Puck Daddy - NHL

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.

• The timing of stories today got us all turned around, so Puck Headlines will return on Thursday. Expect the Crosby Golden Roar vote to begin on Friday, through the weekend. Any entries you think have to make the cut, make the case in the comments here.

Preview: New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils, 7 p.m. EST. For both teams, the stakes are rather obvious: They either build momentum with a huge win over a hated rival, or they get pushed into a deeper depression with a loss. The Devils are in a 6-12-2 funk that's seen them tumble out of the division lead. The Rangers are in a three-game winless streak as they try and climb back into the eighth seed. Blueshirt Banter has a good across-the-Hudson preview.

Preview: Los Angeles Kings at Chicago Blackhawks, 8:30 p.m. EST. Game of the night, as the Blackhawks look to bounce back from an awful loss to Detroit and the Kings look to ride high after a 6-0 dismantling of the Blue Jackets. Antti Niemi(notes) gets the nod for Chicago, but the big news for the 'Hawks is the return of Adam Burish to the lineup to cause havoc and make women swoon. 

Preview: Vancouver Canucks at Phoenix Coyotes, 10 p.m. EST. The nightmare road trip from hell comes to an end! The Coyotes fans see this game as a measuring stick. The Canucks, 8-5-0 in the NRTFH, see it as their last road game until Feb. March 23. 

Check out previews and updated scores for all of today's games (like the ones in progress) on the Y! Sports NHL scores and scheds page.

Evening Reading

• Call off the dogs, tell the national guard to stand down and bring us all the way down to DEFCON 2: Sidney Crosby's(notes) stick and glove have been located. His stick? It was headed, by mistake, to the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame in St. Petersburg, Russia where it would be turned into Official Ovechkin Great 8 designer toothpicks. The glove? Inside Team Canada teammate Patrice Bergeron's(notes) bag, who can't carry Crosby's jock but apparently can carry his other equipment. So does Bergeron get any Reebok bounty for this? [Kurtenblog, and check out some awesome inside the locker room shots]

• Sid is donating his $20,000 gold medal bonus to charity. [THN]

• "A New York jury has awarded $2.25 million in damages to three members of the all-girls Windsor Wildcats team involved in a fatal bus crash in 2005." [CP]

• As Puck Buddy Rhett said: "That cult that is the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament begins today."

• Touching story about the hockey community rallying around former NHL-er Jeff Christian, whose daughter is fighting for her life. [FanHouse]

• From Puck Buddy Jenn D.: "The Gwinnett Gladiators are proud to announce that they will sign two-time Cy Young Award winner Tom Glavine to be an honorary member of the team for their Saturday, March 20th home game vs. the Trenton Devils. As a member of the team, Glavine will don the familiar black, garnet and gold uniform of the Glads and will skate with the team for player introductions and for pre-game ceremonies."

• Good piece on Brian Pothier(notes) returning to DC to face the Capitals as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes. [DC Sports Bog]

• Have you ever wondered what the aftermath of a failed radio bit looks like in an NHL locker room? Wonder no more as Sportsradio 1310, The Ticket's "Scoops Callahan" tries to speak to Alex Ovechkin(notes) and gets tossed from the Washington Capitals press area (via Bob Sturm's blog). Check out a full compilation; still disappointed he doesn't dress the part.

• The other rules changes suggested by the NHL GMs: Two-ref system in the AHL and tie-breaker that would subtract shootout wins from regulation wins, which is great. [NHL.com]

Chris Pronger(notes) of the Philadelphia Flyers on head-shot rules: "So, you're going to let up when a guy has his head down, so then he beats you to the net and scores a goal in a big playoff game or a crucial game towards the tail end of the regular season? Then, you're getting critiqued by the media and the fans: why didn't you hit him? ... It's a lose-lose if a player lets up on somebody and something bad happens against his team like a goal or penalty. You're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't. It's a fine line. I haven't seen the rule and I don't know what they want to institute, but any rule is going to have its ups and its downsides." [Flyers]

• Fans will have a chance to boo, er, see Rick Nash's(notes) Team Canada jersey and gold medal at an upcoming home game. [Blue Jackets]

Chris Chelios(notes) drags his old ass back to the NHL and the Atlanta Thrashers blue line. [CP]

• Finally, you may have heard the Hershey created a giant chocolate Stanley Cup. You'll want to avoid it after seeing this. [The Cheap Seats]

Puck Buddy Comment of the Day:

Sven M. has a plan for expanding the playoffs.

I've been an advocate of the play-in idea for a while, but with this setup -

1. Top two teams from each division automatically qualify for the playoffs.

2. The remaining teams are ranked as they are today.

3. Ten plays at seven, Nine plays at eight, winners make the playoffs.

4. The two survivors are inserted into the playoff bracket and things are re-seeded as normal.

[NOTE - odds are very good that the re-bracketing does not effect the league's ability to plan the playoff schedule, as the three division winners and the best second-place team already know they'll be hosting their first round game before the play-ins. The only issue would be where the bottom four teams are going.]

Results -

1. Divisional play is truly emphasized for the first time since the league moved to the current 1-8 conference seeding, goofiness involving the Southeast division notwithstanding.

2. Four high-stakes games added to the schedule without the dilution of the playoffs caused by the proposed full tournament.

3. Season only prolonged by two days' worth of games at the most [as opposed to the full week that a tournament would likely require when travel is built in].

4. Number of playoff 'races' increased dramatically, with at least three of import in each conference [the second / third divide within the division] that did not exist before.

5. Every team outside the three division leaders would be in a fight, to either avoid having to play a play-in game or qualify for the play-in games.

6. Small rest periods granted to the top six teams as a reward for being better than the other teams in their division.

I acknowledge the downside of this proposal is that occasionally a team like Atlanta this year would get the bye in spite of being 30 points adrift of the division leader [and that my personal favourite team, the Kings, might get screwed by this idea if it was in place this year], but I think the advantages of the proposal override such a statistical quirk.

Okay, someone else play devil's advocate on this.

Wait, we were supposed to read that whole thing?

Bold Prediction: Rangers over Devils, and Sean Avery(notes) scores.

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