Feb 4, 2011, 11:00 AM EDT
With the All-Star break over, it’s time for the NHL playoff races to intensify. Every week, we’ll provide updates for each division’s outlook. The biggest contenders and/or closest races will receive the greatest amount of attention.
Bold = playoff contender; Italics = likely lottery fodder.
Northwest Division outlook (February 4-10)
1. Vancouver Canucks (33-10-9 for 75 pts; 52 Games Played)
Current streak: Four wins in a row.
Week ahead: Three home games: vs. Chicago (Friday), vs. Ottawa (Monday), vs. Anaheim (Wednesday).
Thoughts: The Canucks need not worry about their division foes; their main competition is with the Philadelphia Flyers for the Presidents Trophy right now.
2. Minnesota Wild (27-19-5 for 59 pts; 51 GP)
Current streak: Three wins in a row.
Week ahead: @ Phoenix (Sat), home vs. Colorado (Wed)
Thoughts: As of this writing, the Wild are the seventh ranked team in the conference. They’ve gotten there in a fairly efficient 51 games, so even if their light week makes them drop back into the pack, they are in fairly solid shape. The next seven days may lack for quantity, but they need to wrestle as many points from those two playoff contenders as possible.
3. Calgary Flames (26-21-6 for 58 pts; 53 GP)
Current streak: Six wins in a row.
Week ahead: Three home games – vs. Los Angeles (Sat), vs. Chicago (Mon), vs. Ottawa (Wed).
Thoughts: Counting next Friday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks, the Flames will play their next four contests in Calgary. They’ve jumped back into playoff contention, but need every point they can get.
4. Colorado Avalanche (25-20-6 for 56 pts; 51 GP)
Current streak: Three game losing streak.
Week ahead: Home vs. Anaheim (Sat), @ Phoenix (Mon), @ Minnesota (Wed).
Thoughts: The heat is on Colorado right now. The Flames passed them by in the division but played two more games and only hold a two point lead. Meanwhile Craig Anderson & Co. get three cracks on the bottom three teams in the West’s top eight. I’d say they can sleep well at night going a Meatloafian two out of three in those contests.
5. Edmonton Oilers (15-27-8 for 38 pts; 50 GP)
Current streak: Two straight losses.
Week ahead: Three road games – vs. St. Louis (Fri), vs. Columbus (Sat), Nashville (Mon) and one home game vs. Chicago (Wed).
Thoughts: Anyone want Sheldon Souray? No? Oh … OK, then.
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