SPORTS

NHL: 4 key points for Friday night's games

02/20/2015 11:59 EST | Updated 04/22/2015 05:59 EDT
Four Canadian NHL teams are in action tonight. Toronto visits Carolina, Vancouver is in Jersey, Calgary hosts Anaheim, and Edmonton welcomes Minnesota.

Here's something interesting to know for each game (with 2014 movie-themed subheads in honour of Sunday's Oscars):

A most horrible year

What a difference a new year makes. Back when you were toasting the arrival of 2015 on the night of Dec. 31, the Leafs were celebrating a 4-3 shootout win over Boston that put them in the Eastern Conference's top wild-card spot as the calendar turned. It was only Toronto's second win in its last seven games, but a playoff appearance seemed like a good possibility.

Smash-cut to the present day, and the Leafs have won a total of two games in 2015. They've lost 18, including all 13 played away from home, falling way out of post-season contention. It would have seemed unthinkable on New Year's Eve, but Toronto is only four points ahead of tonight's opponent, the Carolina Hurricanes, who on Jan. 1 sat 21 points behind the Leafs and tied for "first" place in the "race" for the best odds in the Connor McDavid sweepstakes.

Bo-hood

Vancouver rookie Bo Horvat is having a pretty good season for a guy his age. The 19-year-old forward's goal in Thursday's 5-4 shootout win over the Rangers extended his points streak to five games and gave him 17 points for the season. That's the fourth-highest total among rookies born in 1995 (his year) or earlier. Only Florida defenceman Aaron Ekblad (1996, 32 points) Tampa forward Jonathan Drouin (1995, 24) and Washington forward Andre Burakowsky (1995, 21) are ahead.

If he gets a point against New Jersey tonight, Horvat's streak would be the longest by a Canucks rookie since Pavel Bure's eight-gamer in 1992.

Good excuse to watch some Bure highlights:

Gone goalie

Anaheim has one of the best teams in hockey, but the Ducks have struggled since Feb. 8, when top netmminder Frederik Andersen suffered head and neck injuries caused by the net falling on him. The Ducks lost that game 5-3 at Tampa Bay, and with Andersen out of the lineup have dropped three of their next four while allowing 4.25 goals per game.

Andersen did not make the trip to Alberta with his teammates, who play Calgary tonight and Edmonton on Saturday. He hasn't practised since his injury, and it's uncertain when he'll be ready to return.

John Gibson is the likely starter against the Flames. He was shelled for nine goals in Anaheim's last two games — back-to-back home losses to Washington and Tampa Bay.

Wild tale

Great story in Minnesota, where the Wild have flipped the script on their season since Jan. 13. A 7-2 loss at Pittsburgh that night extended Minny's losing streak to six games, with only two wins in its last 14.

The next day, Minnesota acquired goalie Devan Dubnyk from Arizona for a third-round pick and gave him the start the following night in Buffalo. He made 18 saves in a 7-0 shutout of the moribund Sabres, kicking off a terrific run that has seen the Wild go 11-2-2 with Dubnyk starting every one of those games and posting a 1.73 goals-against average.

Quite a turnaround for the team and the goalie, a 28-year-old journeyman whose four NHL stops include parts of five seasons with Edmonton, where he went 61-76-21 with a 2.88 GAA.

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