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NHL: 4 things to know for Tuesday night

11/11/2014 11:40 EST | Updated 01/11/2015 05:59 EST
A heavyweight tilt between the Habs and Penguins highlights the NHL's Tuesday slate, which also sees the Leafs, Jets and Flames in action.

Here's your cheat sheet for tonight's games:

Pens mightier than Habs?

The marquee matchup of the night features two of the NHL's best teams as Montreal faces Pittsburgh for the first time this season at 7:30 p.m. ET at the Bell Centre.

The Canadiens are off to a dream start. Through 19 games — nearly a quarter of the season — they top the league with 29 points (14-4-1) and have won six in a row after Sunday's 4-1 road triumph at Detroit.

But are the Pens mightier? Pittsburgh (12-3-1) trails Montreal by four points but has played three fewer games. If you go by points per game, Sidney Crosby and company actually have a slight edge. Their edge is larger in scoring differential: the Pens have outscored their opponents by an NHL-best 25 goals this season, while the Habs are tied for seventh at plus-eight.

On the other hand, Montreal has played the slightly tougher schedule, according to Jeff Sagarin's ratings, though the difference is small and both teams have faced a relatively easy slate. (Sagarin's numbers, by the way, say Pittsburgh is the NHL's best team and Montreal is No. 3).

This isn't exactly groundbreaking insight, but the keys for the Habs will be slowing down Pittsburgh's vaunted attack (its 3.62 goals per game rank second in the league) and staying out of the box. The Pens are converting an NHL-best (though surely unsustainable) 32.8 per cent of their power-play chances, thanks to plays like this:

On the roster-news front, Pittsburgh defenceman Olli Maatta will play for the first time since having a cancerous tumour removed from his thyroid gland earlier this month. Forward Pascal Dupuis has been ruled out with an unspecified injury.

Leafs hope to forget Buffalo debacle

Toronto will try to put an ugly defeat behind it when it hosts surprising Nashville at 7:30 p.m. ET.

When we last saw the Leafs, they were getting shelled 6-2 by the lowly Buffalo Sabres in what amounted to a home game in front of a decidedly pro-Toronto crowd just down the Queen Elizabeth Way.

The humiliating loss included the requisite merch toss by a Leaf fan (this time a scarf hit the ice)...

... and star forward Phil Kessell reportedly telling a journalist to "get away from me" when approached for comment after the game (he was back talking to reporters at Monday's practice).

Toronto (9-7-2) lurks on the fringes of the Eastern Conference wild-card race, while surprising Nashville (11-4-2) sits second in the Central, three points ahead of powerhouse Chicago and just a point back of division leader St. Louis.

Hiller faces old team

As grudge matches go it's not exactly Balboa vs. Drago, but Flames goalie Jonas Hiller faces his ex-team for the first time when the Anaheim Ducks visit the Saddledome for a 9 p.m. ET start.

Hiller spent his first seven NHL seasons in Orange County and is the Ducks' all-time leader in save percentage at .916. In his first year with Calgary, he's posted an 8-4-1 record and .922 save percentage to help the Flames to an 11-6-2 start that has them within two points of Anaheim (11-4-4) for the Pacific Division lead and capable of jumping them with a regulation win tonight.

Brodeur mark in reach for Schneider

In the other game involving a Canadian team, Winnipeg (9-7-3) opens a three-game homestand against New Jersey (8-8-2) at 8 p.m. ET.

Devils goalie Cory Schneider has started all 18 of the Devils' games, and if he gets the nod tonight he'll match Martin Brodeur's team record of 19 in a row to begin the 2001-02 season.

Schneider's workload is unusual in the modern game. As per The Associated Press, he's the first goalie to open a season with this many consecutive starts since 2007-08, when Evgeni Nabokov started the first 43 (!) for San Jose and Miikka Kiprusoff went 23 straight for Calgary.

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