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Thursday afternoon notes: Winter Classic chirping well underway

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Sure, the 2013 Winter Classic is a long ways off, but that doesn't mean the chirping back and forth between Detroit and Toronto can't get started now. Our afternoon hockey notes get all those juices flowing, before touching on all sorts of developments around the league, including a former league MVP battling his way through injury to stay in the lineup tonight, and another member of the Predators organization who is playing against familiar foes tonight...

Nashville Predators News

MacLean praises Martin Erat - Predators Insider
Kind words for Marty from the mightiest mustache in the NHL.

Watson back in title hunt - Windsor Star
Just as Mike Fisher returns to Ottawa tonight, Austin Watson suits up for the London Knights against his original junior team, the Windsor Spitfires.

Around the Wide Wide World of Hockey

Brian Burke believes Maple Leaf Nation will conquer The Big House for NHL Winter Classic | Puck Daddy
Why is this Winter Classic in Ann Arbor? Because Michigan Stadium is the only venue big enough for Brian Burke's ego! (just kidding, I'm a Burke fan generally)

5 reasons to be excited for a Red Wings/Leafs edition of HBO’s 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic | Backhand Shelf
HBO has to get on board with this...

Canucks Game Day: Henrik Sedin's ankle not broken, he could play tonight - Vancouver Sun
The shot which rang off Henrik's ankle early Tuesday night could jeopardize his 552 consecutive games-played streak.

Injured Tampa Bay Lightning LW Ryan Malone getting closer to returning, perhaps Saturday - Lightning Strikes | Tampa Bay Times
The Lightning have been hamstrung by injuries this season, and hope to get Malone back in the lineup soon.

Nicklas Backstrom: ‘I don’t know when I will be able to play again’ - Capitals Insider - The Washington Post
Disconcerting words for Washington Capitals fans.

Study: Canada could support nine NHL teams - The Globe and Mail
I could see it, but the report cited here is pretty odd. A second team in Toronto would be a slam-dunk success.

NBCSports.com to Stream Hockey Day in America " Puck The Media
Good news for those of you without this channel...

Coldhearted: Frans Nielsen, Sam Gagner, and the rest of the week in the NHL - Grantland
Take a trip around the league with Katie Baker.

Todd McLellan's Deployment - Fear The Fin
Very pretty graphs here which I need to do for the Preds.

Jordan Eberle Will Fall, Magnus Paajarvi And Ales Hemsky Will Rise | Edmonton Journal
Another compelling argument to buy low on Ales Hemsky.

Avalanche locker-room video: O.B., P.J. and Jiggy | All Things Avalanche — Colorado Avalanche news — The Denver Post
For those of you who miss Shane O`Brien, a bit of off-ice video.

Montreal Canadiens hoping for divine intervention to make playoffs - thestar.com
Do the Habs have a prayer? It sounds like it.

Yahoo Again Tops Latest ComScore Rankings, While ESPN Falls To Third - SportsBusiness Daily
SB Nation, #10 with a bullet!