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National Hockey League Previews from The Sports Network

Friday, January 30 (All times Eastern)

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (27-13-8) AT NEW JERSEY DEVILS (18-22-8), 7 P.M.

(SportsNetwork.com) - The New Jersey Devils will try to record their first three-game winning streak since the opening week of the season when they host the struggling Pittsburgh Penguins in Thursday's battle at Prudential Center.

New Jersey beat San Jose 5-2 in its final tilt before the All-Star break and followed that road victory with Wednesday's shootout victory over the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs. The recent triumphs marks only the fourth time the Devils have posted consecutive wins since opening the season 3-0 from Oct. 9-14.

Although picking up a third straight win tonight would be nice, the Devils would still have plenty of work to do in order to get back into the playoff race. New Jersey is currently 14 points behind the New York Rangers for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

While the Devils are hoping to gain momentum tonight, the Penguins are aiming to get back on track after losing five of their last six games.

Despite the recent rough patch, the Pens are still second in the Metropolitan Division and sit three points behind the New York Islanders. Pittsburgh also is three points ahead of third-place Washington.

The Pens began their post-All-Star break schedule with Tuesday's 5-3 win over visiting Winnipeg, but were dealt a 4-0 loss the following night at Washington. Alex Ovechkin scored twice for the Capitals and Braden Holtby made 27 stops for the shutout victory.

The setback marked only the fourth time this season Pittsburgh has been shut out and the last two times have come against the Capitals. Holtby also helped Washington blank the Penguins, 3-0, on Dec. 27 in the Steel City.

Marc-Andre Fleury allowed all four goals on 36 shots in the loss.

The Penguins fell to 1-3-2 in their last six despite getting captain Sidney Crosby back from a lower-body injury which kept him from participating in All- Star weekend.

"We had a few opportunities but we need to create more if we want to win a game," said Crosby.

Although Crosby returned on Wednesday, fellow star forward Evgeni Malkin, who also skipped the All-Star festivities due to a lower-body injury, sat out a third straight game. Malkin, who is tied with Crosby for the team lead in points with 51, is likely to miss his fourth consecutive tilt on Friday.

Maxim Lapierre made his Penguins debut in the recent loss and the defensive forward logged 14 minutes, 15 seconds of ice time. Lapierre was acquired in a trade with St. Louis on Tuesday, with forward Marcel Goc going to the Blues.

The Devils recorded a 2-1 win over the Maple Leafs on Wednesday, as Patrik Elias registered the winner in the shootout.

Adam Larsson scored in regulation for the Devils, while Cory Schneider came up with 29 saves in regulation and two in the shootout.

"It wasn't a pretty game but Schneider, without question, played outstanding throughout," Devils interim coach Lou Lamoriello said.

New Jersey plays tonight just one day after former franchise goaltender Martin Brodeur announced his retirement. Brodeur called it a career at a Thursday press conference in St. Louis after spending 21 stellar seasons with the Devils and seven games this season with the Blues.

Brodeur, a future Hall of Famer who led New Jersey to three Stanley Cup titles, was 3-3-0 with a 2.87 goals-against average and one shutout during his brief stint in St. Louis. He will remain with the St. Louis organization as the senior advisor to the general manager.

Tonight's test is the second contest of a five-game homestand for the Devils, who are 8-7-6 as the host. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is 10-6-5 on the road compared to a 17-7-3 mark at home.

The Pens won the first two of five regular-season meetings with the Devils in Pittsburgh by a combined 9-3 score, but New Jersey posted a 3-1 home win when the clubs last met on Dec. 29. The Devils have won five in a row and 13 of their past 15 home games versus the Pens.

Schneider will make his 43rd start of the season tonight. He is just 1-4-0 with a 2.81 goals against average in his career against Pittsburgh.

Fleury expects to go for the Pens and is 19-23-4 with a 2.46 GAA in this matchup.

ST. LOUIS BLUES (30-13-4) AT CAROLINA HURRICANES (17-25-5), 7 P.M.

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Carolina Hurricanes will try to match their longest winning streak of the season when they host the surging St. Louis Blues in Friday's battle at PNC Arena.

Carolina returned from the All-Star break to notch Tuesday's 4-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. The win was the Hurricanes' third straight, leaving them one victory shy of tying a season-high four-game streak from Nov. 1-7.

The 'Canes also own a solid 7-2-1 record in January, but despite the recent run of positive results, they are still 19 points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Staal brothers powered Carolina's most recent victory, as Eric Staal posted a goal and one assist while younger sibling Jordan contributed a pair of helpers to the winning effort.

Jordan Staal missed the first few months of the season with a broken leg, but he has one goal and seven assists in 11 games since coming back from the injury. The two-way centerman's return to the lineup also has helped Carolina in terms of wins and losses, as the 'Canes are 7-3-1 with Staal on the ice this season.

Nathan Gerbe, Justin Faulk and Jiri Tlusty also lit the lamp on Tuesday, while Anton Khudobin picked up the win thanks to a 28-save effort.

"Before the game I was preparing myself to have fun. It's fun to play against really good teams," said Khudobin.

Khudobin expects to get the start over Cam Ward for a fourth straight time tonight. He has won six straight decisions and hasn't lost since Dec. 21 when he absorbed a tough 1-0 road loss against the New York Rangers.

The Russian backstop's lone career outing against the Blues came in a 3-1 home win on Jan. 31 of last season. Khudobin stopped 27-of-28 shots to anchor the Carolina victory. Ward, meanwhile, received a 5-4 shootout loss at St. Louis on Jan. 10, allowing four goals on 35 shots in the meeting from earlier this month.

Tlusty left Tuesday's game briefly after going head-first into the boards, but returned later to score Carolina's final goal of the game. The forward was held out of practice on Wednesday, but he returned on Thursday and is expected to play tonight.

The Blues enter tonight riding an 8-0-1 point streak over their last nine games. St. Louis pushed its winning streak to three games with Thursday's shootout victory over the Nashville Predators, who hold a four-point lead over the Blues for first place in the Central Division.

St. Louis carried a 4-3 lead into the third period on Thursday, but the Predators were able to salvage a point thanks to James Neal's tying goal with 2:38 left in regulation. However, Brian Elliott, who made 33 saves through overtime, came up with three key stops in the shootout to help the Blues grab the extra point from their divisional rivals.

On his 26th birthday, Kevin Shattenkirk scored the decisive goal in the shootout and added an assist in regulation. Jaden Schwartz, T.J. Oshie, Steve Ott and Ryan Reaves all tallied goals for the Blues.

"I thought we played hard," said Oshie. "They're a great team and they made a pretty strong push at the end there. Unfortunately, they got a point out of us, but when a team puts that much pressure on you, one's bound to go in."

David Backes posted an assist to extend his point streak to eight games. he has seven goals and eight helpers during the tear, which is the NHL's longest current point streak. Backes' teammate, Alex Steen, had a 10-game point streak before failing to reach the scoresheet on Thursday.

Blues forwards Patrik Berglund and Jori Lehtera both left Thursday's game with upper-body injuries and did not return. They are both expected to miss tonight's contest.

Prior to the game, Blues goaltender Martin Brodeur, who announced his retirement earlier on the Thursday, participated in a ceremonial faceoff. Brodeur, the NHL's all-time leader in wins and a future Hall of Famer, played in seven games with St. Louis in 2014-15 after spending his first 21 seasons with the New Jersey Devils.

Jake Allen will get the start in net for the Blues tonight. His only career outing against the Hurricanes came earlier this month when Allen picked up a win in relief of Elliott. Allen stopped 19-of-20 shots in the 5-4 shootout win over the visiting 'Canes after taking over for Elliott in the first period.

St. Louis has won two of the last three meetings against the Hurricanes overall, but Carolina has claimed two straight and five of the past six encounters in Raleigh.

The Hurricanes, who will begin a four-game road trip tomorrow against the Rangers, are 11-9-2 on home ice this season. St. Louis, meanwhile, is 11-9-2 on the road and will complete a brief two-game swing this Sunday in Washington.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS (31-10-6) AT COLORADO AVALANCHE (20-18-11), 9 P.M.

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators meet for the second time this week, as the Central Division foes battle Friday in the Mile High City.

The Predators recorded a 4-3 overtime win Tuesday against the visiting Avalanche, but Nashville then lost for the third time in four games when it dropped Thursday's shootout decision in St. Louis.

Colorado, meanwhile, has been idle since losing in the Music City earlier this week.

Nashville's recent win over the Avs came after Craig Smith beat Semyon Varlamov with a wrister at 2:46 of the extra session. It was the third win in the past five meetings for the Predators, who also have claimed two straight and six of the last nine encounters in Colorado.

Although the Avalanche blew an early 1-0 lead on Tuesday the club did well to earn a point in the end. Colorado tied the game on Nick Holden's goal with 36 seconds left in regulation, but Nashville was still able to win the game shortly after Carter Hutton made a tough save on a Zach Redmond one-timer.

The Predators skated down the other way and Mike Ribeiro sent a saucer pass from the right boards to the left for Smith, who skated down the middle and snapped a wrister past Varlamov for the victory.

"It was a tough game today," said Colorado head coach Patrick Roy. "I thought we had a good first period, but they took advantage of some things in the second. I'm glad to see that late goal and at least get a point out of here."

Jarome Iginla and Cody McLeod added the other goals for Colorado, which is four points out of a playoff spot in the West.

Varlamov took the loss on Tuesday after making 35 saves. He is 6-3-1 with a 3.15 goals against average in 10 career games against the Predators and is expected to start again tonight,

After tonight, Colorado won't play again until visiting Dallas on Tuesday.

Nashville lost 5-4 to the Blues on Thursday, but it was able to salvage a point thanks to a game-tying goal by James Neal late in regulation. However, the extra point gained by St. Louis cut the Preds' lead for first place in the Central to four points.

St. Louis carried a 4-3 lead into the third period on Thursday, but the Predators were able to salvage a point thanks to Neal's marker with 2:38 left in the third. However, Brian Elliott, who made 33 saves through overtime, came up with three key stops in the shootout to help the Blues pick up the win.

"It's a good confidence builder (getting that late goal)," Predators defenseman Shea Weber said.

Mike Fisher scored twice for the Predators and Filip Forsberg also notched a goal. Carter Hutton allowed four goals on 35 shots in the loss.

Neal, meanwhile, failed on a chance to convert in the shootout and extend the game. After Kevin Shattenkirk scored for the Blues to begin the fourth round, Neal lost the puck while skating in on Elliott to end the contest.

Thursday's tilt marked the start of a three-game road trip for the Preds, who have dropped three in a row as the guest. They are 12-8-5 away from Nashville this season.

Hutton has started all five games since No. 1 netminder Pekka Rinne suffered a lower-body injury in a win over Vancouver on Jan. 13, but Marek Mazanec could get the call tonight. Mazanec, a 23-year-old Czech, has never faced the Avalanche in his brief career.

BUFFALO SABRES (14-32-3) AT VANCOUVER CANUCKS (26-17-3), 10 P.M.

(SportsNetwork.com) - A small part of Ryan Miller has to be glad he isn't in Buffalo to endure what has become an epic losing streak by the Sabres.

Miller, though, can't worry about his former teammates on Friday night as his Vancouver Canucks try to get their offense going in a matchup at home against the Sabres.

The 34-year-old Miller is expected to face the Sabres for the first time since getting traded to the St. Louis Blues from Buffalo on Feb. 28, 2014. In 10- plus seasons with the Sabres after they took him in the fifth round of the 1999 draft, Miller went 284-186-57 with a 2.60 goals against average, .916 save percentage and 28 shutouts over 540 games.

His victories are the most in franchise history and he picked up a Vezina Trophy award in 2009-10.

A pending free agent last season, the Canucks dealt Miller to the Blues and he had a chance to face Buffalo in St. Louis on April 3, but opted not to play. He will finally square off against the Sabres tonight and admitted that it is going to be a strange contest.

"Part of hockey is having fun competing against your friends, former teammates, colleagues, so I look forward to these opportunities," Miller added.

The Michigan-born goaltender signed with the Canucks this past offseason and has gone 23-11-1 with a 2.33 GAA and .917 save percentage in 35 starts. His five shutouts also are tied for the second most in the NHL.

In part because of Miller's play, the Canucks are tied for third in the Pacific Division with Calgary but also only one point ahead of fifth-place Los Angeles.

Coming off a 3-2-0 road trip, Vancouver was shut out at home for a second straight contest with Tuesday's 4-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. Miller yielded three goals on 23 shots in his club's second loss in a row overall.

"When we're playing catch-up we're playing a different game than we want to," Canucks forward Radim Vrbata said.

Vancouver hasn't scored a goal at home for 176 minutes, 21 seconds as it was also blanked by Calgary 1-0 on Jan. 10. Tonight is the second contest of a six-game residency.

The Canucks' recent scoring issues are no where never the level of the Sabres' current issues as they come in having lost a franchise-record 13 straight overall. Each setback has come in regulation, including last night's 3-2 loss in Edmonton.

Buffalo hasn't won since a Dec. 27 home victory over the New York Islanders and is last in the NHL with 31 points, four fewer than Edmonton.

"It's frustrating not to get the results when you put in the hard work. I know a lot of those guys on that team are proud and they work hard," said Miller on Thursday.

Jhonas Enroth stopped 31 of the 34 shots he faced last night, with defenseman Tyler Myers and Rasmus Ristolainen both scoring and captain Brian Gionta picking up two assists.

"We had our chances," Buffalo coach Ted Nolan said.

Buffalo has lost the first three of a five-game road trip and is 0-12-1 as the visiting club since a victory at Montreal on Nov. 29.

Neither Enroth or current backup Matt Hackett has ever faced the Canucks, who won both of their meetings with the Sabres last season and are 6-1-0 with a tie in the past eight encounters at home.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (30-16-2) AT ANAHEIM DUCKS (32-11-6), 10 P.M.

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Chicago Blackhawks seek to bounce back on their current road trip Friday night as they visit the NHL-leading Anaheim Ducks.

The Blackhawks opened up a seven-game swing with a shootout victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins before the All-Star break, their second win in a row overall, but were topped 4-3 by the hosting Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night.

Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane each finished with a goal and an assist, Andrew Shaw also lit the lamp and Corey Crawford allowed four goals on 27 shots for Chicago.

"I think we might have sat back a little bit and waited for them to come to us," said Kane. "Usually when we do that, bad things happen."

The Blackhawks now sit third in the Central Division, two points ahead of Winnipeg and two back of the second-place St. Louis Blues.

Crawford expects to start tonight with Antti Raanta slated to go on Saturday versus the San Jose Sharks. Crawford is 8-4-1 lifetime versus the Ducks with a 1.95 goals against average, .924 save percentage and two shutouts in 14 games (13 starts).

Anaheim, meanwhile, is in action for a second straight night having had a six- game win streak halted with a 6-3 loss to the Sharks on Thursday night. Ilya Bryzgalov gave up all six goals -- five in the second period -- on 25 shots and Frederik Andersen turned aside all eight shots fired his way in relief.

"If I made a couple of saves on some of those goals, it might be different," said Bryzgalov.

Andrew Cogliano, Patrick Maroon and Matt Beleskey all lit the lamp for the Ducks, who lead the NHL with 70 points.

Anaheim has lost three of its past four to Chicago, including a 4-1 setback on Nov. 28. Andersen allowed three goals on 37 shots to take the loss in his first career meeting with the Blackhawks.

Crawford, meanwhile, posted 23 saves and Kane scored twice, while Shaw had a goal and an assist.

01/30 10:58:04 ET


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