National Hockey League

 
      ***** National Hockey League Previews from The Sports Network *****
                             Saturday, December 20
                              (All times Eastern)
 
 ARIZONA COYOTES (11-16-4) AT LOS ANGELES KINGS (16-11-6), 4 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The reigning Stanley Cup champions will try to begin a
 four-game homestand with a second straight victory, as the Los Angeles Kings
 welcome the Arizona Coyotes for Saturday's afternoon clash at Staples Center.
 
 The Kings recently went 1-3-1 on a five-game road trip and lost the final
 three tests of that swing to fall to 4-7-5 as the guest this season. However,
 Los Angeles halted that three-game slide and improved to 12-4-1 in the City of
 Angels thanks to Thursday's 6-4 triumph over the St. Louis Blues.
 
 The Blues, who posted a 5-2 home win over L.A. on Tuesday, scored the first
 three goals in the rematch, but were unable to complete the home-and-home
 sweep as L.A. rallied from deficits of 3-0 and 4-3 to take the finale.
 
 Jeff Carter, Jake Muzzin and Dwight King each scored in the third period,
 while Anze Kopitar had a goal and four assists for a career-high five points.
 Carter also registered three assists and Marian Gaborik scored twice and set
 up another one for the Kings.
 
 Jonathan Quick finished with 24 saves to earn the victory.
 
 "Some other teams would probably pack it in after the 3-0 (deficit), but not
 this team. We have a lot of character," Kopitar said.
 
 Defenseman Robyn Regehr sustained an upper-body injury in the second period of
 Thursday's tilt and was placed on injured reserve the following day. He is
 expected to miss 2-to-3 weeks.
 
 The Kings have taken two of the last three meetings with the Coyotes and are
 1-0-1 so far in the 2014-15 season series. L.A. recorded a 4-0 win in Arizona
 on Dec. 4, with Martin Jones stopping 26 shots for the shutout victory.
 
 The Coyotes have lost eight of their last 10 games in L.A.
 
 Arizona also halted a losing streak in its last trip to the ice, snapping a
 five-game slide with a dramatic overtime victory Tuesday in Edmonton. The
 Coyotes handed the Oilers a 2-1 setback thanks to Oliver Ekman-Larsson's game-
 winner with just 0.3 seconds left in OT.
 
 With time winding down and the game seemingly destined for a shootout, Martin
 Erat skated the puck into the Edmonton zone and dished it to his right for Sam
 Gagner, who then fired the puck over to the left wing where a skating Ekman-
 Larsson blasted a shot into the right corner of the net just before the final
 buzzer.
 
 It was Ekman-Larsson's seventh goal of the season and his third overtime
 tally, tying him with Shane Doan and Paul MacLean for the most OT winners in
 one season in club history.
 
 "I like playing 4-on-4," Ekman-Larsson said. "You get a lot of space and I
 feel like I'm playing with a lot of confidence when it's 4-on-4."
 
 Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos holds the NHL record with five OT winners in
 2011-12.
 
 Brandon McMillan scored his first goal of the season in Tuesday's win, while
 Devan Dubnyk stopped 30 shots for the Coyotes, who snapped a nine-game home
 losing streak and won in front of their fans for the first time since Nov. 4
 against Toronto.
 
 Arizona is 6-8-1 as the guest this season and is kicking off a three-game road
 trip.
 
 Dubnyk will get the start again today over the slumping Mike Smith and is
 4-3-1 lifetime versus the Kings with a 2.19 goals against average and .933
 save percentage.
 
 Quick is 14-13-4 with a 2.60 GAA in this matchup, while Jones' only appearance
 against the Coyotes came in the 4-0 win earlier this month.
 
 
 COLORADO AVALANCHE (10-13-8) AT BUFFALO SABRES (13-17-2), 7 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Colorado Avalanche will try to halt a two-game slide
 and win for only the second time this month when they visit the Buffalo Sabres
 for Saturday's clash at First Niagara Center.
 
 The Avalanche have managed to earn a point in three straight games (1-0-2),
 but have lost their last two outings in overtime. Colorado is just 1-3-3 so
 far in December, but hopes to pick up a second win this month by continuing
 its dominance of the Sabres.
 
 Colorado has won the last seven meetings against Buffalo, which last beat the
 Avs on Dec. 4, 2005 in the Mile High City. The Avalanche have taken four
 straight in Western New York and last tasted defeat at First Niagara Center on
 March 24, 2003.
 
 The Avs will continue to ride rookie goaltender Calvin Pickard tonight. With
 regular starter Semyon Varlamov sidelined with a groin issue, the 22-year-old
 has become a workhorse for head coach Patrick Roy.
 
 Pickard will make his fourth straight start tonight and also is expected to
 get the call again on Sunday when Colorado completes a three-game road trip in
 Detroit.
 
 Colorado fell to Pittsburgh in the opener of this swing on Thursday, but the
 1-0 overtime defeat could hardly be blamed on Pickard, who turned aside 47
 shots before Blake Comeau scored the lone goal at 2:24 of the extra session.
 
 Pickard made 19 saves in the third period to force OT. He is 4-5-2 this season
 with a 2.27 goals against average and .934 save percentage.
 
 "He was very solid. He played a really strong game for us, allow us to be in
 that game," Roy said about Pickard.
 
 Colorado has dropped three straight road games and is 4-6-5 as the visiting
 team this season.
 
 Buffalo will try to return to the win column tonight after having a season-
 high four-game winning streak halted Tuesday in Winnipeg. The Sabres were
 slammed 5-1 by the Jets in losing their first game since a road loss at
 Florida on Dec. 6,
 
 The Sabres still own a six-game winning streak on home ice and haven't lost at
 First Niagara Center since Nov. 26 against Winnipeg. Buffalo is 9-7-2 as the
 host this season compared to a 4-10-0 mark on the road.
 
 Buffalo scored the only goal of the first period, but Winnipeg grabbed control
 of the game with three goals in the second and two more in the third.
 
 Nikita Zadorov scored for the Sabres, while Michal Neuvirth allowed all five
 goals on 36 shots in the loss.
 
 "Maybe not physically but mentally, we just made a couple of crucial mistakes
 at bad times," said Buffalo head coach Ted Nolan.
 
 Neuvirth has taken the loss in Buffalo's last two defeats. Jhonas Enroth, who
 has won his last four decisions, will return to the crease tonight. Enroth's
 only career appearance against Colorado came last season in a relief role for
 the Sabres. He stopped 10-of-12 shots in a 7-1 road loss at the Pepsi Center
 on Feb. 1.
 
 After tonight, the Sabres will play two straight and three of their next four
 games on the road. Buffalo will begin that stretch tomorrow night in Boston.
 
 
 PHILADELPHIA FLYERS (11-14-6) AT TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (19-10-3), 7 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Philadelphia Flyers begin an epic road trip that
 will carry them into 2015 when they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs for
 Saturday's clash at Air Canada Centre.
 
 Philadelphia kicks off its longest trip of the season tonight, an eight-game
 swing that will keep the Flyers away from the Wells Fargo Center until they
 host Ottawa on Jan. 6. By the time the trip ends Jan. 3 in New Jersey, Craig
 Berube's club will have played 13 road tilts over a 17-game stretch.
 
 The Flyers, who went 2-1-1 on a four-game homestand that wrapped Thursday
 against Florida, is hoping this trek turns out better than its last road trip.
 Philadelphia went 1-2-2 on a five-game swing from Nov. 29-Dec. 9 and is just
 3-9-3 as the visiting team this season.
 
 Philadelphia has six wins over its last eight games in Toronto, but the Leafs
 have claimed two of the past three meetings at Air Canada Centre.
 
 Tonight's tilt marks the first of three scheduled encounters between the club
 in 2014-15. The Leafs took two of three from the Flyers in 2013-14 and have
 earned four wins in the past six meetings overall.
 
 After winning the first two games of its homestand by a combined 9-2 margin
 against New Jersey and Carolina, the Flyers lost two straight against Tampa
 Bay and Florida. The Lightning posted a 3-1 win in the City of Brotherly Love
 on Tuesday before the Panthers edged the Flyers in Thursday's shootout battle.
 
 Dave Bolland scored in the sixth round of the tiebreaker to lift the
 Panthers to a 2-1 victory. It was a short shootout compared to the NHL-record
 20-round battle Florida had with the Washington Capitals on Tuesday.
 
 The Flyers fell to 0-5 in shootouts this season.
 
 Jakub Voracek scored the only goals for the Flyers in both regulation and the
 shootout. Voracek has 38 points this season, tying him for second in the NHL
 scoring race with Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin.
 
 Steve Mason stopped 31-of-32 shots for the Flyers through regulation and OT
 before taking the loss in the shootout.
 
 Ray Emery will start tonight for the Flyers after Mason suffered an upper-body
 injury at Friday's practice. Mason did not travel with the team to Toronto and
 also will miss Sunday's game in Winnipeg. General manager Ron Hextall said the
 status of his No. 1 goaltender will be updated on Monday.
 
 Emery is 5-3-2 with a 3.08 goals against average in his career against the
 Maple Leafs. Rob Zepp was recalled from Lehigh Valley of the American Hockey
 League to serve as Emery's backup. The 33-year-old Zepp has never seen action
 in an NHL game.
 
 Toronto is hoping to rebound tonight after having a six-game winning streak
 halted in Thursday's 4-1 loss at Carolina. The Hurricanes had lost six in a
 row before dealing the Maple Leafs the setback at PNC Arena.
 
 The Leafs were eyeing their longest winning streak in over 11 years, but
 Carolina jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period and never looked back.
 Toronto still hasn't won seven in a row since an eight-game streak from Nov.
 22-Dec. 6, 2003.
 
 Dion Phaneuf scored for the Maple Leafs, who also lost for just the third time
 in their last 13 games (10-2-1).
 
 Jonathan Bernier gave up three goals on 36 shots and had a personal four-game
 winning streak stopped.
 
 "We got outworked," said Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle. "Then we finally got
 ourselves back into the hockey game and took ourselves right out of it."
 
 Toronto returns home for just one night before beginning a seven-game road
 trip of its own with Sunday's test in Chicago. The Leafs are 14-7-0 as the
 host this season compared to a 5-3-3 mark on the road.
 
 
 OTTAWA SENATORS (14-12-6) AT MONTREAL CANADIENS (20-11-2), 7 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Montreal Canadiens have a chance at securing eight
 of a possible 10 points on their homestand, but may be without their leading
 scorer for the finale on Saturday night against the Ottawa Senators.
 
 The Canadiens lost Max Pacioretty to an upper-body injury in Thursday's 2-1
 loss to the Anaheim Ducks as the forward was hit from behind into the boards
 in the third period. Pacioretty did not return as he was sent to the hospital
 for precautionary reasons.
 
 Head coach Michel Therrien labeled Pacioretty as day-to-day on Friday, with
 his status for this game unknown. Pacioretty leads Montreal with 13 goals and
 25 points.
 
 "Patch is very important to our lineup. He's kind of our biggest offensive
 threat, a guy that other teams have to be aware of," said Habs forward Brendan
 Gallagher of Pacioretty. "But whether he's out of the lineup or we get him
 back right away, it doesn't change the way everyone needs to play.
 
 "I think we've had that next-man-up mentality, and whether he is in or whether
 he's not, we still have to do all the things we talk about doing. ... It would
 be nice to have him in there."
 
 Montreal had won the first three of its five-game homestand that wraps tonight
 before the loss to Anaheim. David Desharnais scored and Carey Price made 23
 saves.
 
 "It was a good game. We competed," said Therrien. "We had good scoring
 chances. I liked our work ethic against a first place team. But we just didn't
 score on the chances we had."
 
 The Canadiens, who begin a span of five straight on the road Tuesday, are
 expected to have forward Lars Eller back in the lineup for the first time
 since he suffered an upper-body injury on Dec. 5. Eller's return will shift
 Desharnais from center to the wing on a line with P.A. Parenteau.
 
 Price, meanwhile, figures to get the start tonight in the first of four
 meetings this season with the Senators. He is 16-6-4 versus the club with a
 2.35 goals against average, .921 save percentage and three shutouts.
 
 The Canadiens are 5-1-2 in their last eight versus the Senators overall and
 6-0-2 in the previous eight meetings at home.
 
 Ottawa, meanwhile, has begun to turn things around under new head coach Dave
 Cameron, going 3-1-1 since he replaced a fired Paul MacLean on Dec. 8. The
 Senators picked up a 6-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night, giving
 the club two straight wins for the first time since Nov. 4-6.
 
 Mike Hoffman scored twice in the victory, while Kyle Turris and Mika Zibanejad
 had a goal and an assist each. Milan Michalek and Mark Stone added goals and
 Craig Anderson posted 30 saves.
 
 "Things went real good for everyone today," said Cameron. "When they're all on
 their games they all bring different dimensions to the game."
 
 Ottawa has not won three in a row since a season-high four-game run from Oct.
 11-18 and Cameron could give Robin Lehner the start in net tonight.
 
 Lehner is 1-0-2 in four previous meetings with the Canadiens including three
 starts, posting a 2.83 GAA and .931 save percentage.
 
 
 WASHINGTON CAPITALS (15-10-6) AT NEW JERSEY DEVILS (12-16-6), 7 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Washington Capitals attempt to stretch a seven-game
 point streak on Saturday evening as they stay on the road to battle the New
 Jersey Devils.
 
 The Capitals have gone 5-0-2 since their last regulation loss on Dec. 2.
 Following a 20-round shootout loss to Florida on Tuesday, Washington fought
 back two nights later for a 5-4 overtime victory against the Columbus Blue
 Jackets.
 
 The Caps led 2-0 early, but fell behind by a goal with 4:25 to play in
 regulation. However, Troy Brouwer netted a game-tying goal just 1:25 later and
 Eric Fehr had the winner 42 seconds into overtime.
 
 Fehr, Jason Chimera and Karl Alzner each recorded a goal and an assist for
 Washington, with Braden Holtby making 22 saves in Thursday's win.
 
 "That was a big one tonight for our team, the way we fought back," Fehr said.
 "We were really resilient. We could have folded a few times but we hung in
 there and got the win."
 
 Holtby has been in net for all seven games of this point streak and is 4-3-1
 in his career versus the Devils with a 2.27 goals against average and .923
 save percentage.
 
 The Capitals have won two of three versus the Devils this season, outscoring
 them 10-3 in the victories around a 1-0 loss in Washington on Nov. 14.
 
 The Caps' 4-1 win at New Jersey on Dec. 6 snapped a four-game series road
 losing streak and featured 33 saves by Holtby.
 
 Cory Schneider yielded three goals on 28 shots in the loss for the Devils and
 is 3-3-0 in six career starts versus the Caps with a 1.94 GAA and .933 save
 percentage.
 
 Schneider will get the start tonight after backup Keith Kinkaid picked up his
 first career victory with last night's 3-2 shootout decision over the Tampa
 Bay Lightning.
 
 Kinkaid had lost his previous two starts in a shootout, but made 26 saves
 through overtime and another three in the tiebreaker. His stop on Jonathan
 Drouin secured the win right after Patrik Elias had opened the third round
 with a goal.
 
 "We just stayed with it. I felt good and the fans gave great energy," said
 Kinkaid.
 
 Elias and Adam Henrique picked up first-period tallies for the Devils, who put
 an end to a five-game losing streak (0-3-2).
 
 "It's a huge win. We needed it. It was a gutsy win. There probably weren't too
 many people picking us to win this game tonight," said Devils head coach Peter
 DeBoer.
 
 New Jersey played without center Jacob Josefson (groin) and Mike Cammalleri
 (lower body), though both could return to action tonight. Defenseman Adam
 Larsson, meanwhile, could also be in the lineup for the first time since Dec.
 2.
 
 Larsson was out due to a bout with the mumps and played a conditioning game on
 Friday in the American Hockey League.
 
 
 TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (20-10-4) AT NEW YORK ISLANDERS (22-10-0), 7 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The New York Islanders hope to extend their current
 winning streak on Saturday night as they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning for
 the final time this regular season.
 
 The Islanders pushed their winning streak to three in a row with last night's
 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. Jaroslav Halak made 17 saves and
 Anders Lee netted the winning goal midway through the second period.
 
 Brock Nelson added his team-leading 14th goal of the season and also had an
 assist for New York, which had lost three in a row prior to this winning
 streak.
 
 Friday's solid defensive showing came on the same day that blueliners Travis
 Hamonic and Johnny Boychuk were activated off injured reserve. Hamonic had
 missed six straight games and Boychuk nine in a row with upper-body injuries.
 
 "We're fortunate in certain ways," Isles head coach Jack Capuano said. "Some
 teams we struggle with. Obviously, they're a good hockey club. Not saying that
 we have their number, but any time you play them, you know that you have to be
 at your best and have guys step up to the occasion."
 
 The Lightning are closing out a five-game road trip and they fell to 1-2-1 on
 the swing with Friday's shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils. Patrik Elias
 netted the lone shootout tally as the Devils recorded a 3-2 win.
 
 Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov supplied goals for the Lightning, who have
 dropped five of their last seven. Evgeni Nabokov made 16 saves and Ryan
 Callahan had a pair of assists.
 
 "We earned it," Callahan said of the point for playing beyond regulation.
 "Shootouts are a crap shoot, but they're very important points."
 
 Tampa Bay was without talented forward Tyler Johnson, who had a sting of 115
 consecutive games played halted due to the flu. He is second to only Stamkos
 on the Lightning with 33 points.
 
 With No. 1 netminder Ben Bishop out with a lower-body injury, former 2012
 first-round pick Andrei Vasilevskiy could start for the Lightning tonight. He
 won his NHL debut on Tuesday at Philadelphia, stopping 23-of-24 shots faced.
 
 Halak, meanwhile, is 3-2-0 in five meetings with the Lightning, posting a 2.64
 goals against average and .899 save percentage. Backup Chad Johnson lost the
 only time he faced the Bolts, yielding five goals on 28 shots.
 
 These two clubs have split the first two of three meetings this season, with
 each team earning a win at home. The Islanders' 5-2 triumph on Nov. 18 was
 their sixth in the past seven at home versus the Bolts.
 
 
 FLORIDA PANTHERS (14-8-8) AT PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (21-6-4), 7 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Florida Panthers will try to post their longest
 winning streak in a calendar year when they visit the Pittsburgh Penguins for
 the opener of a home-and-home series Saturday at Consol Energy Center.
 
 Florida has won two in a row to match a season high, but the club hasn't put
 together three consecutive victories since a five-game run from Dec. 10-19 of
 last season.
 
 The Penguins also enter Saturday having won their last two tests. The
 Metropolitan Division leaders also have gone six straight without a regulation
 loss, posting a 4-0-2 record during that stretch.
 
 Florida has claimed two of three and three of the past five encounters in this
 series. The teams last met on Jan. 20 when the Panthers recorded a 5-1 rout in
 Pittsburgh. That lopsided victory halted Florida's eight-game road losing
 streak in this series, as the Panthers won in the Steel City for the first
 time since Jan. 3, 2009.
 
 The clubs will meet in Sunrise on Monday to complete the home-and-home.
 
 The Panthers are on a four-game point streak (3-0-1) and all three victories
 during that stretch came via the shootout, pushing Florida's record in
 tiebreakers to 4-4 on the season.
 
 After beating the Washington Capitals 2-1 in an NHL-record 20-round shootout
 on Tuesday, the Panthers won by the same score in a shorter battle Thursday in
 Philadelphia. Dave Bolland's goal to start the sixth round proved to be the
 decisive score against the Flyers, as Roberto Luongo turned aside Sean
 Couturier's ensuing attempt to end the game.
 
 Scottie Upshall lit the lamp in regulation for the Panthers, while Luongo
 made 25 saves through regulation and overtime.
 
 "I thought we played a solid game, not a great game, but a solid game," said
 Panthers coach Gerard Gallant. "We were able to come out of here with two
 points in Philly and it's a big two points for us."
 
 Brad Boyes sat out Thursday's game for Florida and the forward is questionable
 tonight with an upper-body injury.
 
 The Panthers are capping a brief two-game road trip Saturday. They are 7-4-2
 as the guest this season.
 
 Pittsburgh welcomed Sidney Crosby back to the lineup on Thursday, but Blake
 Comeau and Marc-Andre Fleury made the difference in the Pens' 1-0 overtime
 victory against visiting Colorado.
 
 Comeau scored the game's only goal at 2:24 of overtime, while Fleury stopped
 all 29 shots sent his way for the shutout. Fleury has a career-best six
 shutouts this season and also is leading the league in that category.
 
 Fleury was tested for the mumps Wednesday, but was able to start the following
 night when the results came back negative. Crosby wasn't so lucky, as he
 missed three games due to the illness, but he was back in action on Thursday.
 
 "It took probably a period to get used to the speed. The fact you miss some
 time you feel it early on, but once you get in the game you start to feel more
 comfortable," Crosby said.
 
 Pittsburgh's captain logged 20 minutes, 19 seconds of ice time and registered
 three shots on goal. Crosby has 35 points on nine goals and 26 assists over 28
 games this season.
 
 The Penguins could get another key forward back in the lineup tonight, as
 winger Chris Kunitz is questionable after missing the past eight games with a
 fracture in his foot. On Friday, he completed his first full practice since
 suffering the injury on Nov. 29.
 
 Kunitz has nine goals and 11 assists in 23 games this season.
 
 Pittsburgh announced Friday that defenseman Olli Maatta has been diagnosed
 with the mumps. He was already sidelined with an upper-body injury.
 
 Fleury is 11-8-0 with a 2.62 goals against average in his career against
 Florida and is expected to start again tonight.
 
 Luongo is likely to get the call for the Panthers. He is 13-8-3 with a 2.78
 GAA in this matchup.
 
 Pittsburgh is 12-4-1 as the host and is capping a three-game homestand
 tonight.
 
 
 NEW YORK RANGERS (15-10-4) AT CAROLINA HURRICANES (9-19-3), 7 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The New York Rangers will try to complete a four-game
 road trip with a perfect record when they visit the Carolina Hurricanes on
 Saturday for the opener of a home-and-home series.
 
 The Rangers have won four straight overall and are 3-0 at the start of their
 road trip, which began in Western Canada before taking New York to PNC Arena
 for tonight's finale.
 
 The Blueshirts, who will host Carolina on Sunday, have completely dominated
 the Hurricanes in recent years, taking 12 of the past 13 meetings in this
 series.
 
 Carolina was able to halt a six-game home skid against the Rangers when it
 notched a 3-1 victory on March 11 of last season. However, New York has
 claimed two straight meetings at Madison Square Garden since then, including a
 2-1 shootout victory on Oct. 16.
 
 The reigning Eastern Conference champions entered their current swing with a
 2-5-1 road record before picking up wins in Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary.
 New York outscored the opposition by a combined 12-3 score in those three
 outings.
 
 The Rangers last played on Tuesday when they recorded a 5-2 win over the
 Flames. Rick Nash scored twice and Derek Stepan chipped in a goal with one
 assist to help New York sprint to victory.
 
 Chris Kreider and Carl Hagelin also lit the lamp for the Rangers, while
 Henrik Lundqvist turned in a victorious 29-save effort.
 
 Nash leads the Rangers in both goals (20) and points (33) this season and
 enters Saturday riding an 11-game point streak. The winger has amassed eight
 goals and six helpers during the NHL's longest current point streak.
 
 His second goal on Tuesday allowed the 30-year-old Nash to reach the 20-goal
 mark for the 11th consecutive season.
 
 "He's playing so well on both sides of the puck," Kreider said of Nash. "He's
 not cheating, and that's what makes his scoring so impressive."
 
 Lundqvist boasts an 18-9-1 record and 2.15 goals against average and he will
 get the start tonight. Backup Cam Talbot, who signed a one-year, $1.45 million
 extension on Friday, could get the call in the home-and-home finale at MSG.
 
 New York is one of several NHL teams dealing with an outbreak of the mumps.
 Derick Brassard has missed the last two games with the illness, though he
 could return to action tonight, while fellow forward Lee Stempniak was
 isolated from the team while being tested for mumps, leaving his status for
 this game in doubt.
 
 Carolina, meanwhile, couldn't blame the mumps for the team's recent 0-6 slide,
 but the club finally was able to get back in the win column thanks to
 Thursday's 4-1 victory over the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs. The four goals
 represented an offensive explosion for the club after it had posted just one
 goal in each loss during the six-game slide.
 
 The Hurricanes began December with a 2-1 home win over Nashville before
 dropping six straight regulation decisions. Carolina got back on track
 Thursday by winning the special teams battle to halt Toronto's six-game
 winning streak.
 
 Carolina jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals from Chris
 Terry and Justin Faulk, who scored while the Hurricanes were short-handed.
 Andrej Sekera's power-play tally in the third period restored the two-goal
 lead and Cam Ward finished with 25 saves for the win.
 
 "It's been a while," said Ward. "The guys played great. We got off to a good
 start. To be able to score the first two goals was a relief."
 
 The victory pushed Carolina's home record to 6-7-1. The Hurricanes are just
 3-12-2 as the guest and will begin a three-game road trip Sunday in New York.
 
 It's unclear if Ward or Anton Khudobin will start the opener of the home-and-
 home. Ward is 10-12-3 with a 2.46 GAA in his career against the Rangers, while
 Khudobin is 0-1-1 with a 1.93 GAA in this matchup.
 
 
 CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (22-9-1) AT COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (13-15-3), 7 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The red-hot Chicago Blackhawks are expected to get
 another lift on Saturday night when starting netminder Corey Crawford returns
 to action to face the Columbus Blue Jackets.
 
 Crawford has missed Chicago's past eight games with a left foot ailment,
 though the Blackhawks went a healthy 7-1-0 over that span. Still, the return
 of the 29-year-old netminder can only further help as he has gone 12-5-1 this
 season with a 1.87 goals against average and .929 save percentage in 18
 starts.
 
 Crawford returns to a favorable matchup as well.
 
 Chicago has won 13 straight over Columbus since a loss on Feb. 18, 2011, and
 has a victory in nine consecutive trips to Ohio.
 
 Crawford is 10-2-0 with a 1.82 GAA and .942 save percentage in 12 career games
 versus the Blue Jackets. Saturday will mark his first start this season since
 Nov. 29.
 
 "I've been feeling real good in practice and working really hard. (The)
 quickness is there, quick feet and recoveries to rebounds is there too. Right
 now I feel good," said Crawford.
 
 Chicago as a whole should be feeling good considering Tuesday's 5-3 win over
 the Minnesota Wild was its 10th in 11 games. Patrick Kane had the game-winner,
 a late power-play goal that came after the Blackhawks failed to hold a 3-1
 lead.
 
 Kane, Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews all finished with a goal and two
 assists, while Ben Smith scored into an empty-net and added an assist. Marian
 Hossa also scored and Antti Raanta made 26 saves.
 
 "You have to roll with whatever happens. Obviously you want to keep a lead
 there, being up 3-1, but they stormed back," said Smith. "They're a good
 hockey team. They make plays and found a way to tie it up. But (us) just
 sticking with our game plan, sticking with what we did well in the second
 period, scoring three goals, and it was nice getting that power play at the
 end.
 
 "Our guys found a way to get the job done."
 
 Chicago got the job done despite defenseman Duncan Keith missing the game due
 to illness. He did return to practice on Friday.
 
 The Blue Jackets were among the league's hottest teams over the course of
 December, but had a seven-game win streak halted with a 5-4 overtime setback
 to the Washington Capitals on Thursday. It was Columbus' first defeat since
 Nov. 29 and came in the opener of a five-game homestand.
 
 Michael Chaput's first career NHL goal had given Columbus a 4-3 lead with 4:25
 remaining in regulation, but Troy Brouwer answered for the Capitals just 1:25
 later to send the game into extra time and Eric Fehr potted the winner 42
 seconds into overtime.
 
 It marked the fifth straight game for the Blue Jackets that has gone to either
 overtime or a shootout.
 
 "I'm disappointed the way the game ended, because we had two leads, two
 opportunities to earn a win in regulation," said Blue Jackets head coach Todd
 Richards. "It leaves you with a little bitter taste, just because there were
 opportunities."
 
 Nick Foligno scored twice -- including the 100th of his career -- and assisted
 on Jack Johnson's power-play goal for Columbus, which received 31 saves from
 Sergei Bobrovsky in defeat.
 
 Bobrovsky is 1-2-1 in his career versus the Blackhawks with a 2.76 GAA and
 .921 save percentage.
 
 
 NASHVILLE PREDATORS (20-8-2) AT MINNESOTA WILD (16-12-2), 8 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - While the Nashville Predators have yet to lose
 consecutive games this season, they've yet to put together a sizeable winning
 streak this month.
 
 The Preds look to make it two wins in a row on Saturday night as they visit
 the Minnesota Wild to begin a three-game trip.
 
 Nashville has gone 4-3-0 this month after capping November on a four-game
 winning streak. The Preds capped a three-game swing with a 2-0 loss at San
 Jose last Saturday, but responded yet again with a win, topping the Boston
 Bruins 3-2 in a shootout at home on Tuesday.
 
 Pekka Rinne made 33 saves through overtime and was perfect in the shootout,
 while Derek Roy had the lone tally of the tiebreaker. Mike Fisher and Mike
 Ribeiro had goals in regulation.
 
 "We have been talking about it all year, how we are just trying to bounce back
 as quickly as we can," said Preds forward Filip Forsberg. "Even though we
 might win a game but we do not play great we want to come back with a better
 effort the next time we play. I think we played way better tonight than we did
 in San Jose, so it felt good to win for sure."
 
 Defenseman Anton Volchenkov wasn't feeling at his best after the win, having
 suffered a lower-body injury that has him day-to-day.
 
 Nashville also placed forward Paul Gaustad on injured reserve Friday due to a
 lower-body injury that has held him out of the past three games. In response,
 the Preds recalled forward Viktor Stalberg from the American Hockey League.
 
 Rinne figures to start for Nashville tonight and is 9-4-2 in his career
 against the Wild with a 2.01 goals against average, .926 save percentage and
 three shutouts in 16 games (14 starts).
 
 The Wild, meanwhile, have lost back-to-back games for the first time since a
 four-game slide from Nov. 4-11 and failed to do what the Preds did recently:
 beat the Bruins in extra time.
 
 Loui Eriksson had a goal for Boston 1:30 into overtime on Wednesday to hand
 Minnesota a 3-2 setback.
 
 Zdeno Chara flung the puck around the boards off a faceoff win, Carl Soderberg
 tracked it down and Eriksson deposited a cross-crease pass into a wide-open
 net for the deciding marker.
 
 Kyle Brodziak and Jason Pominville both supplied offense for the Wild, while
 Niklas Backstrom stopped 22 pucks in defeat.
 
 Pominville's tally with 8:21 to go in the third period tied the game and came
 as Ryan Suter's shot off his own rebound hit off Pominville's skate and in.
 
 Both Pominville and Suter were playing in their 700th career game.
 
 "Just have to shake my head again. Their goalie was standing up and had no
 idea what was going on. Neither really did many of us," said Pominville, who
 has nine points in his last 11 games.
 
 Minnesota lost the opener of a four-game homestand as Backstrom made starts on
 back-to-back nights with Darcy Kuemper unable to go because of a stomach
 virus.
 
 The Wild hope Kuemper can return to action tonight given his success against
 the Predators. He has won both of his career starts against them -- one a
 shutout -- while giving up just two goals on 41 shots.
 
 Minnesota forward Matt Cooke also is close to returning from a hip flexor
 issue that has sidelined him since Oct. 28.
 
 Tonight is the first of five meetings this season between the Wild and
 Predators. The Wild have won five of the past seven, though the Preds snapped
 a three-game slide in Minnesota with a 7-3 win on April 13 of last season.
 
 
 CALGARY FLAMES (17-15-2) AT VANCOUVER CANUCKS (18-11-2), 10 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - A power-play outage has been a factor in the Vancouver
 Canucks' five-game losing streak. They'll hope to get things going on Saturday
 night as they take on the rival Calgary Flames.
 
 The Canucks have been held to just a pair of goals over their last three games
 and are coming off a 2-0 setback to the Dallas Stars on Wednesday. They failed
 to score on four chances with the man advantage and have not lit the lamp on
 the power play in six straight (0-for-18) since netting three in a win over
 Washington on Dec. 2.
 
 Vancouver fell to 0-4-1 in its past five with the loss to Dallas, one that
 featured a 27-save effort by backup goaltender Eddie Lack.
 
 However, Lack would have loved to get back the only goal he gave up, which
 came early in the second period when he failed to sweep the puck with his
 glove on a backhander by the Stars' Colton Sceviour.
 
 "We were controlling the first and beginning of the second, and I gave them
 momentum and it's a weak goal. What else can I say?" said Lack.
 
 The Canucks have lost the first two of their four-game homestand and are
 likely to start Ryan Miller tonight.
 
 Miller, who allowed five goals on 23 shots in a 5-1 loss to the New York
 Rangers a week ago in his most recent outing, is 3-2-0 versus the Flames with
 a 2.92 goals against average and .901 save percentage.
 
 The Canucks won the first of four meetings this season with the Flames 4-2 in
 Calgary on Oct. 8 in their season opener. That pushed Vancouver's winning
 streak in this series to eight in a row.
 
 Henrik Sedin had a goal and an assist for the Canucks and Miller made 23
 saves.
 
 Jonas Hiller allowed three goals on 32 shots in his first game with the
 Flames, who also have lost seven straight in Vancouver.
 
 Not only have the Flames struggled as of late versus the Canucks, but they
 come into this matchup having lost seven straight games in regulation. That is
 the longest losing streak for the club since an 0-6-3 skid from Jan. 11-28,
 2010.
 
 Winless since Dec. 4, Calgary was dealt a 2-1 loss by the Dallas Stars last
 night. Mark Giordano had the goal and Hiller made 19 saves.
 
 "These are the tough lessons but I think it's going to make us stronger," said
 Flames coach Bob Hartley.
 
 Calgary has scored more than two goals only once during its losing streak.
 
 Hartley could go with Karri Ramo tonight in an effort to shake his club out of
 its slump. Ramo is 1-2-1 in his career versus the Canucks with a 3.03 GAA and
 .894 save percentage.
 
 
 ST. LOUIS BLUES (21-9-2) AT SAN JOSE SHARKS (18-11-4), 10:30 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The San Jose Sharks will try to extend an impressive
 home winning streak on Saturday night in the finale of a five-game residency
 versus the St. Louis Blues.
 
 The Sharks have won the first four games of this stay at SAP Center to push
 their winning streak at home to seven straight games. That has boosted San
 Jose's record at home to 9-4-2 on the season.
 
 A pair of rookies helped the Sharks take a 4-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers on
 Thursday. Defenseman Matt Tennyson scored his first career goal to tie the
 game in the third period and Barclay Goodrow scored 34 seconds later for the
 winner.
 
 "Always good to get that out of the way," Tennyson said of his first career
 goal, which came in his eighth NHL game. "And it was a goal that tied it up,
 so that makes it even better."
 
 Goodrow, meanwhile, added an assist and has a pair of goals and five points in
 17 games.
 
 James Sheppard and Logan Couture also lit the lamp for the Sharks, who have
 won eight of their last nine overall.
 
 Antti Niemi stopped 25-of-28 shots in the win. He is 8-6-0 in his career
 versus the Blues with a 2.53 goals against average and .913 save percentage.
 
 San Jose scored 14 goals in winning all three meetings with St. Louis a season
 ago and the Blues are coming off a defensive disappointment in Thursday's 6-4
 setback to the Los Angeles Kings.
 
 The Blues netted four goals in the third period of Tuesday's 5-2 home win over
 the Kings, but L.A. potted a trio of goals in the final frame on Thursday to
 split the home-and-home set.
 
 David Backes, Dmitrij Jaskin and Kevin Shattenkirk scored in a 2:48 span in
 the first period to give the Blues a 3-0 lead and Jori Lehtera made it a 4-3
 St. Louis advantage in the second period after that edge failed to hold.
 
 Martin Brodeur, though, was beaten six times on 37 shots as the Blues had a
 five-game win streak halted.
 
 "We were careless at times and that's a big part of it," said Blues coach Ken
 Hitchcock. "We did a really poor job of managing the puck as the game went on
 so we turned it into a track meet."
 
 Jake Allen may get the start for the Blues tonight and he is 2-1-0 lifetime
 versus the Sharks with a 2.34 GAA and .923 save percentage.
 
 
 
 12/20 10:52:42 ET

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