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Struggling Sharks, Flyers face each other

by Adam Schwartz

Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov will try to backstop the
skidding San Jose Sharks to a win over the Flyers
tonight at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia.
All six divisions are in action Thursday night as the NHL general managers decide what they need at the trading deadline.

Thursday’s schedule starts at 7 p.m. when the Tampa Bay Lightning face the New York Islanders, the San Jose Sharks make a rare visit to Philadelphia and the Atlanta Thrashers play the Carolina Hurricanes in a Southeast Division match.

A half-hour later, the Toronto Maple Leafs renew their rivalry with the Buffalo Sabres, the Montreal Canadiens host the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Columbus Blue Jackets travel to Ottawa and the Boston Bruins face off against the Florida Panthers.

Later, the Vancouver Canucks square off against the Nashville Predators and the St. Louis Blue battle the Los Angeles Kings.

Here’s what to watch:

* Tampa Bay center Vincent Lecavalier, who has just one goal in his last eight games, has 15 goals and 16 assists for 31 points and a minus-7 rating in 33 career games against the Islanders.

* The Islanders, who have won their last five games, including three straight at home, have just as many home wins (16) as any other team in the Eastern Conference that isn’t in the Atlantic Division.

* San Jose, which is in the midst of an eight-game road trip, has lost its last five games and has fallen to third in the Pacific Division and is nine points behind the division-leading Dallas Stars. The road trip has seen the Sharks lose to the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers and Islanders.

* Philadelphia Flyers right wing Mike Knuble, who has a pet leopard gecko named Flames, has the third-most power-play goals in the League with 14.

* Atlanta goalie Johan Hedberg, who has played more games this season than he has in his previous three, has 13 wins in 27 games. Hedberg’s counterpart, Kari Lehtonen, who has played 33 games, also has 13 wins.

* The Hurricanes are tied with the Panthers and Flyers for the most players on injured reserve with six. Carolina’s sidelined players include vital components such as center Rod Brind’Amour, center Chad Larose and right wing Justin Williams.

* Buffalo center Paul Gaustad, who prefers his chicken wings medium, is third among Northeast forwards and leads the Sabres with 138 hits.

* Toronto forward Nik Antropov has scored a career-high 21 goals this season and has tied his career high with 45 points. Antropov, who is 6-foot-6, 230 pounds, has four points in his last five contests.

* It appears the Penguins can survive without star center Sidney Crosby. Pittsburgh is 8-4-2 since Crosby was put on the IR with an ankle injury. The Penguins are just two points out of first place in the Eastern Conference.

* Canadiens right wing Alex Kovalev, who has been a minus player in his last four seasons, leads the Habs with a plus-12 rating this season.

* Columbus right wing Nikolai Zherdev is the only Blue Jacket to have more than 30 giveaways. The Blue Jackets have allowed the second fewest goals against in the Central Division – behind the League-leading Detroit Red Wings.

* The Ottawa Senators, who are in a three-way tie with the Devils and Canadiens for the Eastern Conference lead with 75 points, have four players who have scored at least 20 goals this season. Ottawa is the only team in the League with more than 200 goals scored with 204.

* Despite playing a defensive role and playing against the opposition’s most offensively gifted players, Boston left wing P.J. Axelsson leads the club with a plus-10 rating.

* Florida left wing David Booth, who missed eight games with a knee injury, is third among Panthers with 18 goals. Booth, whose favorite food is ribs, has scored four goals and added five assists for nine points in his last nine games.

* Predators right wing Alexander Radulov, who leads the team with 24 goals, has three goals and five assists for eight points in his last six games.

* The Canucks have a pedestrian 13-14-2 record against Western Conference teams outside the Northwest Division. However, Vancouver has a 12-5-4 record against divisional opponents and holds the final playoff position in the conference with 68 points.

* Vancouver left wing Alex Burrows, who was a fan of former Montreal forward Mats Naslund, has three goals and one assist for four points in his last six games while skating more than 18 minutes in just one game during that span.

* Since being recalled from the Peoria Rivermen of the AHL, St. Louis center Yan Stastny has a plus-3 rating in three games and scored the lone Blues goal Feb. 16 in his Blues debut in a 2-1 loss to the Predators.

* Kings rookie defenseman Jack Johnson, who was selected No. 3 overall by the Hurricanes in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, has a plus-2 rating in his last six games while playing at least 20 minutes per game during that span.


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