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Five games to watch in the NHL this week


Chicago Blackhawks at Minnesota Wild: The Blackhawks will try win their fourth straight since Denis Savard replaced Trent Yawney as head coach, as they meet a Minnesota club that has been reeling with injuries. Wild star Marian Gaborik is expected to return from a groin injury this week, but there's no word yet on whether he'll face Chicago.


Carolina Hurricanes at Edmonton Oilers: The only meeting this year between the teams in last spring's seven-game Stanley Cup final thriller finds the defending champion Hurricanes just rounding into form. It falls in the midst of a long road trip for the 'Canes, who play Tuesday at Calgary and Friday at Vancouver before heading to Colorado.


Nashville Predators at Anaheim Ducks: The Central Division's top club visits the NHL overall leaders in Anaheim. The Predators may be coming off an overtime loss to Chicago, but they're a solid 17-5-3, while Anaheim is a stunning 20-2-6.


Vancouver Canucks at Calgary Flames: Going into Monday night's games, only two points separated the five Northwest Division clubs. This will be the first of four meetings this month between the Flames and Canucks. They also meet Dec. 14 and then play back-to-back on Dec. 26 and Dec. 27. The Flames won their first meeting 3-2 in Vancouver on Nov. 11.


Toronto Maple Leafs at Detroit Red Wings: It was a big Norris/Central division rivalry until Toronto moved to the Eastern Conference in 1998-99. Now they play each other once a year, if at all. But two Original Six clubs only a three-hour drive apart still makes for an intriguing matchup.


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