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Puck Previews: Sabres-Capitals; Rangers, Blues try to hold onto first place

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.

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Preview: Buffalo Sabres at Washington Capitals, 7 p.m. ET

Is there any doubt as to which game is the game to watch Tuesday night? After a 10-2-2 run since the trade deadline, the Sabres find themselves tied with the Capitals for 8th place in the Eastern Conference with 84 points in 76 games. Sure, there are 5 games left after this one, but this could decide the entire thing, especially if the Capitals come out on top. The Sabres lose pretty much every tiebreaker between the two clubs, meaning that a loss tonight would technically see them three points back. I think to call it a big game is an understatement," said Robyn Regehr.

Preview: New York Islanders at Pittsburgh Penguins, 7 p.m. ET

The Penguins are the only team in the NHL with 8 wins in their last 10, and they're now only 1 point out of 1st in the East. A win Tuesday would put them there, at least until the end of the Rangers' game in Minnesota, and maybe beyond. On the flipside, the Islanders don't have much to play for these days, but they don't care for the Penguins, and with this being the first of a home-and-home series, they could really stall Pittsburgh's march for the top seed. It won't help their cause that the series starts in Pittsburgh, where the Penguins have won 10 straight, and it also might not help that it's against the Penguins, who have won the last 5 meetings between the two teams.

Preview: Nashville Predators at St. Louis Blues, 8 p.m. ET

Both of these Central Division teams are playoff-bound, but their seeding is still completely up in the air. The Blues looked like they might cruise to the Conference title, but a recent skid has seen the Vancouver Canucks gain ground on them. A loss tonight would allow the Canucks to tie them in the standings, and the fact that Pekka Rinne is 4-0-1 against them doesn't bode well. Meanwhile, the Predators' quest for home ice advantage in the first round remains alive. They're only one point back of the Detroit Red Wings for 4th, so a win Tuesday would put them in the driver's seat. Brian Elliott is expected to start for St. Louis.

Evening reading

• Ed Willes on that pesky reffing conspiracy that's been out to screw the Canucks, among other teams, for decades: Here's a theory: "Maybe there aren't any conspiracies. Maybe those calls that appear to be part of a conspiracy are simply random in nature. Maybe the fans can't see that because their passion clouds their judgment. Maybe the organizations that cry about conspiracies are simply trying to influence officials to their own end. Or maybe they're trying to deflect attention away from their own shortcomings." [The Province]

• The Edmonton Oilers need to work on protecting Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. [National Post]

• Steve Yzerman feels the Canadian Olympic team (provided it can be made up of NHLers) will have 10 to 12 new faces. [Calgary Herald]

• Which NHL teams have playoff-ready rotations in goal? [Sporting News]

• Who to scratch for the Predators? Jordin Tootoo or Matt Halischuk? [On the Forecheck]

Puck Buddy comment of the Day: Paul B finds the Ryan Miller story off-putting. must have fought in the war or something.

Came to read about one of my favorite players in the game... read "hippie communes" and decided not to read... I know the article could ONLY get better from there... but here's a writing tip: Get your readers interested in the first paragraph instead of turning them away.

Fire everyone. Hire this man.

Bold prediction: Sabres win in regulation.

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