Puck Headlines: Ilya Kovalchuk, king of Russian athletes

Here are your Evening Puck Headlines and Previews: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media.

• Viewers of the federal Russian sports channel have crowned Ilya Kovalchuk the nation's top athlete for 2008, defeating biathlonist Svetlana Sleptsova, and tennis player Dinara Safina. It was a tournament format, and Alexander Ovechkin was eliminated in Round One by runner Elena Isinbaeva. We pestered Official Russian Comrade Dmitry Chesnokov about why Kovalchuk made it and Ovechkin didn't, he wrote back: "Kovalchuk brought gold back to Russia, scoring the GWG in OT in the final against Canada. Plain and simple." We're just thrilled to see an Atlanta Thrashers player finally win something. [Sportbox.ru (Russian), via Blueland Chronicle]

• Speaking of Ovechkin, Pepper has a question for Washington Capitals fans: "If Ovechkin wore, say, Flyers' orange and black on game days, all else being equal, would you still vote for him to get into the ASG starting lineup?  Is his game and personality that special to transcend team?" [The Red Skate]

• The Los Angeles Kings have shown so much promise this season that Matt from Life in Hockeywood has declared that their winning the Stanley Cup this season no longer matters to him: "The only hardware I want to see in the hands of a Kings player this season is the Calder Memorial Trophy. The Calder is our Stanley Cup." Vote for Doughty! [Life in Hockeywood]

• The Buffalo Sabres are preparing to get Craig Rivet back, but will be missing Maxim Afinogenov. As if they haven't already been all season. [AP]

Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Rangers (7 p.m. EST; TV: VS). It's your something's-gotta-give game of the week. The Rangers are in a 1-3-1, and the Penguins have lost four in a row. Miro Satan has been sent down to the fourth line; meanwhile, Sergei Gonchar can't get back into the lineup soon enough. 


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• It's the Staal Brothers drinking game! No, not one they play at family gatherings ... one we can play while watching them. Take a shot "if it is mentioned that there are other Staals, not present, who are also in the NHL." Brilliant. [Puck Huffers]

• Canadian junior hockey deity John Tavares and his agent with discuss trade options with the Oshawa Generals this week, with the London Knights and Windsor Spitfires likely destinations. [TSN]

• Unless, of course, the deal's already done and Tavares is headed to London. [Sportsnet]

• Stevie Y gives Team Canada a pep talk before their game against Sweden. [THN]

• Mirtle says they'll need it, because Canada's the underdog. "Will it be a record-tying fifth straight gold medal for Canada? Or does Sweden end the incredible 28-year streak without winning it all?" U.S. fans are rooting for a tie. [From the Rink]

• OK, so Team USA crapped the bed in world juniors. But this James vanRiemsdyk goal is sick, sick, sick; even if the video quality is Jumbotron terrible. [Two Line Pass]

• The Penguins trade T.J. Kemp to the Montreal Canadiens. (e10,000) [Penguins]

Adam Foote and Ian Laperriere are both out for the Colorado Avalanche against the Nashville Predators this Tuesday. Avs ... injuries ... Pope ... Catholic. [CBC Sports]

Preview: New York Islanders at Edmonton Oilers (9:30 p.m. EST; TV: MSG, RSW). Pop quiz, hot shot: Who leads the Oilers in goals scored this season? That would be defenseman Sheldon Souray with 12, and that should tell you all you need to know about the Edmonton offense. Hey, look, the Islanders are in town. Lowetide, by the way, has a fantastic look at the struggles of Sam Gagner for the Oilers this season; whose fault are they?

• Condolences to Doc Emrick, who lost his father over the weekend. [Fire & Ice]

• Five ways to fire up the Nashville Predators' offense. We still can't wrap our brains around the idea of Steve Sullivan making a comeback, or being able to stay healthy during his comeback. [On the Forecheck]

• Finally, this is perhaps the most bizarre way to wrap up Winter Classic coverage. Population Statistic debated whether the rink should be widened for future games. Well, the drones of Deadpan Inc. have had the same debate. Man, we love a good soccer joke:

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