Nick says he hates power polls. Therefore, I present to you the first Power Preview! My subjective list of what makes for entertaining hockey watching on Thursday night. Since I'm an Eastern writer, don't expect any games involving West teams until at least six or seven on the list.
1. Tampa Bay (8-4-2) at Washington (11-4-0), 7 p.m. ET, NHL Network
This game needs little build up, really. For the first time in a long time, the Lightning are competitive and can stake a claim to the Southeast Division title. That march begins tonight. Tampa Bay trails the Capitals by four points, with a game in hand. Should the Lightning pull out a regulation win, they'll be two points back with a game in hand. OK, yeah, it's November, so games in hand doesn't really mean (expletive) right now, but it's still fun to discuss.
Oh, and those Stamkos and Ovechkin dudes are playing. They're gonna be good some day, them guys.
Washington 5, Tampa Bay 2
2. Montreal (9-5-1) at Boston (8-3-1), 7 p.m., RDS
Told you, no West teams for a while.
The second most interesting game of the night (Copyright: Dos Equis) is another division battle. The Canadiens currently top the Northeast but only by two points over Boston and Ottawa, and the Bruins have played three fewer games. Boston enjoyed an early Christmas present from the Penguins on Wednesday in snapping a two-game losing streak.
After a heavy workload last night and late arrival in Boston, Tim Thomas presumably will get a night off. Boston Globe writer Fluto Shinzawa agrees with my guess, saying this would allow Thomas to play Ottawa on Saturday, going so far as to say "Thomas has owned the Senators so outright that he trails only Eugene Melnyk in Ottawa shares." Now that's funny.
Tuukka Rask has yet to win a game this season but it wasn't his fault in his last outing, when he made 34 saves in a 2-1 shootout loss. One will assume he'll duke it out against Carey Price. Montreal has hit a bit of a bumpy stretch, winning only two of its last five games.
Boston 3, Montreal 1
3. Dallas (8-5-0) at Los Angeles (10-3-0), 10:30 p.m.
OK, I lied. Here's a West game. Doesn't have as good a divisional implication as the first two (LA is first in the Pacific, Dallas third) but the Kings are one of the hottest teams in the league (that Anze Kopitar, swoon...er, anyway), winners of four straight and 8-2 in their last 10.
While LA features the likes of Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick, Dallas counters with Brad Richards, Loui Eriksson, James Neal and the rejuvenated Kari Lehtonen. Should be a good one.
Los Angeles 4, Dallas 2
4. Vancouver (8-4-2) at Ottawa (8-6-1), 7:30 p.m.
Don't look now but the Senators have won four straight games, their power play is starting to click and Brian Elliott has been solid in goal. Problem is I hear Pascal Leclaire might start. Vancouver, meanwhile, had a six-game win streak snapped and continues to not be very good on the road.
Vancouver 5, Ottawa 3
5. Philadelphia (9-4-2) at Carolina (8-7-0), 7 p.m.
Lots of talent involved in this one (Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Claude Giroux vs. Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner.) The Hurricanes' inconsistency took it down a notch or two.
Philadelphia 4, Carolina 2
6. Nashville (5-5-3) at St. Louis (9-2-2), 8 p.m.
Always interesting to see how a team rebounds after a shellacking like what the Blues went through, and it's the very next night, so no time to think about it. Going against Nashville, which has lost five games in a row, is either a good thing or a bad thing (i.e. the Predators are really struggling right now, but they're bound to snap out of it eventually, right?)
St. Louis 2, Nashville 0
7. Edmonton (4-7-2) at Detroit (9-3-1), 7:30 p.m.
Yeah, we're down to the last four games, but this one might be a little high on the list. On the one hand, the Red Wings are one of the top teams in the league and are a nice draw. On the other, we have the Oilers. The thing is, Edmonton has pulled off some nice wins. OK, only two, but that potential is there, plus the Oilers do have some young up and coming players to watch.
Detroit 5, Edmonton 1
8. Minnesota (7-4-2) at Atlanta (6-6-3), 7:30 p.m.
The Wild are playing well (OK, not on offense; 12 goals in the last seven games) with three wins in a row while the Thrashers have dropped three straight. Atlanta is a crap shoot; the Thrashers can be pretty good or woefully outmatched on any given night.
Minnesota 3, Atlanta 1
9. Islanders (4-9-2) at San Jose (6-5-2), 10:30 p.m.
San Jose's television announcing crew is what keeps this game out of the cellar. The Sharks are good, the Islanders are not. The cross-conference matchup brings it down. I debated this one a while.
San Jose 4, New York 1
10. Buffalo (5-9-2) at Rangers (7-7-1), 7 p.m.
But ultimately, this game takes the worst on the list. Two teams under .500 (let's be honest here; New York is 7-8) with no one that makes you say, "Wow, I want to watch that guy."
New York 3, Buffalo 2