Puck Previews: Oilers hit the road; Central division showdowns

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The best way to defend Jonathan Toews is to break through that emotional wall by showing him some love.

Preview: Washington Capitals at Buffalo Sabres, 7 p.m. EST

The Caps and Sabres found themselves in similar positions heading into the Christmas break: both were expected to be good; neither actually were. That in mind, Monday night will be a big game for both squads looking to right the ship heading into the halfway point of the season. The Sabres will be in tough, playing without Ville Leino, Tyler Myers, Brad Boyes, and possibly Thomas Vanek.

Preview: Detroit Red Wings at Nashville Predators, 8 p.m. EST

Keep an eye on the start in this one: in the first period of each of their last two games, the Predators have fallen behind by three goals, which is an ugly recipe for success. If they want to win their sixth straight at Bridgestone Arena, skating out of the opening twenty with a lead will be helpful, especially since it could serve to deflate a Wings team who have lost 5 of their last 7 on the road.

Preview: Columbus Blue Jackets at Chicago Blackhawks, 8:30 p.m. EST

On the surface, there doesn't appear to be much riding on this game, especially since these two teams couldn't be farther apart in the conference standings, but there is. The Blue Jackets closed out the woeful pre-Christmas stretch of their schedule with a thoroughly humiliating third-period collapse against the Nashville Predators, and if they truly want to back up Scott Arniel's assertion that they used the break to "get away and clear our brains a little bit," a big win Monday night versus the Western Conference's top team would do just that. And as for the Blackhawks, they want to win because, you know, losing to Columbus is embarrassing.

Preview: Edmonton Oilers at Vancouver Canucks, 10 p.m. EST

Displaced from their building so Canada can win the World Junior Championships in it, the Oilers kick off a seven-game road trip versus the Canucks, who can take over top spot in the Northwest division with a win and a Minnesota Wild loss. Speaking of losses, Edmonton has dropped five straight on the road, so starting a seven-game swing off with a win would be ideal. The game marks British Columbia native Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' first visit to Rogers Arena.

Puck Buddy Comment of the Day: Roy Batty on Brian Burke and Ron Wilson's relationship:

"Burke/Wilson marriage" - immediately I have a picture in my head of the Bugs Bunny/Elmer Fudd wedding in that cartoon satire of the Barber of Seville.

Good call.

Bold prediction: An upset in Chicago, as the Blue Jackets skate to a 3-2 win.

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