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NHL: 4 things to know for Friday

01/09/2015 12:41 EST | Updated 03/11/2015 05:59 EDT
The Leafs will try to earn their first win under interim head coach Peter Horachek, the Flames are benefiting from the top-notch play of Johnny Gaudreau and the Oilers keep trying to improve.

Here are four things to know for Friday night's NHL action.

Leafs' Horachek seeks 1st win

The Toronto Maple Leafs (21-17-3) have lost three straight, and to avoid a fourth they will have to get by the Columbus Blue Jackets (18-17-3). Peter Horachek will be at the helm for his second attempt at leading the Leafs out of their downward spiral. His first game as interim head coach, replacing the fired Randy Carlyle, didn't go exactly to plan, with Toronto losing to the Capitals 6-2. The Leafs have lost eight of their last 10 games and been outshot 41-23 over that span.

No one expected a Toronto turnaround overnight, but a victory would go a long way to show that change is on the horizon. The Leafs have lost five of their last six, they haven't won in regulation time since Dec. 28 and they haven't won at the Air Canada Centre since Dec. 16.

The Blue Jackets will not be easy to beat. They've won four of their last five and two of three games during their current road trip. The last time the teams met on Oct. 31, Toronto won 4-1.

Core Leafs players need to contribute

After the firing of Randy Carlyle on Tuesday, the recent contributions of some of the Leafs' core players have come into question. Former Leafs coach Ron Wilson was especially critical of forward Phil Kessel during a radio interview Tuesday where he argued Carlyle is not the problem with the Leafs.

Kessel leads the team with 41 points but is in the midst of a season-high three-game pointless streak. Tyler Bozak has gone four games without a point and has only three points of his 30 in the last 10 games. James van Riemsdyk was on a points streak before Wednesday's loss to Washington, earning eight in six games.

The play of Dion Phaneuf and Jake Gardiner has left much to be desired on defence while Stephane Robidas hasn't lived up to expectations.

In net, Jonathan Bernier has gone 1-2-0 with a 3.61 goals-against average since Dec. 23. James Reimer has lost his last four games, posting a 4.30 GAA.

Flames rookie Gaudreau red hot

The Calgary Flames (21-17-3) have enjoyed a boost from the outstanding play of rookie Johnny Gaudreau. The forward has 13 goals and 18 assists for 31 points this season, the third highest tally on the team. Gaudreau was the NHL's rookie of the  month in December.

Calgary has lost two in a row going into tonight's game against the Florida Panthers (18-11-9). Gaudreau scored and got two assists in the last meeting.

He scored his first career hat trick against the Kings Dec. 22.

Oilers look to improve

The Edmonton Oilers (9-23-9) head into their game against the Chicago Blackhawks (27-12-2) with a renewed energy since the firing of head coach Dallas Eakins. The Oilers lost their last game against the Red Wings but have improved under interim coach Todd Nelson, averaging 2.4 goals per game after averaging 1.45 during the final 12 games under Eakins. Edmonton is 2-4-4 with Nelson at the helm.

The Oilers are still trying to break into the double digits in the win column. They are the only team not to do so.

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