Puck Previews: Bruins at Panthers; Crosby back, you probably heard about it

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.

It would appear Alex Burrows's affinity for biting has spread.

Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Rangers, 7 p.m. ET

All hail the second second coming of Sidney Crosby, whose return to the lineup promises to punch up a battle that was already going to be plenty punchy. The Rangers and the Penguins are arguably the Eastern Conference's two best teams (one such argument: points), so this contest could easily be viewed as a second or third-round playoff preview. And, while the Rangers have been sitting atop the East for months, you have to think that they're the team with something to prove. The Penguins went 9-1-0 in their last 10 without the best player in the word, and now that best player is back, playing on their third line. And maybe it's fine with the Rangers that they be viewed as an underdog, but I'm sure they'd prefer to be an underdog with a no. 1 seed: a loss tonight and the Penguins would only be 4 points back in the Atlantic.

Preview: Boston Bruins at Florida Panthers, 7:30 p.m. ET

Meanwhile, the Eastern Conference's second and third place teams go at it as well, and once again it's the higher-placed team with something to prove. The Bruins have fallen off drastically of late, and now they run the risk of being displaced not only by the Ottawa Senators for the division lead, but these Panthers for the second seed. The Panthers. A Florida win Thursday and the Bruins would burn a game in hand over the Senators, who are only one point back, and Florida would only be four points back. Considering the comparative gong show that the Southeast Division is, I'd argue that surrendering the second seed to that division's winner would be embarrassing. Fact: the Bruins are too good to finish below the Panthers.

Preview: Nashville Predators at San Jose Sharks, 10:30 p.m. ET

Speaking of struggling, the floundering Sharks face a stiff test Thursday against the Nashville Predators, who are an astounding 11 points ahead of them in the West. The Sharks have fallen to 9th in the Conference, but there's still hope: the team has games in hand on everyone else in the playoff hunt, and only has one road game over the next two weeks. The problem, however, is that they've lost 3 straight at home. Worse, they're struggling to score, with only 4 goals in their last 4 games, and the Nashville Predators have never been known as the cure for a dry spell (the cure is baby powder).

Evening Reading

• Randy Cunneyworth on Rene Bourque: "He has the potential do to much more. We've got to push him to get better results. He knows and is working harder, but he'll have to get it into a higher gear. He seems like a tough player who is not playing tough." [PHT]

• Quebecor has won the contract to manage the new arena in Quebec City, and has set its sights on bringing in an NHL team. [Winnipeg Free Press]

• On Josh Gorges and the art of blocking shots. [Montreal Gazette]

• Wherein a hockey fight turns into a fight between the player's moms after the game. [Cape Breton Post]

• Apparently, Alexander Radulov is cagier and savvier now. That's good, right? [USA Today]

• And finally, these kids went above and beyond for this Jordie Benn tribute video, including asking coach Troy Ward of the AHL's Abbotsford Heat for "four words to describe Jordie Benn" during a postgame presser. I love his answer: Uh.... enthusiasm, heart, passion, character. Next.

Bold prediction: Far too much attention is paid to Crosby tonight.

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