose 20 points are the fewest in the League, have scored 64 goals, the second-fewest goals in the League, and allowed 87, the sixth-most.

* Islanders center Andy Hilbert, who had 8 assists and 16 points in 70 games last season, has 8 assists and 15 points in 28 games this season. Hilbert, who averaged 13:28 of ice time last season, is averaging 15:53 this season.

* Florida defenseman Jay Bouwmeester leads the Eastern Conference with an average ice time of 27:49 per game. Bouwmeester, who has 4 goals and 8 points in his last seven games, is tied for the Southeast Division lead among defenseman with 16 points.      

* Coyotes center Martin Hanzal, who has 10 of his 18 points at home, has 6 goals in his last five games, including a hat trick Dec. 4 against Toronto. Hanzal, who at 6-foot-5 is Phoenix's tallest player, has no points and a minus-3 rating in six career games against the Wild.

* Columbus, which is in last place in the Central Division with 25 points, has a 7-5-1 home record but a 4-8-2 road mark. The Blue Jackets, who have the worst power play in the League at 9.9 percent, have a 1-11-2 record in games which they trailed entering the third period.

* Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov, who has 3 goals and 7 points in his last five games, leads Eastern Conference blueliners with 23 points. Markov, who had 63 penalty minutes last season, has 16 this season, putting him on pace for 48.

* Pittsburgh center Jordan Staal, who played alongside Matt Cooke and Chris Minard on Wednesday in the Penguins' 4-1 loss to the Devils, leads Penguins forwards with an average of 3:22 of shorthanded ice time per game. Staal, who scored just 12 goals in 82 games last season, has 9 goals in 28 games this season, putting him on pace for 26.

* Oilers defenseman Sheldon Souray, who is known for having one of the NHL's hardest shots, is third among the League's defensemen with 84 shots on net. Souray, who has been held without a shot just once in 25 games this season, has played at least 25 minutes in four of his last five games.

* Los Angeles center Jarrett Stoll, who was traded with Matt Greene from the Oilers for Lubomir Visnovsky this summer, leads the Pacific Division with a 57.3 faceoff winning percentage. Stoll has won 23 power-play faceoffs and lost just nine.

* Ducks left wing Chris Kunitz, who is tied for the team lead with 67 hits, has been returned to playing with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry after coach Randy Carlyle experimented by replacing him with Bobby Ryan. Ryan, who played at least 14 minutes in his first six games this season, hasn't played more than 14 minutes in any of his last five games, and has been playing on a line with George Parros and Samuel Pahlsson.

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