Puck Previews: Capitals, Panthers in Southeast showdown; Winter Classic announcement day

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.

As an NHL defenseman, Marc Methot's dwarf-tossing background has come in handy.

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

The Devils really seem to like February. They're aiming for their 5th straight win Tuesday, a feat they haven't accomplished since an 8-game win streak that kicked off one year ago yesterday. They'll have their hands full with the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers who are just as hot. New York has won 4 of their last 5, the only loss during that stretch being an overtime defeat to these very Devils.

Preview: Florida Panthers at Washington Capitals, 7 p.m. ET

The Panthers and the Capitals have been halfheartedly jockeying for position for weeks now, but it seems as though neither club is really all that interested in holding onto the Southeast lead. The Panthers are 4-3-3 in their last 10. The Caps are 4-4-2. Seriously, does anyone want to win the Southeast? You wonder if the Jets are going to catch fire and embarrass both teams soon.

Preview: Vancouver Canucks at Nashville Predators, 8 p.m. ET

It's wacky line combos time, as Henrik Sedin will be skating on a line with Mason Raymond and Byron Bitz, and Daniel Sedin will be playing with Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows. (Clearly, Daniel is AV's favourite Sedin. Either that or Henrik is the one being punished.) Will AV's in-game version of "Will It Blend" last the entire game? No, probably not. The Predators have won 7 of 8 and Pekka Rinne is near-unbeatable these days: he's won 11 straight, allowing two goals or fewer in 10 of those outings. Some Sedin wizardry will likely be necessary.

Evening Reading

• The league is expected to announce Thursday that the next Winter Classic will feature the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium. [Kukla's Korner]

• This Canadian girl thinks it's stupid that some Ottawa Senators season ticket holders are considering not renewing their tickets because they find Toronto Maple Leafs fans obnoxious. So do I. [A Canadian Girl's Hockey Blog]

• 10 former Canucks that could help the current Canucks. [PITB]

• Can the Leafs afford to part with Mikhail Grabovski? [The Globe & Mail]

• Ilya Kovalchuk is doing everything for the Devils. [Backhand Shelf]

• More on Stephen Harper's ongoing politicization of hockey, my personal pet peeve. [The Guardian]

• Don't tell this orthodontist he can't play hockey forever. [NY Times]

• Hey, remember when Alexei Ponikarovsky got traded? Well, he did. Here's how he's doing with his new club. [In Lou We Trust]

Puck Buddy Comment of the Day: It's a tie. Two guys made me laugh out loud with their comments on Dion Phaneuf's caveman hug in today's Hockey Hugs. Kodywiddack:

Contrary to popular belief, Phaneuf is smiling in that picture

Swift's Toole Box:

Phaneuf: KALI MA! KALI MA!

/rips out Phil Kessel's still beating heart

There's a lot going on in Phaneuf's facial expression.

Bold prediction: Someone streaks in the Minnesota-Columbus game and it becomes the surprise most-talked-about game of the night.

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