Leafs in Carolina, gunning for fifth straight; NHL ’94 chair mat (Puck Previews)

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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.

NHL 94 chair mat. I must have this. [Dave's Geeky Ideas]

Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs at Carolina Hurricanes, 7 p.m. ET

Who'd have thought, this late into the season, this would be a matchup between two of the better teams in the Eastern Conference? Not I. But the Hurricanes currently sit atop the Southeast Division, and the Leafs have been on a tear of late. They're now just two points back of Boston atop the Northeast (although Boston has two games in hand). The Leafs will have to continue their tear without Matt Frattin and James Reimer, both of whom went down with injuries over the weekend. If they can, a win tonight will give them their first five-game winning streak since 2007.

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

If you're a betting man, take the Rangers. It's not just that have the better record or that they're at home. They've also won 3 straight, and if that's not enough, the Islanders haven't won at MSG in 8 straight tries. Guys to keep an eye on: Matt Moulson, who's been a point per game player versus New York over the last 20 affairs, and J.T. Miller, who's still trying to prove to the Rangers that he deserves to stay with the club.

Preview: Phoenix Coyotes at Nashville Predators, 8 p.m. ET

The Predators just finished nearly three consecutive games without a goal. Now they face Mike Smith. If you hate offence, this one's the game for you. That said, considering they just ended a 176-minute goalless drought, maybe they're due for an outburst.

Check out previews and updated scores for all of today's games on the Y! Sports NHL scores and scheds page. For tonight's starting goalies, check out Goalie Post.

Evening Reading

• Johnette Howard on Rick DiPietro is excellent. When told he might be able to ward off a curse by burning his glove, DiPietro quips, ""If I could just get over this surgery addiction I have." [ESPN]

• Alex Ovechkin doesn't agree with his coach's opinion that NHLers should go to Sochi. “When I was growing up, only [care about] Olympics and World Championship. It was very important, all media all [attention is on] Olympics. I remember, I was little kid in my country home far from Moscow little kids, we watched the Olympics, summer Olympics. Everybody is involved. It’s nice, to be honest, when you can be there." [WaPo]

• Todd Bertuzzi has been hospitalized with back pain. [Freep]

• Matt Cooke may have sliced Erik Karlsson's achilles accidentally, but Mark Spector goes after him anyway. [Sportsnet]

• If you need another reminder that some hockey parents are completely insane, here's a hockey dad heckling children and cursing at other parents while holding his infant child. [Deadspin]

Puck Buddy Comment of the Day: Glenn, on the most disappointing teams so far.

Hey, at least here in Columbus, our Blue Jackets are living up to THEIR expectations.

Silver linings.

Bold prediction: Leafs win their fifth straight. 2-goal night for Phil Kessel.

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