Sports

 
National Hockey League

 
      ***** National Hockey League Previews from The Sports Network *****
                             Saturday, December 27
                              (All times Eastern)
 
 NEW YORK ISLANDERS (23-11-0) AT BUFFALO SABRES (13-19-3), 7 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The sliding Buffalo Sabres will try to stop the bleeding
 and return to the win column when they host the New York Islanders in
 Saturday's battle at First Niagara Center.
 
 After beginning the season with a 3-13-2 record, the Sabres responded with a
 10-3-0 mark over their next 13 games. However, Buffalo has reverted to its
 losing ways of late, dropping four straight heading into the NHL's Christmas
 break.
 
 Buffalo has yielded 20 goals during its current 0-3-1 skid and last played on
 Tuesday when it dropped a 6-3 decision in Detroit. The Sabres actually held
 several leads in the game, but the Red Wings pumped in five unanswered goals
 to end the contest.
 
 Nicolas Deslauriers, Chris Stewart and Andre Benoit all lit the lamp for
 Buffalo, which led 1-0, 2-1 and 3-1 before Detroit's game-ending surge. Michal
 Neuvirth allowed all six goals on 39 shots in defeat.
 
 The Sabres allowed the Red Wings to score four times on six chances with the
 man advantage.
 
 "You're playing a good team like Detroit," Sabres head coach Ted Nolan said.
 "You have a lead, you take a bad penalty and woke them up. The rest is
 history."
 
 Jhonas Enroth is expected to start in net tonight for the Sabres. He is 0-3
 with a 2.73 goals against average in three career tilts against the Islanders.
 
 New York also is hoping to rebound from a loss on Tuesday, when the Montreal
 Canadiens visited Nassau Coliseum and halted the Isles' four-game winning
 streak.
 
 The Islanders grabbed an early 1-0 lead on Kyle Okposo's tally at 12:04 of the
 first, but that would be New York's only goal of the game. Andrei Markov tied
 the score early in the second and Brendan Gallagher gave Montreal the lead for
 good later in the period.
 
 New York would outshoot the Habs by a 15-9 margin in the third, but the only
 goal of the period came when David Desharnais beat Isles backup goaltender
 Chad Johnson with 1:11 left in regulation.
 
 Johnson made 18 saves for the Isles, who outshot Montreal 38-21.
 
 "Yeah, it's frustrating. That's all I can really say," said Johnson.
 
 Johnson will get the call again tonight since No. 1 goalie Jaroslav Halak was
 placed on injured reserve Saturday with a lower-body injury. Kevin Poulin was
 recalled from the American Hockey League on an emergency basis and will serve
 as the backup tonight.
 
 Former Isles sniper Matt Moulson is expected to return tonight after missing
 the last three games due to illness. Moulson has faced his former club once
 since getting dealt to Buffalo last October, scoring two goals and adding an
 assist for Minnesota in a 6-0 rout at Nassau Coliseum on March 18.
 
 This is the first of three scheduled meetings this season between the Isles
 and Sabres. New York has taken two straight and has earned a point in each of
 the last five meetings, going 3-0-2 against the Sabres during that stretch.
 
 New York, which is 10-7-0 as the visiting team this season, is 5-1-1 in its
 last seven trips to Buffalo. The Sabres are 9-8-2 as the host.
 
 DETROIT RED WINGS (18-8-9) AT OTTAWA SENATORS (14-14-6), 7 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Detroit Red Wings halted a lengthy skid in their
 last game before the NHL's Christmas break, and they hope to add another win
 on Saturday when they visit the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre.
 
 The Red Wings had lost six in a row (0-4-2) before salvaging the finale of a
 four-game homestand in Tuesday's matchup with Buffalo.
 
 Detroit posted a 6-3 win over the Sabres, but it wasn't as easy as the final
 score suggests. Buffalo actually held several leads in the game before the Red
 Wings pumped in five unanswered goals to end the contest.
 
 The six goals on Tuesday matched Detroit's total offensive output from the
 previous six games.
 
 After cutting the deficit to 3-1 late in the second period, the Wings scored
 four times in the third. Detroit also finished 4-for-6 on the power play.
 
 "We are happy our power play is working now," said Tomas Tatar, who posted two
 goals in the comeback victory. "Like I said, just shoot from everywhere, just
 try and eventually the puck will go in."
 
 Henrik Zetterberg and Danny DeKeyser each finished with a goal and assist,
 Stephen Weiss and Johan Franzen also scored and Gustav Nyquist supplied three
 helpers for the Red Wings. Petr Mrazek stopped 13-of-16 shots in the win.
 
 Jimmy Howard, who missed the last two games due to a lower-body injury, is
 expected to be back between the pipes tonight. Detroit's No. 1 netminder is
 4-3-0 with a 3.37 goals against average in seven career games against the
 Senators.
 
 Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall is questionable for tonight after suffering
 an upper-body injury against Buffalo. Stephen Weiss also sustained an upper-
 body injury on Tuesday, but is likely to play tonight.
 
 Ottawa is coming off consecutive regulation losses and those setbacks dropped
 the Sens to 3-3-1 since Dave Cameron took over as head coach for the fired
 Paul MacLean.
 
 The Sens went 0-2 on a brief road trip after losing 2-1 in Washington on
 Monday. Ottawa outshot the Capitals 39-23, but Braden Holtby made 38 stops to
 frustrate the Sens' offense.
 
 Erik Condra had the lone goal for Ottawa, tying the game 1-1 with 4:04 left in
 the second period. However, Nicklas Backstrom scored the game-winner on the
 power play in the final minute of the second stanza.
 
 "We gave ourselves an opportunity to win the game," Cameron said. "We ran into
 a guy who was seeing the puck really well tonight, that's going to happen from
 time to time."
 
 Ottawa received 21 saves from Craig Anderson, who is expected to start
 tonight. Anderson is 4-6-0 with a 2.84 GAA in his career versus Detroit.
 
 The Red Wings and Sens have split a pair of games so far this season, with
 each club winning on home ice. Detroit has claimed three of four and seven of
 the last 10 matchups in this series. Ottawa halted a four-game home losing
 streak against the Red Wings when it notched a 3-1 victory on Nov. 4.
 
 CAROLINA HURRICANES (10-20-4) AT TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (21-11-4), 7 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Tampa Bay Lightning will try to record consecutive
 wins for the first time in nearly a month when they host the Carolina
 Hurricanes on Saturday.
 
 Tampa is 4-5-2 in 11 games since last posting a winning streak with four
 straight victories from Nov. 22-Dec.1. The club was able to head into the
 NHL's Christmas Break on a winning note, however, as the Lightning halted a
 two-game slide Tuesday against visiting Pittsburgh.
 
 Tyler Johnson recorded his second career hat trick to help the Bolts post a
 4-3 win over the Penguins and halt a 10-game skid in the series. The victory
 was Tampa's first against Pittsburgh since another home win on Nov. 17, 2011.
 
 Johnson completed his hat trick at the 2:37 mark of the second period when he
 pushed Tampa's lead to 4-0. The Lightning would have to hold on for the win,
 however, as Pittsburgh scored once in the second and twice more in the third.
 
 The Penguins' third goal came with 1:31 left in regulation, but Pittsburgh was
 unable to beat Andrei Vasilevskiy for the equalizer. Vasilevskiy earned his
 second career win with a 26-save effort.
 
 Nikita Kucherov chipped in the other goal and added two assists for the
 Lightning. Ondrej Palat notched three helpers in the win.
 
 Johnson, who leads Tampa with 37 points, has recorded a point in five straight
 games, notching five goals and three helpers during the scoring surge.
 
 Ben Bishop expects to be back in net for the Lightning tonight after sitting
 out the past four games due to a lower-body injury. Tampa's No. 1 goalie is
 4-0 with a 1.24 goals against average in four career games against Carolina.
 
 The Bolts have won four straight and eight of their past nine meetings with
 the Hurricanes and Carolina has lost two in a row on the road in this matchup.
 
 Carolina also was able to enter the holiday hiatus with a win, beating New
 Jersey on the road in a shootout on Tuesday. Chris Terry scored the lone goal
 of the tiebreaker to give the Hurricanes a 2-1 victory at Prudential Center.
 
 Hurricanes netminder Anton Khudobin also made two big saves to earn his first
 win of the season. He stacked the pads on Mike Cammalleri and kicked aside
 Adam Henrique's offering.
 
 Terry, Carolina's third shooter, followed his goaltender's impressive stops by
 moving the puck from his backhand to his forehand and slipping it under the
 pad of Cory Schneider for the win.
 
 Ron Hainsey scored the game-tying goal in the third period and Khudobin
 finished with 18 saves for the Hurricanes, who snapped a two-game skid and won
 on the road for the first time since Nov. 28.
 
 Khudobin is now 1-8-2 on the season with a 2.71 GAA and .903 save percentage.
 
 "Anton has been very good for us. Good for him to get off the schneid and get
 a win," Carolina head coach Bill Peters said. "The guys played hard in front
 of him."
 
 It's uncertain if Khudobin will be rewarded with another start tonight or
 if regular starter Cam Ward will return to the crease. Ward is 19-15-3 with a
 3.00 GAA in his career against Tampa, while Khudobin 1-1-0 with a 2.34 GAA in
 this matchup.
 
 Hurricanes forward Alexander Semin missed the game with an upper-body injury.
 He had returned to the lineup Sunday against the Rangers after a six-game
 absence before getting hurt again. Semin is questionable for tonight.
 
 Carolina is 4-13-2 as the guest this season and halted a four-game road slide
 with Tuesday's win. Peters' club is ending a three-game swing tonight before
 hosting Montreal on Monday.
 
 NEW JERSEY DEVILS (12-17-7) AT NEW YORK RANGERS (18-10-4), 7 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The New York Rangers hope to pick up where they left off
 before the Christmas break when they host the struggling New Jersey Devils in
 Saturday's Metropolitan Division clash at Madison Square Garden.
 
 The Devils, meanwhile, begin life without head coach Peter DeBoer, who was
 fired from his post on Friday.
 
 New Jersey general manager Lou Lamoriello told the media Saturday that the
 Devils will go forward with a unique coaching situation. Lamoriello said the
 Devils will use both Adam Oates and Scott Stevens behind the bench, with the
 former man handling the forwards and the latter taking charge of the defense,
 
 The Devils did not announce official titles for either Oates or Stevens and
 Lamoriello also said he also will be behind the bench for the time being.
 
 While Lamoriello's plan to replace DeBoer for the rest of the season is
 unorthodox, the decision to let the coach go was hardly surprising. The Devils
 are just 1-4-3 over their last eight games and find themselves nine points out
 of the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
 
 Over four seasons with New Jersey, DeBoer has compiled a 114-93-41 record and
 guided the team to the playoffs during the 2011 season, his first with the
 Devils. DeBoer's best season in New Jersey was his first as he guided the team
 to a 48-28-6 record in 2011-12. The Devils represented the Eastern Conference
 in the Stanley Cup Finals, but lost to the Los Angeles Kings in six games.
 
 DeBoer was able to get the Devils a a point in his final game behind the
 Devils bench, as Jersey dropped a shootout decision Tuesday against visiting
 Carolina.
 
 New Jersey grabbed the early lead on Tuesday when Stephen Gionta gave the
 hosts a 1-0 edge with 6:28 left in the first. The score stayed that way until
 Ron Hainsey evened things for Carolina with 8:01 remaining in the third. Chris
 Terry then scored the lone goal of the shootout to give the Hurricanes a 2-1
 victory and drop the Devils to 1-2-1 on their four-game homestand.
 
 Cory Schneider stopped 32 shots through regulation and overtime, but he took
 the loss after allowing Terry to score in the third round of the shootout.
 
 "We wanted to finish strong before the break," said Devils winger Mike
 Cammalleri. "It's a little disappointing right now for sure."
 
 Cammalleri returned Tuesday from a four-game absence that caused him to miss
 four games, but the Devils played without forwards Patrik Elias, Martin Havlat
 and Jacob Josefson. Elias and Havlat have been sidelined with the mumps, and
 are not available for tonight. Josefson is questionable with a strained groin.
 
 New Jersey will likely go with Schneider as the starter for the 33rd time this
 season. The workhorse is 1-1-1 with a 1.79 GAA against the Rangers in his
 career.
 
 The Devils will try to halt a three-game road losing streak tonight, and are
 just 8-11-2 as the guest this season.
 
 New York earned its seventh consecutive victory and improved to 2-0 on a
 three-game homestand when it downed the Washington Capitals, 4-2, on Tuesday.
 The winning streak is the club's longest since another seven-game run from
 Oct. 31-Nov. 15, 2011 and it's also the longest current tear in the NHL.
 
 Another victory tonight would mark the franchise's longest streak in four
 decades, as the club hasn't won eight in a row since Dec. 27, 1974-Jan. 11,
 1975.
 
 The recent surge has helped push the Rangers into third place in the Metro.
 Tuesday's regulation win over the Capitals forged a tie for the division's
 third and final automatic playoff berth, but New York holds the tiebreaker
 over Washington.
 
 Rick Nash recorded a hat trick on Tuesday, giving him 23 goals on the season,
 but his club had to hold off a late comeback attempt from the Capitals. Only
 Tyler Seguin has more goals (25) than Nash this season.
 
 Nash's second goal of the game made put New York ahead 3-0 at 5:12 of the
 third period, but Evgeny Kuznetsov tallied 41 seconds later for Washington.
 Alex Ovechkin's power-play goal cut the deficit to 3-2 with 9:02 left in the
 third. The score would stay that way until Nash completed the hat trick with a
 power-play tally of his own with 3:48 remaining.
 
 Martin St. Louis added a power-play marker early in the second period for the
 Rangers, who went 2-for-7 on the man advantage.
 
 Derek Brassard had three assists and Mats Zuccarello chipped in two helpers
 for New York. Henrik Lundqvist earned the victory with 30 saves, with 19 of
 those stops coming in the final period.
 
 "The team is playing good, we are winning games, and it's a great feeling in
 here," St. Louis said. "We did a good job of going out there and earning it
 every day. We've taken nothing for granted. We take care of the opponents and
 we play seriously and we've been rewarded with some good plays."
 
 Lundqvist is expected to get the start tonight. The Swedish star boasts a
 31-14-6 record, 1.89 goals against average, .931 save percentage and eight
 shutouts in his career against the Devils.
 
 As a team, New York has won three straight and six of the last nine meetings
 in this series. The Devils have taken two straight in NYC, but the Rangers are
 11-5-3 at home this season after winning their last three at the Garden.
 
 BOSTON BRUINS (18-14-3) AT COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (14-16-3), 7 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Boston Bruins hope to continue building momentum
 when they visit the Columbus Blue Jackets in Saturday's battle at Nationwide
 Arena.
 
 Boston won its last two games prior to the NHL's brief break for Christmas and
 it enters tonight having gained points in five of its last six games.
 
 Tonight's matchup gives Boston an excellent opportunity to post its first
 three-game winning streak since Nov. 15-21. The Bruins have dominated the Blue
 Jackets over the years and have won the last seven meetings in this series.
 
 Columbus, which hasn't defeated the Bruins since Jan. 21, 2010, lost a 4-3
 shootout decision against visiting Boston on Nov. 21. It was the Blue Jackets'
 fourth straight home loss in this matchup.
 
 Boston went 2-0 on its recent homestand and completed the perfect stay at TD
 Garden with Tuesday's 5-3 win over Nashville. Brad Marchand and Loui Eriksson
 each scored twice to lead the Bruins' offense, while Tuukka Rask made 22 saves
 for the win.
 
 David Krejci also lit the lamp for the Bruins, who avenged a 3-2 shootout loss
 in Nashville on Dec. 16.
 
 "It was good, I think it was good to see glimpses of how we know we can play
 and we know it's still in here," said Marchand.
 
 The victory pushed Boston's home record to 11-6-2. The B's are just 7-8-1 on
 the road.
 
 Rask boasts a 4-1-0 record and 1.56 goals against average in his career
 against Columbus and is expected to start again tonight.
 
 The Blue Jackets are hoping to rebound from their first regulation defeat of
 the month when they take the ice Saturday in the fourth part of a five-game
 homestand.
 
 Columbus entered Tuesday's game against Nashville with an 8-0-1 record in
 December, but the hosts fell 5-1 to the Predators. It was the Jackets' second
 loss in three games after beginning the month with seven straight victories.
 
 Jackets netminder Sergei Bobrovsky was blitzed for four goals on 30 shots
 before being pulled in the third period. Curtis McElhinney stopped four of the
 five shots he faced in the game's final 12 minutes.
 
 Alexander Wennberg produced a late tally for the Blue Jackets, who fell to
 7-9-2 as the home team.
 
 "We're disappointed because we hung our goalie out to dry," Jackets winger
 Nick Foligno said. "We let them dictate play. If you allow them to take over
 games, you'll be playing catch-up. That's what happened."
 
 Backup Curtis McElhinney is expected to start tonight over Bobrovsky. He is
 0-2-0 with a 3.04 GAA in two career outings against the Bruins.
 
 There is also a chance winger Scott Hartnell could return from a broken finger
 tonight. Hartnell, who missed the last five games, skated a few times last
 week and is questionable for Saturday. The veteran forward has six goals and
 11 assists in 28 games during his first season with the Jackets.
 
 Columbus will complete its homestand Wednesday against Minnesota before
 beginning January on a four-game road trip.
 
 WINNIPEG JETS (18-10-7) AT MINNESOTA WILD (16-13-3), 7 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Minnesota Wild hope to return to the win column
 Saturday, when the struggling club emerges from the Christmas break to host
 the Winnipeg Jets in the opener of a home-and-home series.
 
 Minnesota made it to the second round of last spring's playoffs and was a
 favorite to return to the postseason in 2014-15. Things have not gone as
 planned, however, and the Wild find themselves six points out of a playoff
 spot in the West.
 
 The Wild also are sitting fifth in the Central Division -- eight points behind
 the fourth-place Jets and just one ahead of Colorado.
 
 Minnesota is currently mired in a four-game losing streak (0-2-2), matching
 the club's 0-4 mark from Nov. 4-11 for its lengthiest skid of the season. The
 Wild haven't dropped five straight since an 0-6 slide from Dec. 19-31 of last
 season.
 
 The usually sting Wild have imploded defensively during their current slide,
 allowing a total of 19 goals over the four setbacks. Minnesota yielded five
 goals in Tuesday's setback to the Philadelphia Flyers, who posted a 5-2 win to
 drop the Wild to 0-1-2 on a four-game homestand.
 
 Marco Scandella and Charlie Coyle scored against the Flyers. Darcy Kuemper
 stopped 25 shots in the setback.
 
 "I think it's a blessing that we have three days off to step away," said Wild
 forward Matt Cooke.
 
 Kuemper was pressed into duty for Niklas Backstrom after the latter netminder
 was a late scratch due to an illness. It's uncertain who will get the call
 in net tonight.
 
 Mike Yeo's club hopes its recent success against the Jets can help it get back
 on track. The Wild posted a 4-3 overtime win over a visiting Winnipeg club on
 Nov. 16, giving Minnesota wins in two straight and five of the last six
 meetings in this series.
 
 The Wild are 6-1-1 with a tie in nine all-time home tests against the
 Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise. The clubs will meet again in Monday's rematch at
 MTS Centre.
 
 Winnipeg finished its pre-break schedule on a four-game point streak (3-0-1)
 and it posted an impressive victory in its final tilt before the hiatus.
 
 The Jets visited Chicago on Tuesday and slammed the Central Division-leading
 Blackhawks, 5-1. Mathieu Perreault continued his hot play of late with two
 goals to lift Winnipeg in the rout at United Center.
 
 Perreault has tallied five goals and four assists over an eight-game point
 streak and Tuesday's performance was his first multi-point game of the run.
 
 Blake Wheeler finished with a goal and an assist, Bryan Little and Anthony
 Peluso also scored and Andrew Ladd supplied two helpers for the Jets. Michael
 Hutchinson, who posted a 33-save shutout in Winnipeg's 1-0 over Chicago on
 Nov. 2, was stellar once again, turning aside 38 shots for the win.
 
 "Hutchinson was good for us and made some key saves at the right times," said
 Perreault. "When we got our chances, we were able to put them in."
 
 Jets coach Paul Maurice may continue his goaltender rotation tonight and give
 Ondrej Pavelec the start over Hutchinson. Pavelec is 2-2-1 with a 2.55 goals
 against average in seven career outings against Minnesota.
 
 WASHINGTON CAPITALS (17-11-6) AT PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (22-7-5), 7:30 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Pittsburgh Penguins hope to avoid their first three-
 game slide of the season. The club's recent success against the Washington
 Capitals could work in its favor.
 
 After suffering consecutive losses prior to the Christmas break, the Penguins
 are hoping to bounce back Saturday at home when they aim for a ninth
 consecutive victory against the Capitals.
 
 Pittsburgh's two recent setbacks both came in the Sunshine State. The Pens
 dropped the back end of a home-and-home against Florida on Monday, losing 4-3
 in a shootout before falling in regulation by the same score the next night in
 Tampa.
 
 The Pens haven't lost three in a row since an 0-3 stretch from March 23-27 of
 last season.
 
 Mike Johnston's club made a valiant effort to earn a point from Tuesday's
 contest, but came up short in the end.
 
 Tyler Johnson completed a hat trick at the 2:37 mark of the second period to
 give the Lightning a 4-0 lead, but Tampa would have to hold on for the win as
 Pittsburgh scored once in the second and twice more in the third.
 
 The Penguins' third goal made it a 4-3 game with 1:31 left in regulation, but
 Pittsburgh was unable to beat Andrei Vasilevskiy for the equalizer.
 
 Patric Hornqvist, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang scored for the Penguins.
 
 "We just made some big mistakes," said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.
 "Sometimes you make mistakes in games and you get away with them and it felt
 like every one we made (tonight) ended up in the net."
 
 Jeff Zatkoff took the loss in relief, having allowed the game-deciding goal on
 17 shots. Marc-Andre Fleury got the start but was yanked after yielding three
 goals on 10 shots in nearly 21 minutes of action.
 
 Fleury is expected to start again tonight. He owns a career mark of 16-7-2 and
 a 2.41 goals against average in 26 games against the Caps.
 
 Pittsburgh continues to be short-handed due to injury and illness. Forwards
 Beau Bennett, Blake Comeau, Pascal Dupuis and Zach Sill, and defensemen Robert
 Bortuzzo, Christian Ehrhoff, Paul Martin and Olli Maatta are all out with
 injury. Also, the Penguins sent forwards Brandon Sutter and Steve Downie along
 with backup goaltender Thomas Greiss back to Pittsburgh to be tested for the
 mumps.
 
 Washington lost its final test before the Christmas break, dropping a 4-2
 decision to the New York Rangers at the start of a three-game road trip. The
 Capitals are 10-6-2 as the visiting team this season, but have lost in their
 last five trips to the Steel City, where Washington hasn't tasted victory
 since Oct. 13, 2011.
 
 The Caps' last win of any kind against the Penguins was a 1-0 home win on Jan.
 11, 2012.
 
 Washington had a three-game winning streak halted on Tuesday after allowing
 New York's Rick Nash to post a hat trick. The Capitals, however, would make a
 game of it late before falling in regulation.
 
 Nash's second goal of the game made put New York ahead 3-0 at 5:12 of the
 third period, but Evgeny Kuznetsov tallied 41 seconds later for Washington.
 Alex Ovechkin's power-play goal cut the deficit to 3-2 with 9:02 left in the
 third. The score would stay that way until Nash completed the hat trick with a
 power-play tally of his own with 3:48 remaining.
 
 Braden Holtby turned aside 23 shots in the loss, the Capitals' first loss in
 regulation since Dec. 2 against Vancouver. Washington entered Tuesday's
 matchup with a 7-0-2 mark in its previous nine games.
 
 Holtby is expected to start tonight for the Caps despite posting an 0-4-0
 record and 4.38 GAA in four career outings against the Pens.
 
 Washington will complete its road trip Monday against the New York Islanders.
 
 The Pens, who play five of their next six at home, are 13-4-1 at Consol Energy
 Center this season.
 
 DALLAS STARS (14-14-5) AT ST. LOUIS BLUES (21-10-3), 8 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The St. Louis Blues hope to halt their longest losing
 streak of the season on Saturday when they return from the NHL's Christmas
 break to host the Dallas Stars at Scottrade Center.
 
 With consecutive losses in Los Angeles and San Jose, the Blues tied their
 longest skid of the season. St. Louis then lost the finale of a three-game
 road trip, 5-0, at Colorado to give Ken Hitchcock's club its longest skid
 since going 0-6 over the final six games of the 2013-14 regular season.
 
 The slide comes directly on the heels of a five-game winning streak from Dec.
 16.
 
 The losing streak has dropped St. Louis into third place in the Central
 Division, where it sits one point behind the Nashville Predators. The Blues
 also are only two points in front of Winnipeg for the division's third and
 final automatic playoff berth.
 
 St. Louis earned its only point of the recent trip with Saturday's 3-2
 overtime setback against the Sharks, but the Blues ended the swing with a
 blowout loss to the Avalanche.
 
 The Blues were outshot by a 41-26 margin in Tuesday's rout at the Pepsi
 Center. Jake Allen gave up five goals on 31 shots over two periods for the
 Blues before being pulled in favor of Martin Brodeur, who made 10 saves in the
 scoreless third.
 
 "They beat us tonight," said Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. "They flat-
 out beat us."
 
 Tuesday's loss marked the largest margin of defeat for the Blues this season.
 It also was St. Louis' first time being shut out since a 2-0 defeat in Boston
 on Nov. 18.
 
 The Blues hope to rebound tonight by posting a fifth straight win on home ice.
 St. Louis is 12-3-1 in the Gateway City and hasn't lost at Scottrade since a
 3-2 shootout loss to Ottawa on Nov. 25.
 
 St. Louis hasn't lost in regulation at home since Nov. 8 against Nashville and
 the Blues own a 7-0-1 record as the host since that loss to the Predators.
 
 Dallas also will try to put a lopsided loss behind it tonight after having a
 season-high four-game winning streak snapped with Tuesday's 4-0 home loss
 against Toronto.
 
 The Stars outshot the Maple Leafs by a 43-26 margin but couldn't get one past
 Jonathan Bernier. Dallas also failed to score despite having four chances with
 the man advantage.
 
 "Our special teams weren't good enough," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "We had
 a couple opportunities where we got a little stagnant on the power play, and
 not enough pucks went to the net."
 
 Kari Lehtonen took the loss for Dallas after stopping 22-of-25 shots.
 
 Tonight's test is the second of five scheduled meetings between the Blue and
 Stars. St. Louis won the season series opener in Dallas on Oct. 28, posting a
 4-3 overtime win to halt a three-game losing streak against the Stars.
 
 The Blues still own an 8-3-1 record over the last 12 games in this series
 overall, but Dallas has won the past two encounters in St. Louis.
 
 Lehtonen boasts a lifetime 10-4-2 record and 1.99 goals against average
 against the Blues and is expected to start tonight.
 
 Allen has never faced Dallas, while the veteran Brodeur holds an 11-9-1 record
 and 1.99 GAA in this matchup.
 
 PHILADELPHIA FLYERS (14-14-6) AT NASHVILLE PREDATORS (22-9-2), 8 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Philadelphia Flyers have gotten off to a great start
 on their epic eight-game trip and will try to keep that momentum going on
 Saturday night against their former coach.
 
 The Flyers eye a fourth straight victory as they visit Peter Laviolette and
 the Nashville Predators.
 
 Philadelphia scored 16 goals in defeating Toronto, Winnipeg and Minnesota to
 begin this road trip, which runs through Jan. 3. That has the Flyers on their
 first three-game winning streak since Nov. 4-8.
 
 They'll try to win four in a row for the first time this season and do so
 against Laviolette, who was fired as the Flyers' head coach following an 0-3
 start to the 2013-14 campaign.
 
 Laviolette took over coaching duties in Philadelphia in December of 2009 and
 took the club to a surprising Stanley Cup Finals appearance that season, where
 they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.
 
 Laviolette became just the second coach in Predators history when he replaced
 Barry Trotz, who did not have his contract renewed prior to this season.
 
 The Predators come into this game just two points back of the Blackhawks for
 first place in the Central Division.
 
 Craig Berube, who replaced Laviolette when he was fired, saw five of his
 players score in Tuesday's 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild. Philadelphia got
 goals from Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Vincent Lecavalier
 and Michael Raffl.
 
 "That fourth goal obviously gave us a little breathing room," said Lecavalier,
 who has three goals in his past two games. "After that we kind of chipped it
 in and played a simple game and made sure we got it out at the right time."
 
 Ray Emery made 22 saves to get the win as No. 1 goaltender Steve Mason missed
 his third game in a row with a back injury suffered in practice on Dec. 19.
 
 Mason was expected to start traveling with the team after the holiday br4eak,
 but has been ruled out for this game.
 
 That leaves Emery the probable starter and he is 2-2-0 with a 3.57 goals
 against average and .833 save percentage in six games (4 starts) versus the
 Preds.
 
 Flyers forward Jake Voracek had two assists versus the Wild and leads the NHL
 with 32 helpers and 46 points. He has five goals and 13 points in his last
 eight games.
 
 The Predators are hoping to rebound tonight after having a three-game win
 streak halted with Tuesday's 5-3 setback to Boston.
 
 Nashville tried to make a game of it late, notching 15 shots in the third
 period and pulling within one on Taylor Beck's goal at the 6:48 mark of the
 third.
 
 "We have a group that believes we can win every night even when we're down
 two, we have the mentality that we are going to come out with a win," said
 Nashville forward Colin Wilson. "It's unfortunate we didn't tie it up but we
 can definitely build off of that character that we showed in the third."
 
 Beck and Calle Jarnkrok each had one goal and an assist for Nashville, while
 Carter Hutton stopped 20-of-24 shots in his first start since Nov. 20.
 
 Pekka Rinne figures to return to the net tonight and is 2-1-0 versus the
 Flyers with a 2.92 GAA and .917 save percentage.
 
 These two clubs split a pair of meetings last season, with the Flyers' 3-2
 shootout win snapping a five-game winless span (0-1-2 with two ties) in
 Nashville.
 
 ANAHEIM DUCKS (23-8-5) AT ARIZONA COYOTES (12-18-4), 8 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The NHL-leading Anaheim Ducks will try to stay hot in
 December on Saturday night as they visit the Arizona Coyotes.
 
 The Ducks have won nine of their 11 games this month and top the league with
 51 points. They came off of a 3-2-0 road trip with Monday's home victory
 against San Jose, beating the Sharks 3-2 in overtime.
 
 Anaheim has won all four of its games at home this month and begins an eight-
 game residency on Sunday with a visit from the Vancouver Canucks. The Ducks'
 next road game after tonight isn't scheduled until Jan. 17.
 
 Ryan Kesler had the game-winning goal in the win over the Sharks sniping a
 shot past Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi and into the net at the 58-second mark
 of overtime.
 
 "He stopped me at the far post a few times. Third time is a charm," Kesler
 deadpanned.
 
 Rickard Rakell netted his first NHL regular-season goal and Cam Fowler also
 lit the lamp for the Ducks, while Ryan Getzlaf had two assists and Frederik
 Andersen came up with 30 saves.
 
 Anaheim lost forward Tim Jackman to a facial injury in the second period as
 he was hit in the face by the glove and butt end of the stick by San Jose's
 John Scott.
 
 Scott was suspended four games for the incident.
 
 Jackman's status for this game is unknown as the Ducks visit a Coyotes team
 that is looking to beat a team other than the Edmonton Oilers.
 
 The Coyotes are 3-8-2 in their last 13 games and all three wins have come
 versus the Oilers. That includes a 5-1 triumph in Edmonton on Tuesday.
 
 Former Oilers Sam Gagner and Devan Dubnyk shined in the win, with Gagner
 posting two goals and four points and Dubnyk making 26 saves.
 
 "I found a few things that I can really concentrate on every game," said
 Dubnyk. "It's about pushing, stopping and being set and finding the puck. You
 have to work to do those things."
 
 Arizona also received goals from Martin Erat, Keith Yandle and Brandon
 Gormley. Martin Hanzal supplied three assists in the win.
 
 The Coyotes seek a second straight win at home. They had snapped a franchise-
 worst nine-game skid as the hosting team with a 2-1 overtime victory versus
 the Oilers on Dec. 16.
 
 Arizona forward Lauri Korpikoski could return to the lineup tonight after
 missing the previous four games with a lower-body injury.
 
 The Coyotes split two meetings with the Ducks earlier this season in Anaheim.
 The Ducks have won six of the previous seven meetings overall.
 
 CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (23-10-2) AT COLORADO AVALANCHE (13-13-8), 9 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Chicago Blackhawks aim to rebound from only their
 third loss in 14 games as they visit the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night
 at Pepsi Center.
 
 The Blackhawks had an eight-game home winning streak snapped with a 5-1
 setback to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday. Marian Hossa had the lone goal, while
 Corey Crawford allowed three goals on 13 shots before getting lifted in the
 first period.
 
 Antti Raanta made 11 saves in relief as Chicago lost at home for the first
 time since Nov. 7 versus Washington.
 
 "I think we've been in every hockey game except for tonight," Blackhawks head
 coach Joel Quenneville said. "Disappointing ending to a very good stretch."
 
 The Blackhawks still come out of the Christmas break leading the Central
 Division by two points over the Nashville Predators and it figures to be a
 busy upcoming week for the club.
 
 Chicago will host second-place Nashville on Monday before visiting the
 Capitals on New Year's Day for the 2015 Winter Classic.
 
 Crawford should get a chance tonight to shake off his recent outing. Tuesday
 was just his second game since he missed eight in a row with a lower-body
 injury.
 
 But Crawford is just 3-6-2 versus Colorado lifetime with a 3.22 goals against
 average and .874 save percentage in 11 meetings with 10 starts.
 
 The Avalanche are riding their longest winning streak of the season, picking
 up a third victory in a row with Tuesday's 5-0 win over the St. Louis Blues.
 Semyon Varlamov returned to action with 26 saves for his second shutout of the
 season and 15th of his career.
 
 Varlamov played for the first time since Dec. 5 due to a groin injury, an
 aliment that has sidelined him three separate times this season.
 
 "We played a real solid game the whole 60 minutes," said Varlamov. "It is much
 easier to play when the guys score lots of goals."
 
 Alex Tanguay and Ryan O'Reilly each had one goal and an assist for the
 Avalanche, who have points in six straight (4-0-2). Jarome Iginla, Zach
 Redmond and Erik Johnson also lit the lamp.
 
 Varlamov was backed up on Tuesday by Calvin Pickard, who has gone 6-5-2 with a
 2.06 GAA and .939 save percentage in 13 games (10 starts) this season,
 excelling when filling due to injury.
 
 Pickard is expected to start tonight, but may eventually go back to the minors
 for more playing time if Varlamov remains healthy. The Avalanche also have
 goaltender Reto Berra on the roster.
 
 Pickard faced the Blackhawks for the first time on Nov. 26 at home and lost,
 giving up three goals on 45 shots.
 
 That 3-2 win by Chicago came in the first of five meetings this season and
 snapped Colorado's three-game series win streak.
 
 EDMONTON OILERS (7-21-7) AT CALGARY FLAMES (18-15-3), 10 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Calgary Flames have slowed down since their fast
 start to the season, but rookie Johnny Gaudreau might have just jump-started
 the club.
 
 Gaudreau and Flames put forth a big rally last time out and hope to stay in
 the win column on Saturday night as they take on the lowly Edmonton Oilers.
 
 Calgary improved to 17-8-2 with a victory over Colorado on Dec. 4, but then
 lost seven straight in regulation and another game in overtime ahead of
 Monday's road meeting with the Los Angeles Kings.
 
 Things didn't look good for the Flames when they fell behind by three goals,
 but Gaudreau helped his club battle back for a 4-3 overtime victory with his
 first NHL hat trick.
 
 Gaudreau got the Flames on the board with 1:58 left in the second period, then
 scored twice in the final 2:12 of the third frame with the goaltender pulled.
 His third tally came with 59 seconds on the clock.
 
 Calgary captain and defenseman Mark Giordano then won it with 53 seconds left
 in the extra period.
 
 "You know, we fell behind but the guys were great on the bench, they were
 great in the room and we felt like we had a chance," Flames head coach Bob
 Hartley said. "Johnny is so smart and so competitive. We're all talking about
 his speed and his skill, but look how competitive he is."
 
 Gaudreau's milestone came in his 36th career game and the 21-year-old has 10
 goals on the season. He also ranks second among NHL rookies with 27 points.
 
 Jonas Hiller made 31 saves while Jiri Hudler and Dennis Wideman each supplied
 two assists for the Flames, who open a six-game homestand tonight that
 includes another visit from the Oilers on Wednesday.
 
 Hiller may get the start tonight and he has excellent career numbers in this
 matchup, going 13-4-1 with a 1.98 goals against average and .931 save
 percentage in 21 meetings, including 18 starts, with the Oilers.
 
 Edmonton has not been able to show the same kind of competitiveness, having
 lost eight in a row (0-6-2) while going 1-13-6 in its past 20. The Oilers are
 last in the NHL with 21 points.
 
 The Oilers were defeated 5-1 by the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday. Two former
 Oilers helped the Coyotes to a win, with Sam Gagner scoring twice with four
 points and Devan Dubnyk making 26 saves.
 
 Justin Schultz was Edmonton's lone scorer.
 
 After Ben Scrivens allowed two goals on three shots in the first five minutes
 of the game, Viktor Fasth relieved him and made 16 saves on 19 shots.
 
 "It's going off our sticks and off our skates," said Oilers winger Jordan
 Eberle. "You just seem like you can't get a break. You have to create them."
 
 Fasth may start this game and is 2-1-0 with a 2.85 GAA and .913 save
 percentage in three career meetings with the Flames. Scrivens is 0-2-0 against
 them with a 3.96 GAA and .836 save percentage in three games (2 starts).
 
 The Flames have won three in a row versus the Oilers, including a 5-2 victory
 in Edmonton on Oct. 9 in the first of five meetings.
 
 Edmonton, though, has won four of its past five trips to Calgary.
 
 SAN JOSE SHARKS (19-11-5) AT LOS ANGELES KINGS (17-11-7), 10 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - Coming off only their second loss in 11 games, the San
 Jose Sharks seek to bounce back on Saturday night as they visit the Los
 Angeles Kings.
 
 The Sharks had a five-game winning streak snapped with Monday's 3-2 overtime
 setback to the Anaheim Ducks. Joe Pavelski and Melker Karlsson had third-
 period goals to put San Jose ahead, but Anaheim tied the game later in the
 frame before getting a winner from Ryan Kesler at the 58-second mark of
 overtime.
 
 Antti Niemi made 29 saves in defeat.
 
 "To win in this building is tough," Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said. "I
 think we have to take some satisfaction that we came from behind in the
 third."
 
 Pavelski's goal was the 207th of his career, passing Owen Nolan for second
 place on the club's all-time goal-scoring list, while Karlsson netted his
 first NHL goal in his sixth career game.
 
 Sharks forward John Scott will begin a four-game suspension tonight for
 hitting Ducks forward Tim Jackman in the face during the second period of
 Monday's game. Scott appeared to catch Jackman with both his glove and the
 butt end of his stick, with the Anaheim winger injured on the play.
 
 Scott isn't eligible to return to action until Jan. 5.
 
 The Kings also lost their last game before the Christmas break, falling 4-3 in
 overtime to the Calgary Flames.
 
 But while the Sharks rallied to at one point take the lead in their last game,
 the Kings failed to hold a 3-0 advantage versus the Flames. Calgary's Johnny
 Gaudreau scored twice in the third period with his goaltender pulled to tie
 the game, and Mark Giordano had the winner with 53 seconds left in overtime.
 
 Marian Gaborik, Jamie McBain, and Trevor Lewis each scored for the Kings, who
 had their two-game win streak come to an end and have lost six of past nine.
 Jonathan Quick made 24 saves.
 
 "The score was not a good indication of the game," Kings head coach Darryl
 Sutter said. "Halfway through the game they had a lot more desperation than
 our team."
 
 The Kings fell to 13-4-2 at home despite Gaborik extending his goal-scoring
 streak to five straight games. He has seven goals over that time, with the
 last five coming on the power play.
 
 Los Angeles is 7-for-13 on the man advantage over the past three games.
 
 Anze Kopitar assisted on Gaborik's goal and has logged nine helpers and 10
 points over his past four games.
 
 The Kings lost to the Sharks 4-0 in Los Angeles on Oct. 8 in the first of five
 meetings this season. That snapped San Jose's four-game series road losing
 streak and was only its second victory in its past 10 trips to Los Angeles.
 
 Quick is 11-5-5 with a 2.56 goals against average and .909 save percentage in
 22 games versus the Sharks, while Niemi has gone 13-6-3 with a 2.34 GAA and
 .925 save percentage in 23 meetings. Both goaltenders have three shutouts in
 this matchup as well.
 
 
 
 12/27 11:50:04 ET

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