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Wild can get back into first place tonight

by Adam Schwartz /
Jacques Lemaire and the Minnesota Wild look to reclaim first place in the Northwest Division on Tuesday night when they face the Pittsburgh Penguins (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS) in one of six games on the NHL's docket Tuesday night.

The two other 7 p.m. games feature the Montreal Canadiens traveling to Carolina (7 p.m. ET, TSN) and the Edmonton Oilers playing their 14th road game of the season against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Later, the Tampa Bay Lightning renew their Sunshine State rivalry with the Florida Panthers, the Chicago Blackhawks look to avoid losing their fourth game in a row when they play the Phoenix Coyotes, and the streaking Colorado Avalanche take on the Calgary Flames.

Here's what to watch:

* Minnesota center Eric Belanger, who averages 18:25 of ice time per game, has 3 assists and 4 points in his last four games. Belanger, whose favorite food is sushi, has just two penalty minutes in 15 games this season.

* Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik, who has a plus-8 rating in his last six games, is second in the League with 66 hits. Orpik, who averages the second-most ice time among Penguins defensemen at 21:39 per game, has played less than 19 minutes in three of his last five games.

* Montreal right wing Alex Kovalev, who has taken the second-most shots on the team with 46, has no points in his last four games. Kovalev, who had 84 points last season and just 47 in 2006-07, is on pace to score 62 points this season.

* Hurricanes left wing Sergei Samsonov, who signed a three-year contract with Carolina this past summer after scoring 32 points in 38 games with the Hurricanes last season, has just 3 assists and a minus-10 rating in 18 games this season. Samsonov has a minus-5 rating in his last four games.

* Edmonton right wing Ales Hemsky, who has 5 more points than any Oiler with 17, has 11 assists and 18 points in 18 career games against the Blue Jackets, including 1 goal in Edmonton's lone previous game against Columbus this season. Hemsky, who has at least 40 assists in his last three seasons, has 9 of his 12 assists on the road.

* Blue Jackets center Derick Brassard, drafted sixth in the 2006 Entry Draft, leads rookies with 17 points in 17 games this season. Brassard, who had 51 points in 42 games for the Syracuse Crunch, Columbus' American Hockey League affiliate, last season, has points in eight of his last nine games and has 11 points during that span.

* Florida defenseman Keith Ballard, who was traded to the Panthers from the Coyotes along with fellow defenseman Nick Boynton for Olli Jokinen in June, has no points in his last six games after recording 10 points in his first 10 games this season. Ballard, who scored in his first NHL game, has seen his average ice time jump from 21:15 last season to 24:47 this season.

* Lightning left wing Vaclav Prospal, who plays alongside Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, leads the team with 15 takeaways. Prospal, who has scored at least 20 goals four times in his career, has just 3 goals in his first 17 games this season.

* Chicago right wing Patrick Sharp, who had a career-high 62 points last season, leads the team with 9 goals this season. Sharp, who has 10 points and a plus-5 rating in the Blackhawks' seven wins, has a minus-5 rating in Chicago's nine losses.       

* Coyotes center Martin Hanzal, drafted No. 17 in the 2005 Entry Draft, has 6 of his 8 assists at home this season. Hanzal, who had 35 points in 72 games last season, has 9 points in 16 games this season, putting him on pace to score 46 points this season.

* Colorado, which doesn't have a player averaging at least a point per game, is one of just two teams in the League without an overtime loss. The Avalanche, who have won just two of the seven games in which they have outshot their opponent, have the worst power play in the Northwest Division, with a 15.7-percent success rate.

* Flames left wing Rene Bourque, who was traded to Calgary from Chicago for a second-round draft pick this past summer, leads the team with a plus-2 rating. Bourque, who averages just 15:17 of ice time per game, has 9 points in just 18 games this season.  That puts him on pace for 41 points, which would eclipse his career high of 34.

Contact Adam Schwartz at
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