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Northwest Division Watch (February 12)

Feb 12, 2011, 8:30 AM EDT

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Calgary Flames v Vancouver Canucks Getty Images

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 12-18)

1. Vancouver Canucks (35-11-9 for 79 pts; 55 Games Played)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Home vs. Calgary (Saturday), @ St. Louis (Monday), @ Minnesota (Tuesday), @Nashville (Thursday).

Thoughts: The Canucks’ real race is with the Philadelphia Flyers, at least right now.

2. Calgary Flames (28-21-8 for 64 pts; 57 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: @ Vancouver (Sat), @ Colorado (Mon), home vs. Dallas (Wed).

Thoughts: It’s still a bit weird to see the Flames all the way up to second place in the Northwest Division, isn’t it? They play against two division leaders and one division rival spiraling down the drain in Colorado this week.

3. Minnesota Wild (29-20-5 for 63 pts; 54 GP)

Current streak: Two wins.

Week ahead: Home vs. St. Louis (Sat), Home vs. Vancouver (Tues) @ Chicago (Wed), home vs. Anaheim (Fri).

Thoughts: The Wild are quietly one of the hottest teams in the NHL. Their upcoming schedule is challenging as always, but they play three of the four games in Minnesota so their chances of having a good week are solid.

4. Colorado Avalanche (25-24-6 for 56 pts; 55 GP)

Current streak: Six game losing streak.

Week ahead: @Nashville (Sat), home vs. Calgary (Mon), home vs. Pittsburgh (Wed).

Thoughts: Obviously, the Avs need to get their acts together. Their next two games are tough, but with the Penguins reeling, this might be a good chance to take 5-6 points from those three games.

5. Edmonton Oilers (16-30-8 for 40 pts; 54 pts)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Four home games – vs. Ottawa (Sat), Anaheim (Sun), Dallas (Tues), Montreal (Thurs).

Thoughts: Aside from their blooper bowl game against the Senators, the Oilers have a great chance to play the spoiler role this week. They lost to Chicago 4-1 to begin this six-game homestand.

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