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cnotes
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Cnotes Saturday's NHL Best Bets !

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On 10/29/2011 03:49 PM in NHL
Preview: Sharks (4-3) at Islanders (3-4)

Date: October 29, 2011 7:00 PM EDT

While many would have surely loved to have seen the New York Islanders' Evgeni Nabokov take on his former team, a lower-body injury is likely to keep the former San Jose Sharks goaltender out of Saturday night's matchup at Nassau Coliseum.

Nabokov spent the first 10 NHL seasons of his career with the Sharks (5-3-0) - helping them reach the playoffs nine times.

Despite a 1-2-0 record, the 36-year-old veteran has impressed in four games this season, posting a 2.23 goals-against average. He was especially sharp Thursday, turning away 30 of 32 shots in a 3-2 shootout loss at Pittsburgh - the fourth straight defeat for the Islanders (3-4-1).

Nabokov, though, sustained a minor lower-body injury in the first period. While he was able to play through the pain in regulation and overtime, he was removed prior to the shootout.

"I think maybe during the third period, there was a situation, we were talking about (changing goalies), but Nabby wanted to battle and stay in there so, a total team guy, he wanted to do it for his teammates," coach Jack Capuano told the team's official website.

With Nabokov hurt, Capuano turned to oft-injured Rick DiPietro - who hadn't played this season until that point. He suffered a concussion in practice Oct. 12 and was on the bench for the first time Thursday.

He stopped two of Pittsburgh's three shootout attempts, becoming just the fifth goalie to enter a game having not played during regulation or overtime since the NHL instituted the shootout in 2005.

"One thing this whole plague of injuries has taught me is 'enjoy each day and each chance you get to lace them up,'" DiPietro said. "You never know, chances to get a slap shot to head, you never know if something bad is going to happen to you. I'm happy to be a part of (this team) and contribute any way I can."

The Islanders announced Saturday morning DiPietro would start rather than Al Montoya, who's 2-1-0 with a 1.35 GAA at home this season. DiPietro has gone 1-2-0 with a 3.36 GAA in three career meetings with the Sharks, whom he hasn't faced since 2008.

San Jose, which lost three of its first four games, is 4-0-0 on its six-game road trip. Forwards Patrick Marleau and Ryane Clowe both scored, captain Joe Thornton tallied two goals and Antti Niemi made 30 saves during Friday's 4-2 victory over Detroit.

"They really started to pinch a lot as a team and we were fortunate enough to get the puck in behind them and away we went," coach Todd McLellan said.

Niemi, who has started every game on the Sharks' current trek, has gone 15-4-2 with a 2.15 GAA over his last 21 regular-season starts dating to last season.

The Sharks have controlled this series, posting a 9-2-0 record with one tie over their last 12 meetings with the Islanders.

Thornton, who has notched seven goals and nine assists in his last 13 visits to Long Island, has three and five, respectively, during a five-game point streak.

San Jose has been able to consistently score on this road trip despite struggling on the power play. The Sharks are 1 for 11 with the man advantage in the four road victories, finally clicking on Clowe's tally in the second period.

While the Islanders, who have been outscored 13-5 during their 0-3-1 skid, continue to falter, they've killed all but three of their opponents' 32 power-play opportunities.




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10/29/2011 03:51 PM
Preview: Hurricanes (4-3) at Flyers (5-4)

Date: October 29, 2011 7:00 PM EDT

Despite trading Jeff Carter and former captain Mike Richards in the offseason to clear space for goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov's massive contract, the Philadelphia Flyers are again among the NHL leaders in scoring.

Bryzgalov, though, doesn't feel like he's giving his new club much of a return on its investment.

Losers of four of five, the Flyers will try to win their sixth straight at home over the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night when these clubs meet for the first of three times over the next 24 days.

In two surprising moves, Philadelphia dealt Carter to Columbus and Richards to Los Angeles in June. The two combined for 59 goals and 73 assists last season as the Flyers ranked third in scoring with 3.12 goals per game.

Even without the duo, Philadelphia (5-4-1) is averaging 3.6 goals - second to Washington - with Claude Giroux (six goals), Danny Briere (four) and James van Riemsdyk (four) getting off to nice starts.

Bryzgalov hasn't, going 0-4-1 with a 4.62 goals-against average in his last five appearances after giving up four goals on 10 shots as Sergei Bobrovsky's replacement in Thursday's 9-8 loss to Winnipeg.

It's not the start the former Phoenix Coyote, or the Flyers, had in mind when he signed a nine-year, $51 million deal.

"I have zero confidence in myself right now,' Bryzgalov said. "I am terrible. (The offense) scores eight goals and we are still losing. It's obviously a terrible goalie and that's me.

"I am the reason we lost the game tonight. I am lost in the woods right now.'

While there's obviously room for Bryzgalov to improve, the rest of the Flyers are going to have to pick up the defensive slack with captain Chris Pronger likely sidelined for at least a couple weeks with an eye injury suffered in Monday's 4-2 win over Toronto.

Philadelphia has allowed three power-play goals in 10 chances since he was hurt and only gone 1 for 9 with the man advantage in that span.

"I don't think it's right to blame one guy,' Briere said Thursday. "... We were all responsible for goals here and there.'

The Flyers, though, should enter this contest will plenty of confidence - they've won seven of nine at home in this matchup and 14 of 17 overall between these clubs.

The Hurricanes (4-3-3), who host the Flyers on Nov. 14 before returning to Philadelphia a week later, are looking to build off Friday's 3-0 victory over Chicago.

Tim Brent, Brandon Sutter and Jiri Tlusty found the back of the net and Cam Ward made 30 saves for his 17th career shutout - and first this season - to help Carolina snap a three-game skid.

"We really wanted to right the ship tonight and play a very solid 60 minutes and get things going,' Ward said. "Once again, we showed the way that we are capable of playing. It's a matter of doing that on a consistent basis.'

If Ward doesn't get the start, former Flyer Brian Boucher will be in net for the third time this season.

Boucher went 18-10-4 with a 2.42 GAA for Philadelphia in 2010-11 while splitting time with Bobrovsky,

Hurricanes captain Eric Staal should be available after getting hit in the face with a stick Friday and spending the last five minutes of the first period in the dressing room.

Staal, who has been held to one goal in the last eight games, had just one assist in four matchups with the Flyers last season.




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10/29/2011 03:52 PM
Preview: Jets (3-5) at Lightning (4-4)

Date: October 29, 2011 7:00 PM EDT

The Tampa Bay Lightning are about to get their first look at the Winnipeg Jets since the franchise moved from Atlanta. They probably hope that other than the obvious city and sweater swap, little else has changed about their Southeast Division rivals.

The Lightning look to extend the NHL's longest current winning streak by one team over another when they host the Jets on Saturday night.

Tampa Bay (4-4-2) has outscored the Winnipeg franchise 43-21 in taking 11 straight meetings. The Lightning can match the franchise's longest win streak over a single opponent, which came against Pittsburgh between 2003-07, on Saturday.

The Jets franchise record for consecutive losses to one team is 14, set versus the Penguins from 2000-02 and Philadelphia between 2005-09.

Steven Stamkos has carried Tampa Bay offensively during the winning streak, tallying 13 goals and seven assists. Vincent Lecavalier had four goals and three assists in last season's six-game sweep.

Stamkos had two goals against Nashville on Thursday, giving him six in seven games, but the Lightning lost 5-3 as their three-game win streak came to an end.

Mathieu Garon struggled, stopping 12 of the 17 shots he faced in 32:10. He was replaced by Dwayne Roloson, who turned aside all 10 shots he saw.

"I've got to make some saves,' said Garon, who had a 1.33 goals-against average during the three-game run. "If I make a couple of more saves, it's a different game. I've got to be better than that.'

It is uncertain who will be in net Saturday, but neither goalie has had any trouble beating the Jets franchise.

Garon, in his first season with Tampa Bay, has posted a 0.80 goals-against average and three shutouts in winning his five career starts against the Winnipeg franchise.

Roloson recorded a 1.44 GAA in winning his two starts against the Thrashers last season, and is 9-0-1 with one tie and a 2.70 GAA in his career versus the franchise. He was expected to be Tampa Bay's No. 1 goaltender this season, but was relegated to a backup role after going 1-2-1 with a 5.11 GAA in his first four starts.

Winnipeg (3-5-1) opened a season-high seven-game road trip with a wild 9-8 victory over Philadelphia on Thursday. The Jets tied the franchise mark for goals in a game set Nov. 12, 2005, against Carolina - a welcome offensive outburst for a team that has managed one goal four times this season.

Andrew Ladd recorded the winner with 1:06 remaining in the third period, becoming ninth Winnipeg player to score against the Flyers.

"We have some things to feel good about,' coach Claude Noel said. "The nine goals and the win, but you can't play this way.'

The defense obviously must improve, as the Jets have yielded at least four goals in six of the nine games.

Ondrej Pavelec allowed seven goals on 43 shots and was forced to re-enter the game after his backup, Chris Mason, left with an apparent groin injury in the third period. Mason, whose status is uncertain, stopped four of five shots.

Pavelec has been shaky with a 4.19 GAA. He earned the Winnipeg franchise's last win over the Lightning on Oct. 3, 2009, but has been in goal for seven losses in the series since, posting a 2.87 GAA.




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10/29/2011 03:54 PM
Preview: Panthers (4-4) at Sabres (6-3)

Date: October 29, 2011 7:00 PM EDT

The Buffalo Sabres' Ryan Miller hasn't won since shutting out the Florida Panthers last week.

After getting a day off, it seems likely he'll be back in goal Saturday night as Buffalo seeks a fourth straight victory over the Panthers.

Miller has surrendered six goals on 48 shots in losing two games since making 22 saves in a 3-0 win over Florida on Oct. 20. He has been in net for the last three meetings with the Panthers, posting a 1.30 goals-against average in winning each.

The 2010 Vezina Trophy winner has gone 11-4-0 with a 2.21 GAA and two shutouts in his last 15 starts in the series, and the Sabres are 12-5-0 in their last 17 meetings with Florida.

Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff rested Miller for the second time this season Thursday and backup Jhonas Enroth came up with a strong performance, stopping 41 shots in a 4-2 victory.

Jason Pominville had two goals and an assist for the Sabres, who finally got their power play on track.

Buffalo (6-3-0) scored on two of three power-play chances, getting goals from with Pominville and Brad Boyes, after the team had gone 1 of 17 with the man advantage in its previous six games.

"We went out early yesterday with the coaching staff and talked about it and figured stuff out,' said Boyes, who has recorded a goal and an assist in each of the last two games. "All five guys on the power play have to be cohesive, and we did that.'

They'll try to replicate it against a Florida team that killed off both penalties in a 4-3 loss to Ottawa on Thursday. The club surrendered at least one power-play goal in each of its previous five games.

The Panthers (5-4-0) appeared to have a good chance of earning at least a point against the Senators, as Kris Versteeg tied the score at 3 with 47.1 seconds remaining with his team-leading fifth goal. Ottawa's Nick Foligno got the winner with 2.5 seconds left, however, banging in the rebound of Daniel Alfredsson's slap shot.

"There's some lessons to be learned," coach Kevin Dineen said. "At the end of the day it was a sloppy play by us, but I don't see that being a defining moment of our season."

Dineen didn't announce his starting goaltender for the Buffalo game afterward.

Rookie backup Jacob Markstrom made his second straight start Thursday and stopped 34 shots. He made 40 saves in a 2-1 win over Montreal on Monday.

Jose Theodore hasn't played since leaving his start against the New York Islanders last Saturday with a lower-body injury. He stopped 35 shots against the Sabres last week.

Pominville had a goal and two assists in that game, and has three goals and six assists in the last four meetings.

Thomas Vanek, who had three assists Thursday, had a pair of goals in last week's matchup with Florida.




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10/29/2011 03:56 PM
Preview: Bruins (2-6) at Canadiens (3-5)

Date: October 29, 2011 7:00 PM EDT

After stringing together back-to-back wins, the Montreal Canadiens are suddenly playing with renewed confidence.

They know they can't let up, however, especially with a rematch against the Boston Bruins looming.

Two nights after winning in Boston, the Canadiens look to sweep a home-and-home set from their Original Six rivals Saturday night in Montreal.

Montreal (3-5-2) opened the season with just one win in its first eight games - its worst start in 70 years - leading to the firing of assistant coach Perry Pearn on Wednesday. The Canadiens responded hours later with a 5-1 victory over Philadelphia and followed that with Thursday's 2-1 win over Boston.

"Obviously after the start we had to the season, this is great for our confidence," center Tomas Plekanec told the Canadiens' official website. "We have another big game on Saturday.

"We have a lot of work ahead of us, but our effort is much better and our team game is much better. We're on the same page and supporting each other."

Thursday's meeting was the first since a seven-game series in the first round of last season's playoffs that Boston won en route to its sixth Stanley Cup championship.

The Bruins (3-6-0) haven't been nearly as successful against the Canadiens in the regular season, going just 3-7-3 since 2009-10. They've lost the last four regular-season meetings in Montreal.

Boston is also not playing anywhere near a championship level. The Bruins have the fewest points in the Eastern Conference, and their next loss will be their seventh - a point they didn't reach last season until Nov. 20, their 18th game.

"I'll probably get nightmares on how we are playing right now,' coach Claude Julien said. "Our inability to focus for 60 minutes is obvious and apparent.'

Boston's lone goal Thursday came off the stick of Plekanec, who won a first-period faceoff and accidentally knocked it past Carey Price. The Bruins have scored two goals or fewer six times, all losses.

The punchless offense has made things difficult for Tim Thomas, who is 3-4-0 despite a 2.14 goals-against average. He stopped 33 shots Thursday, falling to 2-3-2 with a 3.11 GAA against the Canadiens during the regular season since 2009-10.

Eric Cole was the first to beat Thomas, tying the score at 10:27 of the second period, and Plekanec atoned for his earlier mistake by scoring the winner with 9:14 remaining in the third.

"It's another big two points but at the same time wins don't matter unless you continue winning," Cole said. "We're just going to have to enjoy it (Thursday), get some rest and get ready for a big game on Saturday."

Price finished with 29 saves, and has stopped 50 of 52 shots in winning the last two games. He is 8-2-0 with a 2.43 GAA against the Bruins in the regular season since 2009-10, and has posted a 1.73 GAA in winning the last four in the series in Montreal.

Thursday's meeting featured a second-period fight between Boston's Brad Marchand and Montreal's P.K. Subban, but it doesn't seem like any anger between the two carry will over to the rematch.

"It wasn't Marchand who frustrated me," said Subban, who played with Marchand in juniors. "There was no animosity between us."

That doesn't mean somebody else won't drop their gloves in a rivalry that dates back to 1924.

"Stuff happens in a game like this, when emotions are high,' Marchand said.




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10/29/2011 03:57 PM
Preview: Penguins (6-2) at Maple Leafs (4-2)

Date: October 29, 2011 7:00 PM EDT

Despite a lengthy list of injuries, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Toronto Maple Leafs are playing well.

The Penguins look to win their sixth straight and hand the Maple Leafs their first regulation home loss Saturday night.

Despite a busy start to the season - a league-high 12 games in three weeks - Pittsburgh (8-2-2) has been undeterred by injuries. Evgeni Malkin has missed seven games with discomfort in his knee, Sidney Crosby remains out due to a concussion and Zbynek Michalek is expected to be sidelined at least a few more weeks after breaking a finger last Saturday.

Still, the Penguins won their fifth in a row with a 3-2 shootout victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday. Chris Kunitz and James Neal scored 2:46 apart early in the third period to tie the game, then Malkin recorded the only goal of the shootout.

Malkin improved to 2 for 2 this season in shootouts despite entering the campaign 8 for 30 lifetime.

"He's got great moves in practice that he shows off," coach Dan Bylsma said. "I think it's him having a little more swagger, trying some of the moves he does have. He's done it a couple times this year. Tonight was just outstanding."

While Malkin gets stronger, something that should be helped with the team's schedule lightening considerably over the next two weeks, Neal continues to step up. He has four goals in the last five games and nine this season to tie Toronto's Phil Kessel for the league lead.

The Penguins also haven't missed a beat with their penalty-killing unit despite Michalek's injury. They have killed off their opponents' last 20 power plays and 36 of 37 this season, but continuing that dominance could be tough Saturday. Pittsburgh announced Saturday morning it will be without center Jordan Staal, the team's top penalty killer, due to a lower-body injury.

Staal was in the box during the lone penalty the Penguins failed to kill.

The Maple Leafs (6-2-1) have had to overcome some key injuries as well but have managed to go 4-0-1 at the Air Canada Centre, joining Washington as the only Eastern Conference teams yet to lose at home in regulation.

Offseason acquisition Tim Connolly made his season debut Thursday after sitting out with an upper body injury while Tyler Bozak returned after a two-game absence with a sore foot. Goaltender James Reimer has missed the last two games and was placed on injured reserve with whiplash after being forced out of last Saturday's win at Montreal.

Bozak had an assist while Connolly joined Kessel's line in a 4-2 win over the New York Rangers on Thursday in the finale of a four-game road trip.

"We're evolving as a team and learning to play together," coach Ron Wilson said. "Considering the people that have been missing from our lineup, to be 6-2-1, we're very happy with that."

Jonas Gustavsson started a second straight game Thursday in place of Reimer, who is eligible to returned Sunday. Gustavsson had his best performance of the season with 28 saves, including 15 in the first period.

"The more you play, the more comfortable you get," said Gustavsson, who has made four straight appearances.

He led one of the best defensive efforts of the season for the Leafs, who had given up 14 goals in the previous three games and rank near the bottom of the league with 3.22 allowed per game. Toronto held New York scoreless in three power-play chances after its previous five opponents went 7 for 20.

These teams split four games last season, though Pittsburgh is 3-0-1 in its last four visits to Toronto.

Kessel has five goals and six assists in his last 11 games against the Penguins.


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10/29/2011 03:59 PM
Preview: Devils (2-3) at Stars (5-3)

Date: October 29, 2011 8:00 PM EDT

The Dallas Stars would like to see Loui Eriksson recover his form from their five-game win streak earlier this month.

Eriksson has not been as big a factor over the last three games heading into the Stars' visit from the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night.

Dallas (7-3-0) won five straight from Oct. 10-21 as Eriksson amassed seven points with a plus-seven rating. The Stars have a shootout win and two losses since, and the winger has one assist and is at minus-3 in that span.

Dallas had its perfect home start end in Thursday's 5-3 loss to Los Angeles. Eriksson logged under 18 minutes for the first time in nine games, and was minus-2 with one assist.

The Stars rallied from a two-goal deficit in the third period as Michael Ryder and Eric Nystrom scored, but fell behind for good with 6:52 remaining.

"I'm OK with our effort right now," coach Glen Gulutzan told the Stars' official website. "We had a chance to win there with 10 minutes left in the third and you always want to put yourself in that position. We battled back in the third, showed some character, but in the end, another seeing-eye single that goes through and found its way to the back of the net."

Kari Lehtonen made 24 saves in his first loss after opening 7-0-0 with a 1.54 goals-against average.

New Jersey (4-3-1) is finishing a four-game road trip after losing two of three, falling 5-3 at Phoenix on Thursday. Johan Hedberg faced a season-high 42 shots.

"That wasn't our best effort, obviously," defenseman Andy Greene said. "We started off slow and we had spurts of good moment there, but not enough to sustain a forecheck for long enough.'

Mark Fayne scored to give the Devils a 2-1 lead in the second period before the Coyotes answered with the next four goals.

"We were chasing from behind the whole game,' coach Peter DeBoer said. "We had a little bit of a pushback, but for the most part you're chasing from behind the whole night. That's not a good spot to be in.'

Top scorer Patrik Elias has his point streak snapped at six games while Ilya Kovalchuk has gone two straight games without a point.

Lehtonen and Hedberg were teammates with Atlanta from 2006-09. They faced each other for the first time since those days when Hedberg made 19 saves in a 1-0 victory for the Devils in Dallas on Feb. 22.

The Stars had won four straight home meetings with the Devils before that defeat. The Devils earned a measure of revenge after Dallas won 4-3 in the 2010-11 season opener at New Jersey on Eriksson's goal in overtime.

The Stars will honor current general manager Joe Nieuwendyk before the contest for being named to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Nieuwendyk won Stanley Cups with Dallas in 1999 and New Jersey in 2003 along with the 1989 title with Calgary.




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10/29/2011 04:01 PM
Preview: Ducks (4-3) at Predators (4-4)

Date: October 29, 2011 8:00 PM EDT

Pekka Rinne has a chance to provide Nashville Predators fans with a special memory Saturday night.

He certainly helped do that the last time he faced the Anaheim Ducks.

Rinne will try for his 100th regular-season victory when the Predators and visiting Ducks meet for the first time since last season's playoffs.

Nashville won a postseason series for the first time by beating Anaheim in six games. Rinne, a Vezina Trophy finalist, posted a lackluster 3.29 goals-against average in the series, although his 25-save performance helped the Predators register a 4-2 victory in Game 6 at home.

Rinne is 6-2-2 with a 2.15 GAA in eight career regular-season starts against Anaheim. This will likely be his only chance to reach the 100-win milestone at home since the Predators (4-4-1) have a five-game trip after this contest.

"It's a big one for us," Rinne said. "Saturday is our next challenge."

Nashville won for the first time in four home games, 5-3 over Tampa Bay on Thursday. Rinne, who has started all nine games, made 29 saves.

Mike Fisher scored two goals and added an assist in his second game since returning after missing the first seven due to offseason shoulder surgery. Fisher had six points in the Anaheim series.

"It definitely feels good," Fisher said. "I've been out for a long time, but fortunately I have been able to skate a lot and get my legs going. I've been the recipient of some great plays too and that helps a lot."

The Predators knocked out the Ducks despite Anaheim's top line of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan combining for 18 points in the series. Teemu Selanne added six goals for the Ducks.

Selanne is off to a strong start with nine points, and he assisted on all three goals in a 3-2 win at Minnesota on Thursday. The veteran has six points over his last three games.

Anaheim (5-3-1) ended a three-game slide that followed a four-game win streak.

"We've started every season the last couple pretty slow. Come February or March where you're battling for the playoffs, when you get these points this early it's not such a battle," Getzlaf said.

Getzlaf and Perry scored on the power play for Anaheim, which went 4 for 35 with the man advantage over its first eight games.

"We scored. That's improving," Perry said.

Jonas Hiller missed the playoffs last season due to vertigo-like symptoms, but he's back healthy now and has gone 1-3-0 with a 3.60 GAA in five starts at Nashville.

The Predators are hoping Sergei Kostitsyn and Martin Erat will be available.

Kostitsyn was hit by Tampa Bay's Brett Connolly on Thursday and went into the corner boards awkwardly with his left leg twisting as he fell. He did not return to the game, but coach Barry Trotz was optimistic that the winger would be available Saturday.

Erat could return after missing the last eight games with an upper-body injury. His 2011 postseason ended early when he was knocked out of Game 4 by former Anaheim winger Jarkko Ruutu.




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10/29/2011 04:03 PM
Preview: Red Wings (4-3) at Wild (1-3)

Date: October 29, 2011 8:00 PM EDT

An inability to score continues to plague the Minnesota Wild.

Picking up the pace against the Detroit Red Wings could prove difficult given their history in this series.

The Wild try to avoid a fifth consecutive loss to the Red Wings when the teams begin a home-and-home set Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center.

Despite acquiring plenty of offensive firepower in four-time 40-goal scorer Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi in separate trades from San Jose during the offseason, Minnesota (3-3-3) hasn't been able to generate many scoring opportunities. Its averages of 25.3 shots on goal and 2.00 goals both rank near the bottom of the league.

"People are talking about us not having goal scorers, not being able to score goals," rookie coach Mike Yeo said. "I believe that we have guys that are capable of scoring goals, it's just we have to kinda change the way that we go about trying to (do so)."

Defenseman Jared Spurgeon and center Matt Cullen, who leads the team with four goals, both scored on the power play but Niklas Backstrom turned away just 13 of 16 shots in Thursday's 3-2 loss to Anaheim.

While Yeo knows that implementing new schemes will take time, he wants the Wild to become more aggressive on offense.

"We get in prime scoring areas and we wait and wait and wait and think there are better opportunities," he said.

"Go on NHL.com, look at the way goals are scored - across the board - every game it's the same thing. At least four out of the five goals in every game - if not five out of the five - it's you get a puck into the area around the blue paint and you have numbers there. We just have to become better at that."

Yeo would also surely love to see captain Mikko Koivu get going. Koivu has just four assists in nine games - the longest season-opening goal-scoring drought of his career.

"You have to create the chances. You can't be satisfied that you're getting chances, either. Obviously goals are the things that matter," said Koivu, who has one goal and four assists in 11 career home games versus Detroit (5-3-0).

The Red Wings have dominated this series, posting a 28-6-4 record all-time with three ties. They've gone 6-0-1 over the last seven meetings, outscoring the Wild 26-13 and killing 26 of their 28 power-play opportunities.

Detroit opened with five consecutive wins but has since dropped three in a row while getting outscored 15-4. Forwards Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom both scored while left wing Pavel Datsyuk and defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom each added two assists during Friday's 4-2 loss to San Jose.

"It was a good game. Sometimes you can fool yourself in these games though. The opposition gets you prepared for these games. You don't have to get yourself prepared," coach Mike Babcock said. "But being a pro is getting prepared every night so you have energy to play every night. So that's a challenge for us (Saturday at Minnesota)."

Back in goal after missing Tuesday's 4-1 loss to Columbus due to the birth of his son, Jimmy Howard stopped 26 of 29 shots en route to suffering his first loss of the season.

Howard has gone 7-0-1 with a 1.93 goals-against average versus Minnesota since the start of the 2009-10 season. He made 12 saves in a 3-2 overtime win in St. Paul on Oct. 15.

Backstrom is 1-4-3 with a 3.24 GAA in 10 career games - eight starts - against Detroit.




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10/29/2011 04:04 PM
Preview: Blue Jackets (1-8) at Blackhawks (4-2)

Date: October 29, 2011 8:30 PM EDT

The Chicago Blackhawks suffered their first loss in regulation since opening night the last time they took the ice, but returning home could help them get back to their winning ways.

A matchup with the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets also doesn't hurt their chances.

Chicago looks to extend its best home start in three seasons Saturday night when it faces a Blue Jackets team that hasn't won a road game in more than seven months.

Trying to build on a 5-0-2 surge since a 2-1 loss at Dallas on Oct. 7, Chicago fell 3-0 at Carolina on Friday to begin a stretch of five games in eight days.

It was the first time the Blackhawks (5-2-2) were shut out this season.

"We got dominated in all areas of the game. We weren't very good tonight," coach Joel Quenneville said. "They were a more determined team, and it was clear from the outset. ... I didn't like how we played."

Chicago, though, has scored 17 times while posting a 3-0-2 record on home ice. It's the team's best start at the United Center since opening 6-0-4 in 2008-09.

The Blue Jackets (1-8-1), who make their first of three visits to Chicago this season, have been outscored 21-11 in five road games in 2011-12 and are 0-8-2 away from home since a 5-4 overtime victory over Minnesota on March 19.

Two days after ending the franchise's worst start with a 4-1 victory over Detroit, Columbus lost 4-2 at Buffalo on Thursday.

The Blue Jackets had a season-high 43 shots - the third-most in a loss in team history.

"We can't buy a break," former Blackhawk James Wisniewski said following his second game back since an eight-game suspension. "If we cut down the number of mistakes we are going to win more than we lose."

Improving their special teams play could make that happen. The Blue Jackets are converting 9.8 percent (5 for 51) on the power play after going 0 for 6 against the Sabres.

That is also an area of concern for the Blackhawks, who are 2 for 19 in their last six games.

Chicago has killed 26 of 28 penalties this season after the Hurricanes failed in five chances Friday against Corey Crawford, who finished with 30 saves.

"He was great," Quenneville said. "He kept us in a 1-0 game. We were right there."

Crawford went 1-2-0 with a 3.28 goals-against average versus the Blue Jackets last season as Chicago won four of six.

Columbus' Steve Mason was 2-2-0 with a 4.12 GAA in this matchup in 2010-11, winning both of his starts at the United Center.

He is 4-0-1 with a 2.53 GAA in his last five starts in Chicago.

Chicago's Patrick Sharp had his five-game point streak snapped Friday and now gets to face a Blue Jackets team he has dominated over the past few seasons. The veteran forward, tied with Patrick Kane with a team-high eight points, has 13 goals and eight assists during a 14-game point streak against Columbus.




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