Puck Previews: Datsyuk returns; Russia wants Sochi answer

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.

Preview: Washington Capitals (4-2-2) at Atlanta Thrashers (4-1-1), 7 p.m. EST. It's third jersey night and "Battle of the Russians" in the A-T-L! Future Team Russia teammates Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) and Alexander Ovechkin face off in the first of six Southeast Divisions contests and an early season measuring stick for the surprising Thrashers. One Russian who won't be in attendance is Alexander Semin(notes), who did not make the trip due to soreness and sickness as Bruce Boudreau described. One match-up to watch: the Caps power-play against Atlanta's fourth-ranked penalty kill. Watch the game live on Y! Sports.

Preview: Detroit Red Wings (3-3-1) at Phoenix Coyotes (5-2-0), 10 p.m. EST. That over-the-hill Pavel Datsyuk(notes) will return to the lineup tonight hoping to give the Red Wings a much needed boost as they look to get past their slow start. Not off to a slow start are those feisty Coyotes who look to win their fourth straight game and face an early test against the Stanley Cup runners-up. As an aside, anyone else find it odd that in an Olympic year, both teams had four days off coming into tonight's game? Watch the game live on Y! Sports.

Preview: Boston Bruins (4-4-0) at Philadelphia Flyers (3-2-1), 7 p.m. EST.

Preview: New Jersey Devils (4-3-0) at New York Rangers (7-2-0), 7 p.m. EST.

Preview: New York Islanders (1-3-3) at Montreal Canadiens (3-5-0), 7 p.m. EST.

Preview: Nashville Predators (2-5-1) at Ottawa Senators (5-2-0), 7:30 p.m. EST.

Preview: San Jose Sharks (5-3-1) at Tampa Bay Lightning (2-3-2), 7:30 p.m. EST.

Preview: Columbus Blue Jackets (5-2-0) at Edmonton Oilers (5-2-1), 9:30 p.m. EST.

Preview: Dallas Stars (4-2-3) at Los Angeles Kings (5-4-0), 10:30 p.m. EST.

Evening Reading

-The Russian government wants a commitment from the NHL regarding the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. I will accept on the NHL's behalf in exchange for a case of your finest vodka. [Faceoff]

-Travis echoes my sentiment on the loopy early season scheduling. Tonight's game against the Boston Bruins will be Philadelphia's second in 11 days. What compact schedule? [BroadStreet Hockey]

-Our long, national nightmare may be over: CBC is considering dropping the winless Maple Leafs from Hockey Night in Canada. [Toronto Sun]

-Sadly, this reminded me of my "walking wounded" fantasy hockey team. NHL Network's Brian Duff lists his "All-Injured Team". [NHL]

Puck Buddy Comment of the Day: Commenter M would like to see Colin Campbell break out the wheel of justice after viewing the latest commercial by the Blackhawks:

"Advertising using goons and fighting to promote the sport, did anyone run that by Bettmen (sp). I believe there might have been a message sent to the Wild. Is beating up a mascot instigation?"

Wheel of Justice time?

Bold Prediction: The total penalty minutes between the Bruins and Flyers will be greater than the total points scored in the North Carolina-Florida State football game tonight.