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NHL: 4 things to watch Wednesday

12/31/2014 11:43 EST | Updated 03/02/2015 05:59 EST
Wednesday in the National Hockey League, one Alberta team is certain to be a winner as the Oilers and Flames meet, while the Maple Leafs and the Jets aim for turnarounds to close out 2014. Here are 4 things to watch.

Oilers Nelson has room to operate

Flying solo behind the Oilers' bench for the first time with general manager Craig MacTavish back watching from the press box, interim coach Todd Nelson saw his Oilers give up a two-goal lead to the Los Angeles Kings only to win a shootout, 3-2. It was Nelson's first win in six games with the Oilers.

While Ben Scrivens allowed the Kings a pair of third period goals to send the game to overtime, he came up big in the shootout, stopping all four attempts. Edmonton's David Perron went to his backhand to beat James Quick and the Oilers had their first win since Dec. 7 and only their second victory going back to Nov. 9.

Now they must face the Flames in Calgary. In Saturday, the Flames extended the Oilers' recent woes with a 4-1 victory, on Calgary ice.

Flames sparked by rookie

The Flames are looking for their fifth consecutive win against the Oilers. In that December 27 4-1 win, Flames rookie Johnny Gaudreau fired in two goals. That was a nice follow-up to his first career hat trick December 22 against Los Angeles in a game the Flames won 4-3.

With their 2-1 win Monday over the Kings, the Flames have built their winning streak to three. The Flames are just behind the Kings for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Jonas Hiller is expected to start in goal for Calgary and has a 9-1-2 record against the Oilers in the last dozen outings.

​Leafs take aim at Rask again

The Leafs and the Bruins have split their two meetings this year but the Leafs would prefer to repeat the last meeting's results when they drove Tuukka Rask from the Boston goal in the midst of a 6-1 triumph. Leafs' scoring leader Phil Kessel enjoyed a two-goal night in that win.

Still leading the NHL in goals scored, the Leafs have been porous on defence, allowing 24 goals in the last six games, five of those losses. 

Monday in Tampa, the Leafs let a two-goal first period lead evaporate in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Lightning. 

James Reimer, in goal for that loss, and the previous 6-4 defeat by the Florida Panthers, which featured a massive third-period collapse, will likely make way for Jonathan Bernier to return to the Toronto net.

Boston, which has played much better at home than on the road, is coming off a 5-2 win in Detroit Monday and may see the return of forwards Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic who missed the Red Wings' game.

Jets, Isles need to protect leads

Two more teams struggling to prevent opponents from coming back for victories, are meeting in Winnipeg as the jets host the New York Islanders.

The Jets have been playing with a decimated defence corps for several weeks and just found out that forward Evander Kane will be sidelined into February. Monday they held a 2-0 lead over the Minnesota Wild, but allowed three unanswered goals to fall 3-2.

That halted a three-game win streak by goaltender Michael Hutchison. Ondrej Pavelec, who was in goal when the Jets beat the Islanders 4-3 on Long Island on October 28, will likely get the call between the pipes.

The Islanders coughed up three-goal leads four times in December, but the latest, against Washington Monday, still resulted in a 4-3 overtime win.

Sitting tied for the Metropolitan Division lead with the Pittsburgh Penguins, it's the latest the Islanders have held a share of first place since February of 1990.

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