Puck Previews: Blues host Kings in first game after break; Blackhawks’ road struggles

Back by popular demand, 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.

Sean O'Donnell and Oilers assistant coach Kelly Buchberger hatch a hilarious plan to trick Sam Gagner into thinking he's really good for a night.

Preview: New York Islanders at Ottawa Senators, 7:30 p.m. ET.

It's a testament to how strong this season has been for the Senators that their recent four-game losing streak is something of a surprise to most. Last season, this would have just been business as usual. The Sens will be in tough to get back to the business of winning Friday, as the Islanders are 4-1-1 in their last six, John Tavares is red hot with 26 points in his last 15 games, and Jason Spezza will reportedly miss the game with an injury. Update: Scratch that. Spezza's in after all.

Preview: Los Angeles Kings at St. Louis Blues, 8 p.m. ET

Two questions: first, can the Kings win a game away from their enchanted game clock? Second, can you believe this is the Blues' first game since the All-Star Break? What the heck, NHL schedule-makers? Don't you know lobbyists have policies to influence? Expect an exciting, but low-scoring affair. The Blues and Kings are 1st and 3rd in goals against, respectively. Their 203 combined goals allowed are only 36 more than the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Preview: Chicago Blackhawks at Calgary Flames, 9 p.m. ET

The Blackhawks' swing through Western Canada hasn't gone so well. First, they lost in overtime to the Vancouver Canucks, then they surrendered 8 points to Sam Gagner in Edmonton Thursday night. Friday night doesn't bode well for them either: those were consecutive road losses 5 and 6, and they haven't won in the Saddledome in two years. On the bright side, the Flames aren't that good.

Evening Reading

• At right is @Fl4meFeRn0's sign for Saturday's Blues/Predators game. This isn't the first time this joke has been made, but it's definitely the best time. [@StLouisGameTime]

• Manny Malhotra's offensive zone start percentage for the month of January: 1%. [PITB]

• Reliving Mario Lemieux's 8-point night. [PHT]

• Students on violence in hockey. [NY Times]

• Goals per game in the NHL is on pace for its lowest total since the lockout, but never fear, because shootouts are way, way up. Oh wait. Yes. Do fear. [CBC]

Puck Buddy Comment of the Day: Peter, on Colin Campbell's clock controversy deflection strategy:

One trick is to tell 'em stories that don't go anywhere - like the time I caught the ferry over to Shelbyville. I needed a new heel for my shoe, so, I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on 'em. Give me five bees for a quarter, you'd say. Now where were we? Oh yeah: the important thing was I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. They didn't have white onions because of the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones...

Bold prediction: Nine, I say, nine points for Lee Stempniak!

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