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Stars shooting for return to playoff field

by Adam Schwartz
The Stars will try to jump back into a Western Conference playoff spot Wednesday when they face the Flames (9 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, TSN, RIS), who have seen their once seemingly insurmountable Northwest Division lead dwindle to just three points ahead of the second-place Canucks.

Three other games Wednesday see the Hurricanes try to jump into seventh place when they face the Devils, who are trying to pull to within four points of the Bruins for first place in the Eastern Conference; the Blackhawks try to regain sole possession of fourth place in the Western Conference when they face the Blue Jackets, who are trying to cement their first playoff spot in franchise history; and the Predators try to move ahead of the Oilers for seventh place in the West when they battle the Ducks, who are seeing their playoff chances dwindle.

Here's what to watch:

* New Jersey left wing Patrik Elias' assist on Brian Gionta's second-period goal gave him 702 points, breaking a tie with John MacLean to become the Devils' all-time leading scorer. Elias, who has 5 goals and 10 points in his last nine games, leads New Jersey with 46 assists. Elias has 15 goals and 32 points in 34 career games against the Hurricanes, including a goal and an assist in their previous meeting.

* Hurricanes right wing Ray Whitney has 5 goals and 12 points in his last seven games. Whitney, who had 24 assists and a minus-11 rating in 48 games prior to the All-Star break, has 16 assists and a plus-6 rating in 23 games since then.

* Chicago defenseman Cam Barker has 8 assists and 9 points in his last nine games. Barker, who averages 3:28 of power-play ice time, is second on the team with 28 power-play points. 

* Blue Jackets defenseman Fedor Tyutin, who leads Columbus defensemen with 32 points, has a plus-6 rating in his last five games, including a plus-4 rating March 7 in Columbus' 8-2 win against the Red Wings. Tyutin, who has career-highs of 24 assists and 32 points this season, is averaging 23:28 of ice time after averaging just 20:26 with the Rangers last season.

* Dallas center Mike Modano, who has scored at least 20 goals in 11 of his 12 previous seasons, has 15 goals this season and just 1 goal in his last 24 games. Modano has 24 goals and 60 points in 66 career games against the Flames, but has no points in two games against Calgary this season.

* Center Craig Conroy, who is one of five players to play in all 69 Flames games this season, has his first 40-point season since 2003-04. Conroy is second on the team with a plus-17 rating.

* Nashville center David Legwand, who is one of just two Predators with at least 20 goals, leads Predators forwards with an average ice time of 19:17 per game. Legwand, who played one game with Nashville in the club's inaugural season of 1998-99 and stuck with them the next season, has 6 goals and 10 points in his last 10 games.

* Predators right wing Joel Ward never was drafted and didn't make the NHL full-time until this season, at age 28. He had 8 assists and 13 points in his first 43 games this season, but has 7 assists and 14 points in 24 games since then.

* Anaheim defenseman Scott Niedermayer, who is one of just two Ducks to play in all 69 Anaheim games this season, is second among Pacific Division defensemen and tied for seventh among the League's defensemen with 45 points. Niedermayer, who was a minus player in just two of his first 15 NHL seasons, has a minus-13 rating this season.

* Ducks right wing Bobby Ryan, who leads the team with 23 goals, has 12 third-period goals. He averages just 14:57 of ice time per game, has played more than 17 minutes in three of his last four games.

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