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Thursday thoughts: Can Martin Erat follow up on his hat trick?

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This morning's news opens up a number of questions - can Martin Erat keep up the scoring? Will Canada get a 7th NHL team anytime soon? Are the Dallas Stars in financial trouble?  Did Philadelphia make the right move in firing their coach?

I don't have answers for you, but there are all these questions and a whole lot more after the jump...

Predators News

Preds Get An E(rat) For Effort " Pull My (Fang)Finger
AJ sums up the play of the Preds over the last couple weeks, and wonders if Marty is finally ready to reward Poile and Trotz for all their patience with him.

Erat has a tough act to follow — his own | Nashville City Paper
David Boclair writes that Erat has a challenge in front of him, to maintain the scoring pace he's set lately.

Top 5 teams that need to make a deal - Red Light District
Do the Predators need a goal-scorer on the wing? Personally, I think the bigger need is for a playmaking center, and that we won't see a deal on that front until Nashville knows whether Colin Wilson will be healthy and able to help at the NHL level this season.

Winning NHL faceoff is mix of finesse, fury - The Tennessean
Bryan Mullen gets lots of thoughts about what goes into winning faceoffs. The thing is, however, with most teams winning between 48-52% of draws, there's really not much of a difference there. Despite all the drama, faceoffs just aren't a major factor in winning hockey games.

Around the NHL

Early indication is Alex Edler will be out for two weeks - The White Towel
Shea Weber broke the Vancouver defenseman with a thundering hit along the boards Tuesday night.

The View from 111: Desperate Financial Times in Big D
Mark sorts through the financial lingo to show that the Dallas Stars might be the next team requiring monetary support from the NHL, as owner Tom Hicks has nearly depleted a reserve fund he's been using to make up for operating losses.

The Hockey News: Despite setbacks in 2009, NHL fans feel Canada is set to get a 7th team
Shocking news, I know.

Game 30 Recap: Mase'd - The Cannon
The Blue Jackets handled Florida 3-0 on home ice last night, setting up a big battle this evening with the Predators.

Shutdown in C-Bus - On Frozen Pond
The Florida perspective on last night's game in Columbus includes word of some down-sizing by the Panthers organization.

'Ice Guru' Craig is ready to make ice at Fenway -
The preparations are under way for the Winter Classic, which pits Boston against Philadelphia on New Year's Day.

Winter Classic Interview with Ed Olcyzk. His take on playing outside, kids and Martin Havlat - Hockey Wilderness
Good stuff from SB Nation's Minnesota Wild blog with "Eddie O".

Boivin: Coyotes more than a novelty
Can Phoenix maintain the pace they've set in the early going this season? I think so - if you look at Goals For & Against, they're a better fit for their record than Colorado, Los Angeles, or Nashville. (hat tip to Kukla's Korner)

Jovanovski suspended two games - The Globe and Mail
The Coyotes defenseman gets a two-gamer for a head shot on Minnesota's Andrew Ebbett. Will Jerred Smithson hear from the league office today?

Sawchuk - The Copper & Blue
A great reflection on Terry Sawchuk, the Hall of Fame goalie whose shutout record Martin Brodeur just tied.

"Big Sexy": The College Free Agent Brian Burke Didn't Sign - Hockey Or Die!
In case you're wondering why Martin Erat didn't get named the NHL's first star of the night for his hat trick on Tuesday, meet the guy who did get the honor, a kid out of Bowling Green who scored his first two career NHL goals that evening.

Edmonton - Tampa Bay post-game: Zorg, meet Gordie - The Copper & Blue
Zach Stortini, who gave the Preds fits earlier this season, racked up an elusive "Gordie Howe Hat Trick" last night against the Lightning.

Experiencing A Canadiens' Win In Ottawa's (Not So) Rival Rink - Habs Eyes On The Prize
Robert reports on following the Canadiens for a road game at Ottawa, and infiltrating a hostile crowd.

Five Hole Fanatics: John Stevens - Scapegoat before the Percentages
Kent makes a good case that Philly made a rash decision in axing their head coach.

Lastly, we've got more amazing goal calls from Florida Panthers radio man Randy Moller...