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Five things to watch: Kesler scoring machine, Blackhawks' struggling PK

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Author: The Hockey News

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Five things to watch: Kesler scoring machine, Blackhawks' struggling PK

The Hockey News
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What do you need to know heading into tonight’s games? From Ryan Kesler’s goal scoring, to Chicago’s lackluster penalty-kill, THN gives you five things to look forward to as the NHL gets set for a six-game night.

By Garrett Perry, Curtis Ng and Nic Carafa
What do you need to know heading into tonight’s games? From Ryan Kesler’s goal scoring, to Chicago’s lackluster penalty-kill, THN gives you five things to look forward to as the NHL gets set for a six-game night.

And then there was light; a goal light
Ryan Kesler is lighting the lamp and the Vancouver Canucks couldn’t be happier. The Canucks have won back-to-back games for the first time in over a month, thanks in large part to the American pivot. “Kes,” as he is known by his teammates, has four goals in those two games and is showing signs of the man who scored 41 goals in 2010-11. Through the first 30 games this season, Kesler’s 14 goals lead all Canuck players and his 22 points rank him third, just behind the Sedin twins. He is currently on pace to score 38 goals and eclipse 60 points. Just last month, the Michigan native played in his 600th career NHL game, all in a Canuck uniform. If the Canucks can manage their third consecutive win tonight against Phoenix in regulation, they would leap over the Coyotes for fourth place in the Pacific.

Penalty Kill is Blackhawks Only Blemish
The Chicago Blackhawks surrendered another two power play goals last night in a 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild, which brings their season total to 23. Right now the Hawks’ penalty kill is ranked 29th in the league, operating at 72.6 percent, but they’re sitting atop the NHL standings with 44 points. Does having a decent penalty kill mean anything? They’re still winning games. Over the past five seasons, it obviously means something to the Hawks. In their two recent Stanley Cup victories (2013 and 2010) Chicago ranked in the top five – 87.2 percent and 85.3 percent – but in the two seasons sandwiched between the championships, they were 25th and 27th in the league. Coincidence?

Avalanche looking to rebound after being buried by Oilers
The 8-2 pummeling last night was the Colorado Avalanche’s worst loss of the season and it came against the worst team in the Western Conference. Maybe things would’ve been different if they scored first. They are 17-0 when they light the lamp first. Or maybe if they kept the game within a reasonable margin, things would’ve been different – their .889 winning percentage in one-goal games is also tops in the league. The next closest team is the Nashville Predators at .667. Pretty simple, right? All the Avs have to do is score first and keep the game within reason and they should be able to walk out of the Saddledome with two points. If only winning games in the NHL was that easy. The Calgary Flames, who have won two games in a row, have captain Mark Giordano back in the lineup. He registered two assists in his return versus the Phoenix Coyotes Wednesday night.

Roaring 30s
This is just a reminder, in case you had forgotten, that the Red Wings and the Devils are aging teams. The top five point-getters for each team are all at least 31 years old. Henrik Zetterberg, 33, leads Detroit with 30 points in 28 games, while 41-year-old Jaromir Jagr leads New Jersey with 22 in 29. After Zetterberg, you’ve got Pavel Datsyuk (35), Daniel Alfredsson (40), Niklas Kronwall (32) and Johan Franzen (33). After Jagr, there’s Patrik Elias (37), Marek Zidlicky (36), Andy Greene (31) and Dainius Zubrus (35). Detroit, as always, continues to be a playoff contender, sitting fifth in the Eastern Conference with 35 points. New Jersey, on the other hand, is sixth in the Metropolitan Division, though a win tonight would bump them up a couple spots.

Black and Blue Jackets
The hockey gods have not been smiling down on the State of Ohio, well, not in the capital of Columbus at least. The Blue Jackets will begin life without Sergei Bobrovsky tonight, as they host the Minnesota Wild at Nationwide Arena. The Vezina Trophy winner left in the third period of Tuesday night’s 1-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning with a groin injury. The strain is expected to sideline him for four-to-five weeks, not good news for a team that is already without Marian Gaborik and Nathan Horton. The three players have a combined salary cap hit of $18.4 million this season. The 25-year-old Bobrovsky was 10-11-2 with a 2.72 GAA, a .909 SP and one shutout in 23 games this season. Not exactly Vezina numbers, but he was starting to show signs of improvement. In his absence, the Jackets will turn to Curtis McElhinney, who sports a career 20-29 record with a .902 SP and 3.01 GAA. The club also called up Mike McKenna from their AHL affiliate in Springfield earlier Wednesday.

Note: Columbus' AHL affiliate was incorrectly listed as Syracuse and has been changed to Springfield. THN regrets the error.

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Five things to watch: Kesler scoring machine, Blackhawks' struggling PK