Puck Previews: Player poll pro-pugilism; Pacific parity presently priceless

Harrison Mooney

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.

• This year, the most talked about player in the NCAA is the guy with two bodies and one head. (Right)

Preview: Winnipeg Jets at Pittsburgh Penguins, 7 p.m. ET

As it stands, this is a match between the 4th place team in the Eastern Conference and the 10th place team, but with all the jockeying for position, this could easily be a first-round playoff matchup. Of course, for that to happen, both teams are going to have to leapfrog a few foes. The Penguins sit 3 points back of the Rangers for top spot in the Conference and Division, and the Jets sit 4 points back of the Capitals for 8th. The Jets will have to help out Ondrej Pavelec if they hope to leave Pittsburgh with two points: he's 0-5-0 with a 5.42 goals-against average in his career in Pittsburgh.

Preview: Phoenix Coyotes at Dallas Stars, 8 p.m. ET

Hands up if you looked at the schedule back in September and circled this game as a battle for 1st place in the Pacific Division. Now look around you. If anyone has their hands up, arrest them and force them to give your country the secret to time travel. No one predicted this. But here we are, with the Stars and Coyotes tied for the Division lead with 83 points and the Sharks and Kings a point back. "Every game matters so much for us right now," said Keith Yandle, being as obvious as possible. You will watch this game. Storyline to watch: Coyotes goalie Mike Smith is 3-0-2 versus his former team this season. If his strong play continues, the Coyotes will finish the night atop the Division. The Stars will get help, as both Radek Dvorak and Sheldon Souray return to the lineup.

Preview: Calgary Flames at Colorado Avalanche, 9 p.m. ET

Here's a surprising stat: the Flames have won 9 straight games in Denver. Considering neither of these teams has been overly dominant in the last few years, that sort of blows my mind. But it bodes well for the Flames, who enter the night in 11th place, yet only 2 points back of the Avalache in 8th. Calgary is coming off a nasty weekend where they picked up only one point against the Blue Jackets and Oilers, with Jarome Iginla going pointless since I mentioned his point streak (sorry). But, on the bright side, Matt Stajan has 4 goals in 6 games. Unfortunately, when production from Matt Stajan is your high point, things could be going better.

Preview: San Jose Sharks at Los Angeles Kings, 10:30 p.m. ET

Remember when I mentioned the Sharks and Kings, they play tonight too. Seriously, the Pacific Division is the place to be right now (unless you're the Columbus Blue Jackets, in which case the AHL is the place to be). But the Sharks' play Monday was much less exciting. They looked abysmal, falling 5-3 to the Ducks, and the only hope at this point is that all the energy they conserved playing like garbage last night gets puts to use on Tuesday. Though he got pulled in his last start, expect Antti Niemi back in goal for the Sharks versus Jonathan Quick.

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:

• According to a recent player poll, 99.5% of players want fighting in the game, and 13% are just saying that so they can take a swing at Max Lapierre. [SI]

• If the Canucks look unmotivated right now, that's how they're supposed to look. [PITB]

• Super minor post-deadline trade alert: the New York Islanders have acquired Yury Alexandrov, who is in Russia for the remainder of the season, from the Boston Bruins for future considerations. [NHL]

• According to Bruce Garrioch, Jason Spezza is ill and may miss what would have been his 600th career game tonight. [Bruce Garrioch]

• Erik Christensen is fitting in with the Minnesota Wild. [Star-Tribune]

Puck Buddy Comment of the Day: Mike says what we're all thinking:

I'd like to jam with Lundqvist

Man, me too. I own a vocoder and I play the kalimba.

Bold prediction: Every team in the Pacific division gets at least a point tonight.