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NHL: 4 things to know for Wednesday

01/28/2015 12:07 EST | Updated 03/30/2015 05:59 EDT
The Maple Leafs have 34 games to turn their fortunes around, beginning Wednesday in New Jersey. Toronto and the Pittsburgh Penguins are expecting key players to return, while the Blackhawks try to maintain their mastery over the Kings in L.A.

Here are four things to know heading into tonight's NHL games:

Leafs getting help, missing captain

The "second half" for the Toronto Maple Leafs (22-23-3) will consist of 34 games, beginning Wednesday at New Jersey. Ten points out of a playoff spot at the All-Star break, the Leafs are getting three forwards back to bolster their moribund offence but must soldier on against the Devils (17-22-8) without captain Dion Phaneuf, sidelined with a hand injury.

Carrying a six-game losing streak into New Jersey, the Leafs mustered only five goals in that six-game span, three of them in their latest loss, 4-3 in Ottawa just before the break.

Forwards Leo Komarov, Peter Holland and Geoffrey Lupul, should benefit the Leafs' attack and, at the least, make things more uncomfortable for teams free-wheeling in the Toronto end of the ice.

Phaneuf, who injured, or more likely re-injured, his hand during two fights against Carolina and Ottawa, is out on a week-to-week basis. Despite fan opinion to the contrary, the Leafs do not play well without Phaneuf, with a record of 5-10-3 without the defenceman.

Perron picking up Penguins

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who received an injection for a lower body-injury and subsequently sat out the All-Star game Sunday, is expected to return Wednesday as Pittsburgh (27-12-8) meets the Capitals (24-14-90) in Washington.

Led by Chris Letang's five assists, the Penguins snapped a four-game losing streak Tuesday with a home-ice win over Winnipeg, 5-3.

One of the goal scorers was David Perron, recently acquired from the Edmonton Oilers. Perron notched his 11th goal of the season in the win over the Jets and has produced nine points in nine games as a Penguin, including six goals.

The Capitals, 4-3 losers in Columbus Tuesday  are on a four-game slide. Braden Holtby, who set a club record for consecutive starts, may be wearing down. He's lost three in a row with a 3.94 goals against average.

Blackhawks fly high in L.A.

The two most recent Stanley Cup winners meet in Los Angeles as the Blackhawks (30-15-2) continue a seven-game road trip against the Kings (20-15-12). Chicago opened the road swing with a 3-2 victory in Pittsburgh one week ago.

They've won four straight against the Kings, and seven of their last eight visits to the Staples Center. 

Both teams will be missing familiar forwards, with the Blackhawks placing Kris Versteeg on long-term injured reserve with a hand injury that's been slow to heal and the Kings dispatching Mike Richards and his hefty contract to the American Hockey League's Manchester Monarchs after he cleared waivers.

The Kings are riding a four-game losing streak and haven't had much luck with Jonathan Quick in goal against Chicago. Quick is 1-4-0 in his latest five starts against the Blackhawks.

Habs brace for Emelin news

The Montreal Canadiens are off until Thursday, when they play the Rangers in New York, but they're waiting to find out what's going to happen to Alexei Emelin for his crosscheck that left Jason Spezza of the Dallas Stars seeing stars and with a broken nose in the Canadiens' 3-2 win Tuesday.

Emelin was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for his infraction.

The NHL is expected to rule or conduct a hearing quickly.

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