Feb 8, 2011, 5:20 PM 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.
Central Division outlook (February 8-14)
1. Detroit Red Wings (32-15-6 for 70 pts; 53 Games Played)
Current streak: One win.
Week ahead: Home vs. Nashville (Wednesday), road vs. Boston (Friday) and home vs. Boston (Sunday).
Thoughts: Pavel Dastyuk returned to the Red Wings lineup just in the nick of time, as Detroit had been shut out of two straight games. It’ll be interesting to see how they do in a back-to-back with the Northeast Division-leading Boston Bruins, the tail end of which will be NBC’s Game of the Week.
2. Nashville Predators (28-19-7 for 63 pts; 54 GP)
Current streak: One loss.
Week ahead: @ Detroit (Wed), home vs. Colorado (Sat).
Thoughts: After winning three in a row, the Predators have gone 1-4-1 in their last six games. As great of a coach as Barry Trotz is, he can’t seem to get this group to avoid these hot and cold runs.
3. Chicago Blackhawks (27-22-4 for 58 pts; 53 GP)
Current streak: Two losses in a row.
Week ahead: Three road games: vs. Edmonton (Wed), vs. Dallas (Fri) and Phoenix (Sat).
Thoughts: The ‘Hawks seem like they are cracking a bit, but the good news is that this week will complete this challenging six-game road trip. They don’t have any other road runs longer than this one remaining. If Chicago can pull out two out of three this week, they should be pretty pleased.
4. Columbus Blue Jackets (25-22-5 for 55 pts; 52 GP)
Current streak: Two wins.
Week ahead: @ Pittsburgh (Tues), home vs. San Jose (Wed), home vs. Colorado (Fri), @ Dallas (Sun).
Thoughts: Even with a banged up Pittsburgh’s team, that’s still a tough back-to-back for the Jackets. This week could give a glimpse what this team is (or isn’t) capable of.
5. St. Louis Blues (23-20-8 for 54 pts; 51 GP)
Current streak: One loss.
Week ahead: @ Florida (Tues), home vs. Minnesota (Fri), @ Minnesota (Sat), home vs. Vancouver (Mon).
Thoughts: It’s going to be a trying rest-of-February for the Blues. The good news is that the Wild will deal with the same back-and-back games as St. Louis, so that home-and-home series could be very big for both teams. The Blues should try to shoot for 5-6 out of 8 points this week.
- Flyers’ Timonen admits chances of playing are ‘really slim’ 6
- Desjardins (a.k.a. not Torts) makes good first impression on Canucks 19
- Leafs deny rift between Kessel and coaching staff 10
- Injured Crosby, Malkin will miss start of Pens’ camp 8
- Selanne rips Boudreau in book 17
- Just how damaging are heated negotiations between Jackets, RFA Johansen? 36
- Panthers owners say they’re committed even though team has lost ‘tremendous amounts of money’ 11
- Update: Wild’s Harding out indefinitely with fractured foot 20
- Johansen heads home from Columbus as talks get even messier 24
- Kesler accuses Vancouver media of making up stories, ‘throwing people under the bus’ 25
- Heeeeeere’s Johnny! Davidson shreds Johansen’s agent for ‘baffling, nonsensical’ contract demands (61)
- Chiarelli: At some point, I’m going to have to trade a defenseman (56)
- Jackets reveal Johansen offers — including an eight year, $46M deal (54)
- Will the NHL publicize divers? (48)
- No icing on the PK? The USHL will see how that looks (43)