Mar 4, 2011, 12:00 PM EDT
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.
Northwest Division outlook (March 4 -March 10th)
1. Vancouver Canucks (40-16-9 for 89 pts; 65 Games Played)
Current streak: One loss.
Week ahead: Four away games – vs. Los Angeles (Saturday), Anaheim (Sunday), Phoenix (Tuesday) and San Jose (Thursday).
Thoughts: The Canucks’ are comfortably in control of first place in the Northwest, but their hold on the top spot in the West might be a bit tenuous. That’s because they’re facing a tough March. They play four road games against hungry Pacific teams plus another away game against equally anxious Calgary next week, then get three homes games before four more games in a row on the road. If they start April on top of the West, there shouldn’t be much doubt about their power.
2. Calgary Flames (33-24-9 for 75 pts; 66 GP)
Current streak: One loss.
Week ahead: Home vs. Columbus (Fri), home vs. Nashville (Sun), @ Dallas (Wed) and @ Phoenix (Thurs).
Thoughts: There are two ways to look at the upcoming week of games for the Flames. A negative person would point out that they must face teams as desperate as they are in all four contests. A positive one would say that Calgary “controls their own destiny.” Really, both sides are right.
3. Minnesota Wild (34-25-6 for 74 pts; 65 GP)
Current streak: One win.
Week ahead: Home vs. Buffalo (Sun), home vs. Colorado (Tues), @ Nashville (Thurs).
Thoughts: While Minnesota would be wise to store some points by winning those two home games, it’s not like they need to panic about a tough four game road stretch that begins in Nashville. After all, the Wild are 18-12-3 away from Minnesota, a trend that might come in handy if they make the playoffs as a low seed.
4. Colorado Avalanche (26-30-8 for 60 pts; 64 GP)
Current streak: Four straight losses.
Week ahead: Home vs. Edmonton (Sat), @ Minnesota (Tues), home vs. Anaheim (Fri).
Thoughts: The Avs have just one win in their last 15 games. At this point, the team might as well go about losing so they can get almost as many lottery balls as their division mates in Edmonton. It’s sad to see a young, attacking team dissolve like this as the threat of widespread trapping grows, but there’s no denying this team is just a mess right now.
5. Edmonton Oilers (22-35-8 for 52 pts; 65 GP)
Current streak: Two wins.
Week ahead: Three road games – vs. Colorado (Sat), Philadelphia (Tues) and Washington (Wed).
Thoughts: I understand that it’s important to build character and confidence by winning at least a bit, but the Oilers must be eye-balling the draft lottery more than anything else right now. Playing five straight road games and seven of their last nine away from home should help them retain the highest odds for another No. 1 pick.
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