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Central Division Watch (March 1)

Mar 1, 2011, 7:15 PM EDT

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Vancouver Canucks v Chicago Blackhawks Getty Images

Every week, we’ll provide updates for each division. The biggest contenders and/or closest races will receive the greatest amount of attention.

Bold = playoff contender; Italics = likely lottery fodder.

Central Division outlook (March 1 -March 7)

1. Detroit Red Wings (39-18-6 for 84 pts; 63 Games Played)

Current streak: Two wins.

Week ahead: Three away games – vs. Anaheim (Wednesday), San Jose (Thursday) and Phoenix (Saturday).

Thoughts: The Red Wings won the first two games of their five-game road trip. If they can win all of them, that would be impressive. Even for Detroit.

2. Chicago Blackhawks (34-23-6 for 74 pts; 63 GP)

Current streak: Five straight wins.

Week ahead: Home vs. Calgary (Wed), home vs. Carolina (Fri) and @ Toronto (Sat).

Thoughts: If you don’t have a horse in the ridiculous Western Conference bubble race, then you should root for the Blackhawks to make the playoffs. They’re far and away the most entertaining team of the bunch and would be a legitimate first round threat for any other team, despite their flaws.

3. Nashville Predators (33-23-8 for 72 pts; 63 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Three road contests – against Edmonton (Tues), Vancouver (Thurs) and Calgary (Sat).

Thoughts: This week begins a four-game road swing for the Predators (they also play the Sharks next Tuesday). This could be a good barometer of where this scrappy bunch really is in the playoff race.

4. Columbus Blue Jackets (31-24-6 for 68 pts; 61 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Four away games – vs. Vancouver (Tues), Edmonton (Thurs), Calgary (Fri) and St. Louis (Mon).

Thoughts: The Blue Jackets began their five-game road trip with a loss to the Predators and will face a big back-to-back with the Blues next week. Will one Central Division foe deliver a near-death blow to the other team’s postseason dreams then?

5. St. Louis Blues (28-25-9 for 65 pts; 62 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Home vs. Calgary (Tues), @ Washington (Thurs), @ Islanders (Sat) and home vs. Columbus (Mon).

Thoughts: The Blues are just a loss or two from being totally out of the playoff picture. Really, they might already be out of it, judging by the fact that they’re letting their tree-sized goalie Ben Bishop get some reps (though he’s playing well). They aren’t mathematically out of it yet, though.

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  1. J. Quick (1148)
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  4. B. Bishop (900)
  5. E. Malkin (854)