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Zherdev returning to Columbus

by Adam Schwartz / NHL.com
New York Rangers center Nikolai Zherdev, who played 4 seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets before being traded to the Rangers this summer, returns to Columbus on Friday, which highlights a 6-game schedule.

In addition to Zherdev's return, the Anaheim Ducks square off against the Ottawa Senators (7 p.m. ET, RIS) in a rematch of the 2007 Stanley Cup Final, the Philadelphia Flyers take a short trip up the New Jersey Turnpike to face the New Jersey Devils, the San Jose Sharks visit the Florida Panthers and the Detroit Red Wings host the Atlanta Thrashers. Also, the St. Louis Blues look to rebound after losing just their second game of the season when they take on the Los Angeles Kings, who will play just their second road game of the season.

Here's what to watch:

* Anaheim left wing Rob Niedermayer, who plays primarily a checking role for the Ducks, is tied for the team lead with 4 points. Niedermayer, whose brother Scott is the Norris Trophy-winning captain of the Ducks, hasn't had more than 16 points in a season since 2005-06.

* Senators center Jason Spezza, who was split from left wing Dany Heatley on Wednesday in Ottawa's 3-1 loss to the Panthers, is tied for the team lead with 8 points. Spezza, who didn't score a goal in his first 7 games last season, has 3 goals in his first 6 games this season.

* Flyers rookie Luca Sbisa, who has played at least 20 minutes in 2 games this season, got his first NHL point Wednesday when he assisted on Scottie Upshall's power-play goal in the first period of Philadelphia's 7-6 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks. Sbisa, picked No. 19 in the 2008 Entry Draft, has a minus-6 rating in 6 games. He has to prove to the Flyers' brass that he is worth keeping before he plays his 10th game, otherwise he has to be sent back to the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League because he is ineligible to play in the American Hockey League.

* Rangers center Brandon Dubinsky, who had 3 goals and 7 points in his first 5 games of the season, has points in just 1 of his past 4 games. Dubinsky, who centered a line with Jaromir Jagr last season, now plays alongside first-season Rangers Nikolai Zherdev and Aaron Voros.

* Columbus left wing Kristian Huselius, who was a healthy scratch for the Calgary Flames in the playoffs last season, leads the team with 4 assists and 7 points through 6 games. Huselius, who averaged 17:41 of ice time for the Flames last season, is averaging 20:11 per game this season with Columbus.

* Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov, who speaks 5 languages, is tied for the League lead with 5 wins. Nabokov has yielded at least 4 goals in each of his last 3 games, after not allowing more than 2 goals in his first 3 games of the season.

* Detroit defenseman Brian Rafalski, who won 2 Stanley Cups with the Devils before winning another with the Red Wings last season, is fourth among NHL defensemen and first among Red Wings players with 7 points. Rafalski, who was eighth among the League's defensemen last season with 55 points, has a career plus-128 rating and has never been a minus player over a full season.

 
 
* Los Angeles rookie right wing Wayne Simmonds, who played for gold medal-winning Team Canada at last year's World Junior Championship, has 2 points in 5 games while averaging just 11:39 of ice time. Simmonds, a defensive forward, is playing alongside center Michal Handzus, who is in his 10th season in the NHL.

* St. Louis left wing Paul Kariya, who captained the Anaheim Ducks from 1996 to 2003, leads the Central Division with 9 assists and 10 points. Kariya starred for the University of Maine where he got an athletic scholarship like his 2 brothers, Steven and Martin.

* Thrashers defenseman Ron Hainsey, who was signed by Atlanta as a free agent this summer, is tied for second among Southeast Division defensemen with 5 points in 6 games. Hainsey, who had 3 assists and 4 points in his first 3 games this season, has just 1 assist in his last 3 games.

* Florida defenseman Keith Ballard, who was packaged with Nick Boynton in a trade that sent Olli Jokinen to Phoenix, leads the club's defensemen and is tied for second on the team with 5 points. Ballard averaged an impressive 21:15 of ice time with the Coyotes last season, but is averaging an astounding 25:13 of ice time for the Panthers this season.


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