Here are your Puck Previews: Spotlighting the key games in NHL action, news and views as well as general frivolity. Make sure to stop back here for the nightly Three Stars when the games are finished.
Jarome Iginla considers spitting his mouthguard at an official.
Preview: Buffalo Sabres at Washington Capitals, 7 p.m. ET
Was the Capitals' win over the New York Rangers on Wednesday night a sign that the team is beginning to find its footing or simply a one-off? A rematch with Buffalo, who easily handled Washington at home on Boxing Day, is a good chance to prove it's not the latter. The two underachieving teams sit 10th and 11th in the Eastern Conference -- not particularly where they wanted or expected to be closing out 2011.
Preview: Calgary Flames at Ottawa Senators, 7:30 p.m. ET
There are two huge reasons to watch this game, and neither of them are Paul Maclean's moustache. Both teams' captains are on the verge of major career milestones, as Daniel Alfredsson needs only one goal to reach 400 in his career, and Jarome Iginla is only two goals from 500. Both teams will be going with their backups in goal, presumably in an effort to make reaching both milestones a little easier.
Preview: New York Rangers at Florida Panthers, 7:30 p.m. ET
The Rangers final tuneup before the Winter Classic comes against the Florida Panthers. Considering the Panthers are also the Rangers' opponent immediately following the Winter Classic, one wonders if the NHL schedulemakers thought they'd be a nice, easy warmup and cooldown for the Winter Classic. If so, the plan was ruined when the Panthers decided to be good this year. They're 19-11-7 and 7-1-2 in their last 10 at home.
Preview: Nashville Predators at St. Louis Blues, 8 p.m. ET
The Predators are still without leading scorer, captain, and defensive stalwart Shea Weber, who was unfortunately able to add "concussee" to his list of descriptors a week ago. They'll be in tough against a Blues team that has won 6 straight at home. If Brian Elliott gets the start, they'll be in even tougher, which is odd but true: he's 8-1-0 with a 1.33 GAA at home this season.
Preview: Detroit Red Wings at Chicago Blackhawks, 8:30 p.m. ET
Amazingly, this is the first meeting of the season between the Central Division rivals, but don't think the layoff has cooled the bad blood any. These two teams still don't like each other, and considering they meet twice more in the next two weeks, expect a little stage-setting Friday night. Keep an eye on the battle between Jonathan Toews and Pavel Datsyuyk. If all goes as expected, the two will likely check one another into oblivion.
Puck Buddy comment of the day: Phil Wood, on our list of the top 10 players of 2011:
Bah, this subjective list of an author's opinion on the "best" players is fraudulent when compared to my own opinions and biases. How dare this person have the audacity not to make a subjective list that is exactly the same as mine. I shall now call you a rather obscene body part and feel smug in my own self image of a better person than you.
I agree. That list sucked.
Bold prediction: Iginla scores numbers 499 and 500 in Ottawa.