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West's best meet in Detroit

by Adam Schwartz
The San Jose Sharks, who set the record for best 30-game start in NHL history, visit the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings (7:30 p.m. ET, GameCenter Live) in one of nine games on tonight's schedule.

With 53 points (25-3-3), the Sharks have a nine-point lead on the Red Wings, who lead the Central Division. The last time the teams met, the Sharks won 4-2 in San Jose on Oct. 30.

In another key matchup, the Flyers visit Montreal (7 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS) in a rematch of their second-round playoff matchup from last season.

Four other 7 p.m. starts feature an Original Six game between the Bruins and Maple Leafs; the Washington Capitals going for their fifth consecutive win when they play the Blues; the Hurricanes hosting the Panthers; and the Thrashers beginning a three-game homestand when they face the Penguins.

Later, the Colorado Avalanche make a rare trip to Tampa Bay; the Stars go for their third win in four games against the Blue Jackets; and the Predators play for the first time in five days when they go against the Coyotes.

Here's what to keep an eye out for in tonight's games:

* Toronto goalie Vesa Toskala, who has faced 733 shots, the most in the Northeast Division, has won his last three games and has not yielded more than two goals in his last four games. Toskala, who has not lost in regulation in the three games in which he has faced at least 35 shots, has given up more than one even-strength goal in just three of his last nine games.

* Washington left wing Alex Ovechkin, who has 3 assists and 4 points in two career games against the Blues, has three multiple-point games in his last four. Ovechkin, who is the only player in the Southeast Division with 100 hits, leads the League with 76 missed shots.

* Despite not having a single player with at least 20 points, the Panthers are two points out of an Eastern Conference playoff spot. Florida, which is one of just three teams yet to reach 75 goals, has allowed just 81 goals, the fewest in the Southeast Division.

* Atlanta defenseman Ron Hainsey, who leads the team's defensemen with 18 points, has 9 power-play points. Hainsey, who signed a five-year contract with the Thrashers this summer, has a team-worst minus-11 rating.

* Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov, who has 24 points, is one of just two defensemen in the League to lead his team in scoring, and he also leads Eastern Conference defensemen with 15 even-strength points. Markov, who is on pace for a career-high 65-point season, leads the team with an average ice time of 24:30 per game.

* Colorado left wing Wojtek Wolski, who has scored on all five shootout attempts he's had this season, has 2 goals in his last three games. Wolski, who had 2 goals in the Avalanche's first game against the Lightning this season, has the second-best shooting percentage on the team at 14.3 percent.

* San Jose defenseman Rob Blake is second among Sharks and Pacific Division defensemen with 22 points. Blake, who had just 31 points in 71 games with the Kings last season, is tied for second on the team with 45 blocked shots.

* Stars left wing Loui Eriksson, who had both goals Tuesday in Dallas' 2-1 overtime victory against Phoenix, leads the team with 14 goals. Eriksson, who averaged just 14:01 of ice time per game last season, is averaging 19:38 this season.

* Phoenix defenseman Ed Jovanovski, who had 51 points in 81 games last season, is tied for the lead among Coyotes defensemen this season with 15 points. Jovanovski, who has four 40-point seasons to his credit, has a Pacific Division-worst minus-12 rating.

* Bruins right wing Phil Kessel, who is tied for third in the League with 19 goals, has 12 goals and 22 points during his current 15-game point-scoring streak. Kessel, who had a career-high 37 points in 82 games last season, already has 31 points in 30 games this season while playing on a line with Marc Savard and Milan Lucic.

* St. Louis right wing Brad Boyes, who is tied for the second-most goals in the Central Division with 16, has 4 goals in his last seven games. Boyes, who had a career-high 43 goals last season, is on pace for 43 again this season.

* The Hurricanes, who are second in the Southeast Division with 33 points, are 8-8-4 when outshooting their opponent, but 6-4-1 when being outshot. Carolina, which has the League's third-fewest penalty minutes with 346, has the 26th-best penalty kill in the League, at 79.4 percent.

* Pittsburgh right wing Ruslan Fedotenko, who had 33 points in 67 games for the Islanders last season, has 15 points in just 28 games this season. Fedotenko, who has 12 assists and 21 points in 39 career games against the Thrashers, has 6 points in his last four games.

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