National Hockey League
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      ***** National Hockey League Previews from The Sports Network *****
                              Sunday, December 21
                              (All times Eastern)
 
 COLORADO AVALANCHE (11-13-8) AT DETROIT RED WINGS (17-8-8), 6 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Detroit Red Wings hope to snap their longest losing
 streak of the season on Sunday night when they play host to the Colorado
 Avalanche.
 
 However, they'll be missing their top goaltender in Jimmy Howard when they
 attempt to do so.
 
 Howard is not expected to play this evening after suffering a lower-body
 injury in Friday's 2-1 loss to the New York Islanders. He stopped eight of the
 nine shots he faced in the first period, but was replaced by Petr Mrazek at
 the start of the second.
 
 Though the Red Wings are hopeful Howard's ailment isn't serious, Thomas
 McCollum was recalled from the American Hockey League to back up Mrazek, who
 will start this game.
 
 Mrazek has never faced the Avalanche and fell to 3-2-0 with a 2.55 goals
 against average and .922 save percentage in five games (4 starts) this season
 after getting credited with the loss on Friday.
 
 The 22-year-old gave up a goal on 23 shots faced versus the Islanders, while
 Henrik Zetterberg's first-period tally was the only one Detroit could score.
 
 That effort extended the Red Wings' skid to five in a row, with three of those
 coming in a shootout. They have just five goals over the losing streak, which
 is the longest for the club since an 0-4-2 drought from Dec. 7-17 of last
 year.
 
 "We had good, good chances but we never hit the net. You've got to hit the net
 on some of them," said Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock. "I thought it was a
 pretty high-level hockey game. I was impressed with their team, but I was
 impressed with lots of things we did, too."
 
 The Red Wings, though, have won four of their past five versus the Avalanche
 and four of the past six played at home in the series.
 
 Colorado has points in four straight (2-0-2), snapping a two-game slide on
 Saturday night with a 5-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
 
 The victory featured another solid outing from rookie Calvin Pickard in his
 fifth straight start. Pickard has gotten the call over backup Reto Berra with
 Semyon Varlamov out with a groin injury.
 
 Pickard, who is expected to start again tonight and face the Red Wings for the
 first time, made 28 saves and improved to 4-5-2 this season with a 2.28 GAA
 and .934 save percentage in 11 games with eight starts.
 
 "With every opportunity I'm given, I just want to give the team a chance to
 win," said Pickard, who had his bid for a shutout ended with 6:33 to play.
 
 Erik Johnson and Cody McLeod scored in the first period for the Avalanche.
 Alex Tanguay then scored twice in the third frame and also set up John
 Mitchell's power-play goal in the period.
 
 Mitchell played for the first time in eight games due to a leg injury.
 
 
 DALLAS STARS (13-13-5) AT EDMONTON OILERS (7-20-6), 6 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Dallas Stars look to win a season-high fourth
 consecutive game on Sunday evening as they visit the reeling Edmonton Oilers.
 
 The Stars took two of three at home before embarking on a three-game swing,
 capping the homestand with a victory over New Jersey prior to road wins over
 Vancouver and Calgary. That gave Dallas its first three-game win streak since
 Nov. 20-25, a run that included a win over Edmonton.
 
 Kari Lehtonen has reached excellent form on this road trip, posting a 27-save
 shutout to beat the Canucks before turning aside 21 of the 22 shots he faced
 in Friday's 2-1 win over the Calgary Flames.
 
 Lehtonen has won four of his past five starts, giving up a goal or fewer in
 three of those games.
 
 "I felt good, and the guys played very well in front of me," Lehtonen told his
 team's website after the win over the Flames. "The first period maybe wasn't
 our best, but after that it was really solid. We didn't give them too much."
 
 Jamie Benn and Trevor Daley scored second-period goals on Friday, with Cody
 Eakin assisting on each tally. Tyler Seguin added an assist for his 39th point
 of the campaign, tied for second most in the NHL.
 
 Seguin also tops the league with 23 goals.
 
 Defenseman Jordie Benn missed the game with flu-like symptoms, while forward
 Ryan Garbutt is eligible to return tonight from a three-game suspension he
 received for slew-footing Winnipeg's Dustin Byfuglien in a loss on Dec. 9.
 
 Lehtonen, meanwhile, may have earned another start tonight and is 12-3-1
 lifetime versus the Oilers with a 2.05 goals against average and .932 save
 percentage.
 
 The Stars netminder made 35 saves in a 3-2 home win over the Oilers on Nov.
 25, the first of three meetings between the clubs this season. Seguin scored
 twice in Dallas' 14th victory in its past 17 versus Edmonton.
 
 The Stars also have won five in a row in Edmonton.
 
 Boyd Gordon and Taylor Hall scored in defeat, while Viktor Fasth made 30 saves
 in the loss.
 
 Fasth is 2-2-0 with a 1.94 GAA and .926 save percentage in five career
 meetings versus Dallas, including four starts, with a shutout. Fellow Oilers
 goaltender Ben Scrivens allowed three goals on 32 shots in a loss the only
 time he faced the Stars.
 
 Scrivens came up with 26 saves in a 4-3 loss to San Jose on Thursday, with the
 Sharks going ahead in the third period thanks to a pair of goals only 34
 seconds apart.
 
 "We've struggled to win games all season and tonight is a prime example of
 that," said Gordon, who returned after missing five in a row with a back
 injury. "We have to find a way to hold on."
 
 Gordon, Steven Pinizzotto and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored for the Oilers, who
 have lost six straight and 17 of their last 18.
 
 Sunday will make Edmonton's third game since firing Dallas Eakins as head
 coach and replacing him on an interim basis with Todd Nelson.
 
 
 BUFFALO SABRES (13-18-2) AT BOSTON BRUINS (16-14-3), 7 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - After failing to win consecutive games for the first
 time in a month, the Boston Bruins now try to avoid an eighth loss in 10
 December games on Sunday evening when they take on the Buffalo Sabres.
 
 The Bruins snapped a three-game slide with an overtime victory at Minnesota on
 Tuesday, but capped a three-game swing the following night with a 2-1 setback
 to the Winnipeg Jets.
 
 Defenseman Torey Krug scored the only goal of the game for the Bruins and
 Tuukka Rask allowed both goals on 27 shots.
 
 "We've talked about keeping things going and getting in a groove by getting a
 win tonight, but we didn't," said Rask.
 
 The Bruins were hoping for their first winning streak since a three-game run
 from Nov. 15-21, but instead fell to 3-6-3 since that time. They also have
 been held to three goals or fewer 10 times in that 12-game span.
 
 "Scoring goals, that's what's missing right now," Bruins defenseman Zdeno
 Chara said on his team's website. "You know, it's one of those things that we
 need to I guess, a little bit of luck, maybe a bounce here or there."
 
 Hosting the Sabres could help. The Bruins have won three in a row in this
 matchup, including the first two meetings this season that both took place in
 Buffalo.
 
 They have won two straight and five of the past seven meetings in Boston.
 
 Rask is 6-5-1 in his career versus the Sabres with a 2.44 goals against
 average and .923 save percentage in 14 career encounters, all but one of those
 starts.
 
 The Sabres come into Boston at less than full strength, battling both illness
 and injury.
 
 Matt Moulson was a scratch in Saturday's 5-1 setback to the Colorado Avalanche
 due to flu-like symptoms, while fellow forward Patrick Kaleta was unable to
 finish the game because of feeling sick.
 
 Buffalo also lost defenseman Tyler Myers to a lower-body injury in the second
 period and he is questionable for tonight's game.
 
 As a result, the Sabres had a six-game winning streak at home snapped and have
 been outscored 10-2 in back-to-back losses following a four-game overall
 winning streak.
 
 Johan Larsson had a third-period goal for his first career NHL tally. He was
 recalled late in the day from the American Hockey League to replace Moulson
 and didn't even get to the arena in time for warmups.
 
 "He had to rush here. Under those circumstances, he played well, plus he
 scored his first (NHL) goal," said Sabres coach Ted Nolan.
 
 Jhonas Enroth stopped 18-of-22 shots for Buffalo, which will try to win for
 the first time in its past four on the road tonight.
 
 Michal Neuvirth could start this game for the Sabres and is 1-3-0 lifetime
 versus the Bruins with a 3.66 GAA and .861 save percentage in six meetings,
 including four starts.
 
 
 CAROLINA HURRICANES (9-19-4) AT NEW YORK RANGERS (16-10-4), 7 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The New York Rangers will attempt to post their longest
 winning streak in over three years on Sunday evening when they go for a sweep
 of their home-and-home series with the Carolina Hurricanes.
 
 The Rangers pushed their season-high win streak to five in a row with last
 night's 3-2 shootout win over the hosting Hurricanes. Defenseman Kevin Klein
 tied the game with 2:23 left in regulation and Mats Zuccarello had the only
 goal of the shootout.
 
 J.T. Miller notched a power-play goal and Henrik Lundqvist made 18 saves for
 the Rangers, who finished off a perfect four-game road trip.
 
 "It's not an easy league to come back in, but I thought we kept playing," said
 Rangers coach Alain Vigneault.
 
 Though forward Rick Nash had his 11-game point streak halted, New York is
 still in position to win six in a row for the first time since a seven-game
 win streak from Oct. 31-Nov. 15, 2011.
 
 Carolina, meanwhile, failed to build off of Thursday's momentum, when it
 notched a win over the Toronto Maple Leafs to halt a six-game losing streak.
 
 Chris Terry and Jeff Skinner had goals in defeat, while Cam Ward kept his club
 in the game with 32 saves versus the Rangers.
 
 The Hurricanes were denied getting back-to-back wins for the first time since
 a four-game run from Nov. 1-7 and lost for the 13th time in their last 14
 meetings with the Rangers.
 
 "It is what it is," said Ward. "We have to be much better (up there)."
 
 That will be easier said than done as the Hurricanes have lost seven straight
 in New York.
 
 They will have forward Alexander Semin in the lineup after he was activated
 off injured reserve following Saturday's loss. The 30-year-old missed the
 previous five games with a lower-body injury, but has logged just one goal and
 five assists in 21 games this season.
 
 Sunday could feature a matchup of backup goaltenders. Carolina's Anton
 Khudobin is 0-1-1 with a 1.93 goals against average and .948 save percentage
 in two games versus the Rangers, while New York's Cam Talbot has never faced
 the Hurricanes.
 
 
 TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (19-11-3) AT CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (22-9-2), 7 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - The Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks will both
 be looking to bounce back from losses on Sunday night when they battle at
 United Center.
 
 The two clubs are also looking to prevent a downward trend heading into the
 end of the month. The Maple Leafs have now lost two in a row following a six-
 game winning streak, while the Blackhawks had won 10 of 11 before a loss on
 Saturday.
 
 Chicago welcomed back starting goaltender Corey Crawford last night versus the
 Columbus Blue Jackets and he made 17 saves in a 3-2 shootout loss. He had
 missed the previous eight games with an ankle injury.
 
 Each goaltender was perfect through four rounds before former Blackhawk Jeremy
 Morin beat Crawford with a quick wrister. Andrew Shaw kept Chicago alive,
 however, as he snapped a shot over Sergei Bobrovsky's glove.
 
 Brandon Saad, the Blackhawks' eighth shooter, had Bobrovsky beaten, but his
 shot rang off the left post. Jack Johnson followed by dragging Crawford out of
 position with a slick backhand-forehand move and wristed the shot into an open
 net to put Columbus ahead.
 
 Patrick Sharp and Ben Smith tallied for Chicago, which had a 13-game winning
 streak over Columbus snapped.
 
 "I thought we did everything, but win that game," Blackhawks head coach Joel
 Quenneville said.
 
 Crawford was appearing in his first game since Nov. 29, so Quenneville could
 opt to start him again tonight to get him into form. The netminder is 2-1-0 in
 four career meetings with the Leafs, posting a 3.02 goals against average and
 .889 save percentage.
 
 If not, backup Antti Raanta would face Toronto for the second time in his
 career. He was blitzed for five goals on 25 shots in the first meeting.
 
 After having its winning streak snapped with a loss on Thursday, Toronto was
 hammered 7-4 by the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday. The Maple Leafs had leads
 of 2-0 and 3-2 in the first period, but ended up losing for the first time in
 15 games this season when scoring first.
 
 "Well I thought we had a decent start to the hockey game," Maple Leafs coach
 Randy Carlyle said. "We did something right to start the game but we got
 sloppy with the puck and allowed them to get back into the game."
 
 Joffrey Lupul posted a goal and an assist while James van Riemsdyk, Peter
 Holland and David Clarkson all scored for the Maple Leafs. Jonathan Bernier
 allowed all seven goals on 41 shots, while James Reimer played the final 10
 1/2 minutes and stopped the one shot he faced.
 
 It is unknown who will start tonight as Toronto begins a seven-game road trip
 that runs through Jan. 3. Bernier is 1-2-0 in his career versus the Blackhawks
 with a 3.04 GAA and .906 save percentage, while Reimer is 1-1-0 with a 4.20
 GAA and .894 save percentage in two encounters.
 
 The Maple Leafs have followed an eight-game slide versus the Blackhawks with
 back-to-back wins in the series. That includes a 3-2 victory at home on Nov.
 1, when Reimer made 45 saves and Holland, van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri all
 scored.
 
 Brad Richards and Brent Seabrook had the goals for Chicago, while Crawford
 made 24 saves.
 
 The Blackhawks have won four in a row at home over the Maple Leafs.
 
 
 PHILADELPHIA FLYERS (12-14-6) AT WINNIPEG JETS (17-10-6), 9 P.M.
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - One night after setting a season high for goals in a
 game, the Philadelphia Flyers will try to keep their offense on point against
 the stingy Winnipeg Jets in Sunday's clash at MTS Centre.
 
 The Flyers struggled early defensively versus the Toronto Maple Leafs on
 Saturday before pulling away for a 7-4 win. They trailed 2-0 and 3-2 in the
 first period, but ripped off five straight goals to pull away.
 
 Claude Giroux had a pair of goals and two assists, while Jakub Voracek tied a
 career high with four assists.
 
 Voracek leads the NHL with 42 points, three more than Giroux and Dallas' Tyler
 Seguin, and his 30 assists also top the league. Giroux has 29 helpers on the
 season.
 
 "It's great to get a lot of goals in one game," Giroux said. "That was fun."
 
 Michael Raffl and Sean Couturier finished with a goal and an assist, while
 defenseman Nicklas Grossmann netted his career-high third goal of the season.
 
 Ray Emery allowed four goals on 25 shots in the victory, which snapped a two-
 game slide and came in the opener of an eight-game road trip.
 
 With No. 1 goaltender Steve Mason out for at least the weekend with a back
 injury suffered in practice on Friday, 33-year-old Rob Zepp is expected to
 make his NHL debut in net tonight. Zepp has gone 8-5-4 in 17 games with the
 Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the American Hockey League this season after
 spending the previous seven campaigns in the German Elite League.
 
 Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo also is questionable with an upper-body injury
 sustained versus the Leafs.
 
 Philadelphia's offense will go up against a Winnipeg team that ranks fourth in
 the NHL with just 2.21 goals allowed per game. That comes despite the club
 currently missing four defenseman due to injury.
 
 Tobias Enstrom, Zach Bogosian and Mark Stuart are all out with lower-body
 injuries, while Jacob Trouba has an upper-body issue.
 
 Winnipeg has won two straight, including a 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins on
 Friday. Evander Kane and Mathieu Perreault scored the goals and Michael
 Hutchinson had 30 saves.
 
 "Real good goaltending," said Jets coach Paul Maurice. "Then just an awful lot
 of hard, scramble battles."
 
 Defenseman Jay Harrison had an assist in his Jets debut after being acquired
 from the Carolina Hurricanes the previous game.
 
 Winnipeg will close out a four-game homestand tonight and Ondrej Pavelec
 figures to draw the start in net tonight. He is 7-4-1 in his career versus the
 Flyers with a 3.14 GAA and .910 save percentage in 13 games with 12 starts.
 
 The Jets have lost four of their last six versus the Flyers, but have won the
 last two meetings in Winnipeg.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 12/21 10:43:16 ET