The Opossum-Palooza

It's okay. We don't know what the name means either.


O-P Field Trip: Verizon Center

As you may have noticed, I've been MIA the past week. A combination of a busy week at work and an inadequate Verizon DSL connection have conspired to keep you from experiencing my unique brand of humor. Or, at the very least, it's kept me from posting anything. To make up for it, I bring you this Very Special Entry: An officially sanctioned Opossum-Palooza Field Trip. (To find out how you can get your field trip sanctioned by the O-P, email This time around, the field trippers were myself and sometimes contributor DefDude. The occasion was Alex Ovechkin Calder Trophy (pictured) Tribute Night.

I could now go ahead and bore you with stories about the tribute ceremony (pointless photo-op followed by a pretty good video montage of Ovechkin's first season highlights) or stories of the game itself (a frustrating 4-3 overtime loss to the Atlanta Thrashers, for details go here), but I won't. Instead I will spend some time discussing the man in the Alex Ovechkin sweater sitting at the end of the row in front of us. We were lucky enough to be sitting in a section (430) with some most excellent Capitals fans who were knowledgable, funny and overall entertaining to be around. This man, however, was not any of those things. We knew we were in for some trouble when he was screaming at the people in front of him for moving to their seats while play was going on (fair point, but there are nicer ways of saying it than "Jesus, I paid good money for these seats! Sit the fuck down!"). He then proceeded to scream every single uninformed, ignorant thing you would expect to hear from someone who has almost no knowledge of the game. Whether it was trying to convince Alex Semin to shoot the puck (right before Semin made a gorgeous pass to Jamie Heward for a tap-in goal), or screaming at the Caps for not hitting more, the man could not have been any more obnoxious if he tried. The best part, however, was when, while play was still going, he pulled out his cell phone and started yammering away. The cell phone, of course, was decorated with a Number 8. No, not that number eight. That number eight. In an unfortunate turn of events, he also had a young boy of about eight or nine (whom I can only assume was his son) with him. They both left at the end of regulation, rather than stay and watch overtime.

But enough whining about the bad fans, let's get on with the pictures:

The view from our seats.

The commemorative coin. In very nice packaging.

DefDude, DefDude's unfortunate facial hair, and Alex Ovechkin's Calder Trophy.

What can I say? I was in a "take pictures of trophies" kind of mood.

Sadly, the poor digital zoom on my camera phone didn't allow me to get good pictures of "Fatty McGee" (DefDude's nickname of the jerk at the end of the row) or the clever gentleman with the number 69 jersey sitting a few rows in front of us. So this will have to be enough for you. I leave you with this, possibly the worst picture of me ever taken:

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Poor Bevo Meets His Maker

Let us all issue a silent prayer in sincere thanksgiving for the passing on of Bevo XIII, the longest-serving of the Texas Longhorns mascots. The poor, miserable creature was on the sidelines of UT games for 16 seasons, getting abused by drunken redneckswho were making that stupid fucking “hook ‘em horns” sign. It would surprise me not one bit if he got high with Matthew McConaughey. I just hope they didn’t get naked and play bongos together. Death was surely a blessed escape for the wretched creature.
Bevo even traveled here to our Nation’s Capital in 2001 to be a part of President Bush II’s inauguration. Talk about animal abuse. Someone call the SPCA. By the way, if I saw one more woman in DC that week with a fur coat, cowboy hat and "don't mess with texas" pin, I was going to turn into that guy at UT who was up in the Bell Tower asking for cheese sandwiches while shooting at undergrads. My God.
At any rate, Bevo XIV is in mourning, as is half of Texas, apparently. The headlines have actually referenced "The Big Ranch in the Sky" and Bevo's having "Moved on to Greenest of Pastures."
Jesus Christ, these Texans are fucktarded.

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Notes from a Night of Hockey - 10/06/06

Florida Panthers 8 - Boston Bruins 3
I've got some bad news folks: It is entirely possible that I have no idea what I'm talking about. I'll give you a minute to let that one sink in... Okay, ready? Todd Bertuzzi had a goal and three assists in his debut in Florida, in spite of the fact that I quite clearly stated in my Panthers preview that the trade for Bertuzzi was a poor dicision. The nerve of some people. Joe Nieuwendyk added two goals as the Panthers made the Bruins look just plain silly.
Vancouver Canucks 3 - Columbus Blue Jackets 2 (OT)
Double your pleasure, double your fun. Or some other such cliched saying about twins. Henrik Sedin had the assist and Daniel Sedin had the goal in overtime for the Canucks, who are now 2-0.The idea of having a pair of identical twins on the ice at the same time playing for the same team always seemed a little unfair to me. I would think it would be somewhat confusing for the other team.
New Jersey Devils 4 - Carolina Hurricanes 0
The Hurricanes lost for the second straight game to a team that they eliminated from the playoffs last year. After winning 31 games at home last season, Carolina is now 0-2 (or rather 0-1-1, ugh) at home so far this year.

Other scores:
Buffalo 5 - Montreal 4 (SO)
Anaheim 4 - Los Angeles 3

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Notes from a Night of Hockey - 10/05/06

New York Rangers 5 - Washington Capitals 2
If the Rangers play an early season game the same day both NY baseball teams have playoff games, does it make a sound? Brendan Shanahan scored his 599th and 600th career goals to lead New York in their opening night victory. Jaromir Jagr added a goal (just thirty seconds into the game) and an assist as well and the Rangers showed why many experts are (inexplicably) picking them to do big things this year. Last year's Rookie of the Year Alex Ovechkin was pretty silent, but Alex #2, Alexander Semin, provided a money shot (sorry) in his return to the Capitals after spending two years in Russia.

Toronto Maple Leafs 6 - Ottawa Senators 0
"[The Leafs] are likely to have trouble scoring goals all year." Who said that? Darcy "The Sparkplug" Tucker lead a suddenly potent Maple Leafs offense with two power play goals to go with Chad "The Firestarter" Kilger's two tallies. Captain Mats Sundin also contributed a goal and an assist as the Leafs incited an early season goaltending controversy in Ottawa, with Ray Emery coming on to relieve Martin Gerber and giving up just one goal in a little over a period of work.

Pittsburgh Penguins 4 - Philadelphia Flyers 0

Round One of the Battle of Pennsylvania goes to Pittsburgh in convincing fashion. Day One of the Battle of the Sophmore Superstars goes to Sidney Crosby, who recorded a goal and an assist. Michel Oullet also had the one and one, and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (no relation to Theo) had forty saves in a shutout performance. New Pens owner Jim Balsillie (pronounced "Ball-Silly") (I hope) was in attendance. The Philadelphia power play unit, apparently, was not.

Chicago Blackhawks 8 - Nashville Predators 6
I have nothing to say about this. I just wanted to make sure everyone was aware that this game ended with a score of 8-6. That's more goals than the total of runs in the Mets and Yankees playoff games combined.

Other Scores:
Vancouver 3 - Detroit 1
Tampa Bay 3 - Atlanta 2 (SO)
Minnesota 3 - Colorado 2 (SO)
Edmonton 3 - Calgary 1
Phoenix 6 - NY Islanders 3
San Jose 5 - St. Louis 4 (OT)

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Countdown to Faceoff

Now that the Capitals have opened the season it is time to completely erase any memory of tonight's game and look forward to Saturday night. I haven't been inside Verizon Center since April 28th, and I haven't seen a hockey game there since even before that. So to say that I am excited would be a bit of an understatement (DC Caps Chick pretty much sums up my feelings on the return of hockey).

Now the only issue is: What to do before the game? My friend (who will be experiencing only the second hockey game of his life) has work and won't arrive until right before game time, but I fully intend to put a few alcoholic beverages in me before passing into the World of $8 Beers. If there are any other Caps bloggers out there who are planning on coming downtown for any sort of pre-game festivities, let me know. There's still a comment section here, and you can also e-mail Or just look for me there, I'll be the guy drinking by himself at the tiny Thai-Mexican fusion joint below the movie theater until five minutes before game time. They have just the most fascinating bar stools.

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Compendium of Previews

Below is a comprehensive list of all the team previews I've written so far. I realize that the season has already started and six teams are still un-previewed because the internet at my home won't cooperate, and I still may try to write previews for those teams anyway. If I do, I'll update this post accordingly.

Northeast Division
Boston Bruins
Buffalo Sabres
Montreal Candiens
Ottawa Senators
Toronto Maple Leafs

Atlantic Division
New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
Philadelphia Flyers
Pittsburgh Penguins

Southeast Division
Atlanta Thrashers
Carolina Hurricanes
Florida Panthers
Tampa Bay Lightning
Washington Capitals

Northwest Division
Calgary Flames
Colorado Avalanche
Edmonton Oilers
Minnesota Wild
Vancouver Canucks

Central Division
Chicago Blackhawks
Columbus Blue Jackets
Detroit Red Wings
Nashville Predators
St. Louis Blues

Pacific Division
Anaheim Ducks
Dallas Stars
Los Angeles Kings
Phoenix Coyotes
San Jose Sharks


Shameless Self-Promotion

That Mr. Potato Head up there with the giant smile is me. Why, you ask?
Because I just officially becaome a blogger at The Fanhouse in AOL's Sports Blog.
I'll be posting regular musings on the Titans and their unabashed wretchedness. And just to spice things up, I'll be dropping random bits of knowledge and wild speculation about the NFL in general.
This brings up an important point (for me, at least).
I'd like to introduce myself to the three readers who don't know my actual identity. Hi, folks, I'm Laura Wood and that's the name under which I'll be posting at The Fanhouse. Come by and visit me there, even of you don't particularly like the Titans.

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The NHL on the NFL on NBC

The "infamous" (apparently) Eric McErlain over at Off Wing Opinion turned me on to this tidbit from a Washington Times piece by Tim Lemke. NBC plans on using their new Sunday Night Football package as a means for advertising their hockey coverage. Which gives me an opportunity to examine the effect the NFL is going to have on the NHL on NBC, a topic that I've spent a while ruminating on.

Obviously, professional outdoor football's return to NBC is a good thing for hockey. That goes without saying. If nothing else, it lends the NHL a little bit more credibility than it had before. When the TV deal with NBC was announced, it was viewed as a big step backwards for the NHL (which it was) partly because NBC was no longer a very legitimate sports network. At the time, the only other sports they carried were golf and arena football, and many folks had a field day lumping the NHL in with the AFL as an insignificant niche sport. The arrival of the NFL eliminates that. Advertising for the NHL during football games is an added bonus (especially when the Super Bowl moves to NBC).

More important than that, though, will be the possible change in the television booth. I have no sources to verify that this will actually happen, but I can only hope that now that NBC has Al Michaels under contract, we will see a return to the glory days of him doing Monday Night Football (well, Sunday in this case) during the fall and winter, and then doing play-by-play for hockey during the spring. Even if it's only during the playoffs. I'm not saying that the broadcast team NBC has now is bad (I almost kind of like Doc Emerick's banshee screams every time there is a shot on goal, or a pass near the goal, or a player near the goal) but Al Michaels is, in addition to being a great football guy, the best hockey play by play announcer that ever was. Six words: "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!" I get chills just typing it.

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Happy New Year

Hockey is back! The NHL opened the season last night with a slate of three games and I was... asleep, actually. Leave it to me to get sick on what should otherwise be one of the most exciting days of the year. I managed to catch some of the Buffalo-Carolina matchup and not much else. Not to worry, though, after my long night's slumber, I'm more than ready for day two.

Some notes from a day of hockey:
Sabres 3 - Hurricanes 2
The night started with the raising of Carolina's Stanley Cup Banner, a cermony that was ably botched by the OLN Versus television crew. It was a pretty good game until it got bogged down by penalties and I fell asleep. The game ended in a shootout with Daniel Briere scoring the only goal for Buffalo and Ryan Miller stopping all three Carolina attempts. The most important development in this game, however, was the revelation that the Sabres are going to be damn near unwatchable because of the rather heinous gold patches under the arms on their new sweaters.

Senators 4 - Maple Leafs 1
This was the lone game that wasn't broadcast in the US, so you probably missed it, but Mats Sundin would like you to know that "I don't think it's as bad as the scoresheet says". For his sake, I hope he's right, because the scoresheet says the Leafs, who are likely to have trouble scoring goals all year, were thoroughly dominated by Ottawa and were only able to score on a penalty shot.

Stars 3 - Avalanche 2
In the late game, Colorado lost by falling for the oldest trick in the book. You know, the take-a-penalty-at-the-end-of-regulation-so-you-can-take-
a-pass-right-out-of-the-penalty-box-and-score-the-game-winner-in-overtime trick. How did they not see that one coming?

Tonight, the NHL kicks it into high gear. The remaining twenty-four teams all start their seasons tonight and you can expect a full, in-depth report on every single game right here. Except, of course, that games that don't involve the Washington Capitals. I don't get to see those games, and for those, you'll be lucky to get something like the cursory glance I gave last night's games above.

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NHL 2006-07 Season Preview

As noted, your friend and mine DefDude, who was supposed to be writing previews for the as-yet unpreviewed Pacific Division (as well as the Vancouver Canucks) has been AWOL for the past few weeks. But today, he makes his triumphant return with an absurdly comprehensive look at the whole of the upcoming NHL year.

Yes, yes, I am all too aware that my efforts to see the NHL preview series through to completion were somewhat lacking, but a combination of tests, athletic engagements, and the realization that, as a college student, I am supposed to be cutting corners and skipping assignments whenever possible, led to my not caring for a week or two there. The Canucks preview I owe can be summed up in a few simple words: Finally shored up the goaltending situation, but unfortunately there is no one to score the goals in Vancouver anymore, and JovoCop will be sorely missed, so the Canucks will find themselves most likely buried under their stiff divisional competition. There you go. But as I find myself sitting here on all-hockey’s eve, a cold shiver of anticipation suddenly begins to run down my spine: Hockey’s back, tonight at 7 on (Versus or OLN? YOU decide!), with a rematch of last season’s NHL Eastern conference finals, Buffalo and Carolina. 19 hours after I write this, the coolest game on earth begins again.

While October means reveling in yet another Yankees playoff failure for most Americans, there are still the select few among us for whom October is really the beginning. And what a beginning it shall be. From the fall of the old guard, to the return of a tortured franchise to the realm of respectability, this year promises to be one of the most epic in NHL history. Much of last year was spent on adjusting to the new salary structure and rules. Now, one year removed from that grace period, some of the biggest teams in hockey are poised for a precipitous fall. The Atlantic division, once the home of epic division battles between the Flyers and Devils, and residence of the resurgent Rangers, looks weaker than ever, with so many question marks surrounding all three teams as to make one wonder if only one will make the playoffs: Will Philadelphia have a competent, healthy goaltender for most of the early season? Will it matter who plays net behind that disaster of a defense? Will Jaromir Jagr remember that he is, in fact, a primadonna prick, and refuse to carry the team on his shoulders once again? Will it matter if he does, seeing as how the Devils showed last year that he can be completely depantsed when left alone? Can Lou Lamiorello cut yet another deal with his team’s sponsors to get out of his self-induced salary cap hole (Early warning signs are pointing to yes).

Out West, Colorado will have to face the dilemma of the fact that I trust a joe Sakic-led team to overcome most, if not all, odds to win as much as I trust a Jose Theodore-followed team to overcome most, if not all odds to lose, and the job of covering up the fact that Colorado’s goaltender not only isn’t a Patrick Roy, but isn’t even a Patrick Lalime (at least Lalime played well in the regular season), doesn’t get any easier when they lose their best defenseman to a conference opponent, and give a division opponent the forward they so desperately need in order to fix it. Elsewhere, hockeytown will have to cope with the loss of two elder statesmen, Stevie Y (Link to your post on him), and Brendan Shanahan, and will almost certainly be yet another playoff dissapointment, except this time they won’t do it as a top seed, because they will be fighting for a bottom seed this time.

Of course, with all these teams falling, someone else has to move up to take their place. Calgary, San Jose, Nashville, and Anaheim all appear poised to dominate their Western Conference brethren this season, while Buffalo and Ottawa appear to be the only dependable teams in the east. But of course, who moves into the elite spots isn’t interesting; it is the surprise middling- to good teams that make the stories. Take the Phoenix Coyotes: coached by none other than “The Great One,” the desert dogs managed a disappointing .500 finish last season, and so went out to revamp the defense, leading most journalists to label Phoenix as the sleeper team of 06-07 (meaning, of course, Phoenix will fall flat on its face out of the gate, show signs of life in December, and then ultimately fall short in their inspired playoff push after the All-Star break). This season’s real stories look to come from much more unexpected places: Atlanta, Minnesota, Washington, and Chicago. Atlanta barely missed the playoffs last season, and a healthy kari Lehtonen could propel them to the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference; Minnesota, the poor man’s Calgary Flames, needed to only score another goal every other game to jump from lottery loser to playoff player, and should certainly find what they need in the additions of Mark Parrish, Kenny Johnsson, and Pavol Demitra; Washington, home to the NHL’s most charismatic, dynamic scorer, suddenly has a depth of scoring potential, a strong crop of grinding forwards, and a deep defense with enough to potential to offset its inexperience (yes I’m a blatant homer, shut up); and Chicago, after yet another disappointment despite adding big names Adrian Aucoin and Nikolai Khabibulin last offseason, are poised to make a strong defensive stand with newly acquired center Michael Handzus, Aucoin, a healthy Khabibulin, and the young Ryan Suter.

But ultimately, the story of this NHL season will be the personalities, as young stars Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, with a full year of experience under their belts, will shock and awe both opponents and fans alike as they take the game to new heights, both on the ice and off it, while other charismatic stars such as Illya Kovalchuk, Joe Thornton, and Paul Kariya will be given the freedom to make their mark in their respective markets. The Evgeni Malking saga, and its unavoidable implication of Russian mob corruption, will continue to make for a compelling off-ice story to match any NBA or NFL styled misdemeanor, and Reebok’s vigorous efforts to make its investment in the NHL profitable will lead to much greater exposure for all these individuals.


Eastern Conference

Northeast Division

Atlantic Division
New Jersey
NY Rangers
NY Islanders

Southeast Division
Tampa Bay

Final Eastern Conference Standings
1. Buffalo*
2. Atlanta*
3. Philadelphia*
4. Carolina
5. Ottawa
6. New Jersey
7. Washington
8. Montreal
9. New York Rangers
10. Boston
11. Tampa Bay
12. Pittsburgh
13. Toronto
14. Florida
15. New York Islanders

Western Conference

Central Division
St. Louis

Northwestern Division

Pacific Division
San Jose
Los Angeles

Final Western Conference Standings

1. Calgary*
2. Nashville*
3. Anaheim*
4. San Jose
5. Los Angeles
6. Minnesota
7. Chicago
8. Detroit
9. Colorado
10. Phoenix
11. Edmonton
12. Dallas
13. Vancouver
14. Columbus
15. St. Louis


Eastern Conference First Round:

(1)Buffalo beats (8)Montreal

(7)Washington Beats (2)Atlanta

(3)Philadelphia beats (6)New Jersey

(5)Ottawa beats (4)Carolina

Western Conference First Round:

(1)Calgary beats (7)Detroit

(2)Nashville beats (7)Chicago

(6)Minnesota beats (3)Anaheim

(4)San Jose beats (5)Los Angeles

Eastern Conference semifinals:

(1)Buffalo beats (7)Washington

(3)Philadelphia beats (5)Ottawa

Western Conference semifinals:

(1)Calgary beats (6)Minnesota

(2)Nashville beats (4)San Jose

Eastern Conference Finals:

(1)Buffalo beats (3)Philadelphia

Western Conference Finals:

(1)Calgary beats (2)Nashville

Stanley Cup Final:

Calgary Flames beat Buffalo Sabres.

See you in June!

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NHL Preview: St. Louis Blues

We are just one day away from the start of the 2006-07 NHL season and I've got six teams left to preview. Luckily, I've already gotten around to all the teams playing tomorrow, so I will be well within my rights to hold off on some previews until then. Technical issues not withstanding. Hopefully, my computer will cooperate long enough to let me get through them all. For the moment, let's check out the St. Louis Blues.

"I hate to see that evening sun go down,
'Cause my lovin' baby done left this town."

The opening lines of W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues" would probably be an apt description of the feelings most hockey fans have towards the team of the same name. (Unless they aren't Blues fans, in which case they probably don't care, but the sentence sounds more poetic as is so I'm putting this part of it in parentheses after the fact.) This once proud great consistently mediocre franchise was easily the worst team in the NHL last season and things aren't getting a whole lot better in 2006.

Brett Hull, Adam Oates, Curtis Joseph, Brendan Shanahan, Al MacInnis, Chris Pronger, Pavol Demitra, Pierre Turgeon, Roman Turek and Doug Weight. What do those names have in common? They've all gone on to accomplish big things wearing a sweater that didn't feature an unfortunate pairing of blue and red. You may recognize Pronger and Weight as two of the players who participated in the '06 Stanley Cup Finals (for the Oilers and Hurricanes, respectively). Brett Hull is most famous for the Goal That Never Was (not sure what I'm talking about. Go to Buffalo sometime. On the way back from Toronto I stopped at a rest stop outside Buffalo and there was still a newspaper clipping on the wall with a picture of Hull's skate in the crease. Six years after the fact.)

Don't let the quarter-century of playoff appearances fool you, this is a team that was mired in a two decade cycle of mediocrity, constantly falling in the first or second round of the playoffs. Even when they finished the year with the best record in the NHL in 2000 they managed to lose in the first round. Which is how they ended up where they are today.

Where is that, you ask? Rock bottom. After spending almost their entire history as a middling-to-above-average team, the bottom finally fell out after the 04-05 Lockout. The Blues finished the season with a league-worst record of 21-46-15. This year doesn't look too much better in terms of wins and losses, but the outlook isn't nearly as bleak. Goaltender turned broadcaster turned General Manager John Davidson acquired Bill Guerin and Manny Legace during the summer. Both of them, as well as prodigal son Doug Weight, are beyond their prime and won't contribute as much as they once would have, but they should provide vital veteran leadership for a young, rebuilding team. Think of the 2006-07 Blues as this year's version of the 2005-06 Washington Capitals, only without Alex Ovechkin. Or anything else to make watching their games a worthwhile endeavor.

To keep track of all the suffering of the coming year, check out Back In Blue. Or, if you happen to be an avid Blues fan looking to break through to the blogosphere, Blues Line might be the place to go.

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Farewell, Skip

I don't really have a lot to say except that for reasons that pass understanding, I'm really upset about the departure of Frank Robinson as Nats' Manager. Is it because he reminds me of a bygone era in baseball that I tend to romanticize? Is it because he put up with a never ending stream of shit from MLB as they used the Expos as a farm team for the rest of the league? Is it his sheer impressiveness as both a player and a manager? (Check out his numbers; they're unreal). I can't say why, but I'd still like to issue a big "fuck you" to the folks in the Nats' offices. They handled this whole thing like fucktards and Frank deserved better.

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Obligatory Redskins Discussion Post

That felt goooood. The Redskins offense is a completely different animal with Clinton Portis lining up in the backfield and the Skins proved it tonight. After all the talk about last week being a fluke performance against a slipshod defense, the Redskins showed up at FedEx Field and put up 152 rushing yards, breaking Jacksonville's 13-game streak of not allowing a 100-yard rushing game. Perhaps the bigger story is that Portis wasn't the story, with all the focus going to Santan Moss and his three touchdowns. It looks like Al Saunders' playbook might finally be starting to make some sense.

On the other side of the ball, the defense allowed only 33 yards rushing, which is an obscenely low number. Presumably, this is because at some point the Jaguars realized that they could pass the ball downfield more or less at will. Not to take anything away from the Skins' run defense, which was impressive, but the weaknesses in the secondary are going to be an issue. Get well soon, Sean Springs.

Also, the Redskins had four penalties for 40 yards. Not good, but not nearly as bad as the first three weeks.

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NHL Preview: Nashville Predators

For the third time this evening, I find myself starting a team preview. The NHL season is just three days away, you know, and I am just that devoted to you, my loyal reader(s). So sit back and enjoy this look at the Nashville Predators.

If I were to tell you that the Nashville Predators were an expansion franchise that played their first season in 1998-99 you might assume that they fall under the same category as their Southern expansion brethren in Georgia. You would, of course, be quite horribly wrong in that assumption. Unlike the Atlanta Thrashers, the Predators have now made the playoffs twice. Also unlike the Thrashers, they have existed mostly devoid of any big name stars.

Until last year, that is, when they made rather large waves in the free agency market by signing Paul Kariya, a player who immediately lent the team an air of legitimacy it had previously lacked. The move payed off, too. After having made the playoffs as the eighth seed in the Western Conference in the 2003-04 season, the Predators found themselves in the fourth seed in 2006 after racking up 49 wins and 106 standings points. Unfortunately for Tennesee hockey fans everywhere, they probably would have been better served to finish eight, as they had to face the red hot San Jose Sharks in the first round and were dispatched in five games.

A summer that has seen the addition of centers Jason Arnott and Josef Vasicek makes the Preds' 2006-07 outlook even rosier. Their newfound strength up the middle will make them especially dangerous on offense and should also result in another strong season for Paul Kariya. The defense is somewhat suspect, but with Tomas Vokoun in between the pipes, it might not really matter. Nashville is going to surprise alot of people by winning the always competitive Central division (you heard it hear first) but it probably won't amount to much in the postseason, as all the strength in the Western Conference is currently residing in the state of California. Look for another playoff exit at the hands of the San Jose Sharks, albeit this time in the second round.

Not much luck by way of Predators blogs. You can try your luck with Smashville, but it hasn't been updated since last April.

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NHL Preview: Detroit Red Wings

Let's continue, shall we? In the face of considerable adversity, I'm going to keep trying to get you the half-baked NHL previews you so desperately need. Next up, the Detroit Red Wings.

In the interest of full disclosure I will state right off that I despise the Detroit Red Wings. Partly for their obnoxious fans who invade opposing arenas throughout the country. (It is a common misconception that the fanbases of teams like the Red Wings or Pittsburgh Steelers "travel well". This is false. The expatriate fans are already in the opposing team's hometown because they got the hell out of Detroit/Pittsburgh as fast as they possibly could because these towns are god forsaken hellholes not fit for human existence. There is no travel involved.) Partly for their unrivaled success (no US based team has won more Stanley Cups). But mainly, I hate the Red Wings for 1998.

Which is why I'm going to take so much joy in their inevitable collapse this year. After a 2005-06 regular season that saw the Wings finish atop the league standings, they managed to get themselves eliminated in the first round anyway. The disappointment was further compounded by an abyssmal offseason that saw Brendan Shanahan leave for the New York Rangers via free agency and Steve Yzerman leave for the corporate suite upstairs. Worst of all, somebody in Detroit's front office, apparently having just awakened from a five year hibernation, decided that Dominik Hasek was the best of a large crop of available goaltenders, rather than trading with one of several teams currently carrying two starting-quality goaltenders (Buffalo and/or San Jose, to name a few).

So what can Detroit fans expect for the upcoming season? Probably more of the same. Look for the Red Wings to have a reasonably successful regular season, assuming Chris Osgood can perform adequately in place of the probably-going-to-be-injured Hasek. But in a city that refers to itself as "Hockeytown" (bleagh) a high playoff seed won't be enough. Unfortunately, that is all that they are likely to get. Barring some truly amazing performances from Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterburg and/or Niklas Lidstrom, the creaky old Red Wings won't make any more playoff noise this year than last.

For a team with such a fervent following as the Red Wings, you'd think I'd be able to find a blog that has been updated in the past few months. No such luck, but feel free to try Detroit Red Wings or Behind the Jersey.

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NHL Preview: Columbus Blue Jackets

Technical issues once again abound here at Opossum-Palooza headquarters. Needless to say, I am way behind on the NHL previews, but I'm going to keep on trying. Today, let's take a look at the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Back when I started this whole venture, it was teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets that caused me the most trepidation. What do you write about a team when the most significant piece of information is the (minor) controversy and confusion caused by the naming of the team? The term "Blue Jacket" is a reference to the uniforms worn by Union soldiers during the Civil War. The state of Ohio supplied more soldiers to the Union than any other state. Hence, the name of Colombus' expansion team in 2000. Apparently, no one told the people in charge of the logo, as evidenced by the debauched eyesore you see above. The result was me constantly cowering in fear of a new breed of hornet that had changed colors so as to better camouflage itself against my jeans and sting me when I least expect it. Thankfully, the rediculous insect was scrapped quickly and replaced with a rather classy logo, but the damage had been done.

The Blue Jackets have a few other claims to fame, but none of them are particularly positive. Those nets that obstruct your view at the ends of the ice are the result of Columbus forward Espen Knutsen's deflected slapshot that ended up in the stands, striking a 13-year old girl who would later die as a result of her her head injury. On a lighter note, the franchise is also notable for employing goaltender Ron Tugnutt during their inaugural season. Tugnutt remains easily the most entertainingly named hockey player of all time.

They had a chance last year to finally break into the ranks of teams that are not a running joke, with young phenom Rick Nash and All-Star caliber defenseman Adam Foote, but injuries derailed their season and they missed the playoffs for the fifth time in as many tries.

Injuries are once again an issue for the Blue Jackets so far this year as well. Sergei Federov was aquired in the middle of the 2005-06 season but will miss up to six weeks of the beginning of the season. In spite of that, a healthy Rick Nash as well as a potential breakout year from goaltender Pascal Leclaire could easily equal the franchise's first playoff appearance.

For all your Columbus Blue Jackets blogging, mosey on over to Jackets Required. If nothing else, the name is clever.

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