Puck Previews: Panthers try to inch closer to playoffs; Sharks, Coyotes in Pacific Division fight

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 at Boston Bruins, 7 p.m. ET. The Capitals are still alive in the hunt for one of the East's bottom two playoff spots, but time is running out. With five games left to play, Washington stands two points behind the red-hot Buffalo Sabres for eighth. Heading to Boston tonight to play the Bruins, the Capitals. Tomas Vokoun will get the start in goal. Dennis Seidenberg will miss tonight's game after suffering a cut on his leg on Saturday in Los Angeles. In comes Joe Corvo.

Preview: Florida Panthers at Minnesota Wild, 8 p.m. ET. A Panthers win coupled with a Washington loss in regulation would put them on the verge of clinching their first playoff berth in over a decade. Minnesota will be getting goaltender Niklas Backstrom and defenseman Justin Falk back, and will welcome Jason Zucker, who will be making his NHL debut after leaving the University of Denver this week.

Preview: San Jose Sharks at Phoenix Coyotes, 10 p.m. ET The battle for Pacific Division supremacy continues as the West's No. 8 and No. 9 seeds meet in Phoenix with the two teams a point apart in the standings and on the heels of the Dallas Stars for the division lead. Fear the Fin has a great breakdown of all the scenarios should a tiebreaker be needed to figure out who from the Pacific gets in.

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 Left Wing Lock.

Evening Reading

• Will Leitch on why Slap Shot understands sports the best of all movies in the genre. [Deadspin]

• Jeff Carter may have to miss the Kings' game Friday night against Edmonton after missing practice today with a possible lower-body injury. [LA Kings Insider]

• CBC will see a 10-percent cut in its budget ($115 million) over the next three years. The NHL's Canadian TV rights expire after the 2013-14 season. This can't be a good sign for the future of Hockey Night in Canada on CBC. [Postmedia via Calgary Herald]

• A TV in the Flames management press box last night was seen showing an episode of "Modern Family". No, really. [Matchsticks and Gasoline]

Puck Daddy Reader Comment of the Day: "Fisticuffs" on the controversial Matt Hunwick penalty:

"One could argue that Hunwick did, in fact, deflect the puck. I have a hard time buying that Hunwick's motion constitutes batting the puck. Who swings a bat like that? Plus, the puck continues moving from left to right, which means Hunwick wasn't the player that propelled the puck over the glass. I'd argue he deflected it."

Bold Prediction: Shootout win for the Sharks to keep the West playoff picture still very muddy.