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Wild visit San Jose on busy night of hockey

by Adam Schwartz
The Wild will try to climb back into a Western Conference playoff spot when they visit the Pacific Division-leading Sharks (10:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-CA) in one of nine games Wednesday night.

Also highlighting tonight's slate is Sean Avery's possible return to the NHL as a member of the New York Rangers. Claimed on re-entry waivers on Tuesday, Avery could play in his first NHL game tonight against the Islanders (7 p.m. ET, GCL) since Nov. 30.

Three other 7 p.m. games see the Coyotes begin a five-game road trip in Boston; the Flyers host the Flames; and the Capitals, who hold an 11-point lead in the Southeast Division, try to avoid their third consecutive loss when they face the Maple Leafs.

Later, the Senators host the Oilers; Bill Guerin makes his debut with the Penguins against the Panthers; Columbus continues to try for its first playoff berth in franchise history when they battle Nashville in a Central Division matchup; and the Stars start a three-game California road trip in Los Angeles.

Here's what to keep an eye on:

* Boston defenseman Dennis Wideman, who leads Bruins defensemen with 42 points, is one goal shy of tying his career-high of 13. Wideman, who already has set a career-high with 30 assists this season, has 4 assists and 5 points in seven career games against the Coyotes.

* Rangers captain Chris Drury, who is tied for first on the team with 7 power-play goals, has 6 assists and 7 points in his last six games. Drury, who has a minus-6 rating in 16 games since the All-Star break, has 20 assists and 33 points in 33 career games against the Islanders, including 3 assists in their last meeting.

* Calgary left wing David Moss, who scored his first career hat trick Tuesday in the Flames' 6-3 win against the Senators, is one goal shy of joining Jarome Iginla, Rene Bourque and Michael Cammalleri as Flames with 20 goals. Moss is averaging just 12:58 of ice time per game.

* Capitals goalie Jose Theodore, who has a 3.12 goals-against average in 13 games since the All-Star break, has lost three of his last five games and has allowed four goals in three games during that span, including a four-goal first period Sunday against the Panthers.

* Edmonton, which is in a three-way tie for seventh place in the Western Conference with 68 points, is one of just three teams in the conference with more road wins (16) than home wins (15). The Oilers, who traded for Ales Kotalik and Patrick O'Sullivan on Wednesday, have been outshot in 45 of their 63 games, but lead the conference with 22 wins when being outshot.

* Panthers center Stephen Weiss, who plays on a line with Michael Frolik and Cory Stillman, has 10 more points than any teammate and leads the team with a plus-18 rating. Weiss, who had 2 assists in his last game against the Penguins, had his first three-assist game Tuesday in the Panthers' 4-3 win against the Thrashers.

* Dallas left wing James Neal, who is one of just two rookies with 20 goals, had his fifth multiple-goal game Tuesday in the Stars' 4-1 victory against the Sharks. Neal, who played in the YoungStars Game during All-Star Weekend, has 5 of his 20 goals in 12 games against divisional opponents.

* The Predators, who have the League's longest current winning streak at five games, have scored four goals in each of their last four games prior to scoring no more than two goals in their previous four games. Nashville, which has scored more goals in the third period (56) than either of the other two periods, has the fewest road hits in the Central Division at 576.

* San Jose defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who is paired with Rob Blake, has scored all 5 of his goals at home. Vlasic, who is one of four Sharks defensemen with 20 assists, has 1 point in his last six games. 
* Wild center Mikko Koivu, who has taken the third-most faceoffs in the League with 1,283, has won the third-most faceoffs in the League with 687. Koivu has just 4 assists in 11 career games against the Sharks, but had 2 assists in their last meeting.

* Columbus, which is sixth in the Western Conference with 70 points, is 4-1-1 in their last six home games. The Blue Jackets, who are 20-10-2 at home, are tied for the fewest road wins of any team in a playoff spot in the conference with 12.

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