Mar 8, 2011, 5:06 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.
Central Division outlook (March 8 -March 14th)
1. Detroit Red Wings (39-19-8 for 86 pts; 66 Games Played)
Current streak: Three losses in a row.
Week ahead: Home vs. Los Angeles (Wednesday), home vs. Edmonton (Friday) and @ St. Louis (Saturday).
Thoughts: For any Red Wings fans who might fear the concept of the Blackhawks taking the Central Division against high odds, look on the bright side: Detroit’s been better on the road this season. The veteran squad currently has a 22-9-4 record in away games, probably aided in some way by the fact that the team tends to draw their own fans during most – if not all – road games.
2. Chicago Blackhawks (37-23-6 for 80 pts; 66 GP)
Current streak: Eight wins in a row.
Week ahead: Three road games – vs. Florida (Tues), Tampa Bay (Wed) and Washington (Sun) plus one home game against San Jose (Mon).
Thoughts: So, could the Blackhawks actually take the Central? Probably not, but they do have one big thing going for them: three more games against the Red Wings this season. If they could pull off the unlikely feat of beating Detroit those three times in regulation, that would bridge the six point gap between the two teams in a vacuum. Again, it’s tough to imagine that happening, but it’s possible.
3. Nashville Predators (33-24-9 for 75 pts; 66 GP)
Current streak: One loss.
Week ahead: Away vs. San Jose (Tues), home vs. Minnesota (Thurs), home vs. Colorado (Sat).
Thoughts: The Predators are stumbling badly right now, going 2-5-1 in their last eight games. They are still in the chase for a lower seed spot though, but every loss is going to hurt (especially if they fall in regulation). Thursday’s game against the Wild is the biggest of the week, but every game is big for Barry Trotz’s gang going forward.
4. Columbus Blue Jackets (31-26-8 for 70 pts; 65 GP)
Current streak: Five straight losses.
Week ahead: Home vs. St. Louis (Wed), home vs. Los Angeles (Fri) and @ Carolina (Sat).
Thoughts: While the Predators still have an excellent chance to make the playoffs, the Blue Jackets are fading quickly. They’ve lost five games in a row after an impressive 8-1-1 run. There are going to be some disappointed teams once the West bubble bursts and it’s looking more and more like the Jackets will be one of them.
5. St. Louis Blues (29-28-9 for 67 pts; 66 GP)
Current streak: One win.
Week ahead: Away vs. Columbus (Wed), home vs. Montreal (Thurs) and home vs. Detroit (Sat).
Thoughts: With all the quality teams in front of them, it’s almost certain that the Blues should be thinking about the draft more than the playoffs right now. Sure, a comeback might be mathematically possible, but it’s hard to imagine them even getting in the top 10 (let alone the playoff eight).
- Eller, Habs agree to four-year, $14 million contract 9
- Cory Sarich hospitalized following cycling accident, expects ‘full recovery’ 6
- Stamkos shrugs off talk of LeBron-like homecoming to Toronto in 2016 27
- Avs and O’Reilly agree on two-year deal, but questions remain 42
- Rangers and Kreider avoid arbitration, agree on two-year deal 38
- Zuccarello takes Rangers’ one year, $3.5M deal 42
- Advancement? Leafs sign Booth for one year, $1.1M 25
- Leafs hire 28-year-old stats advocate as assistant GM 30
- NBC Sports to air over 100 NHL regular-season games in 2014-15 69
- Stars, Roussel agree on four-year, $8 million deal 3
- Babcock fires back over allegations that free agents avoid him (77)
- NBC Sports to air over 100 NHL regular-season games in 2014-15 (69)
- Vanek connected to federal gambling investigation (61)
- Lucic regrets handshake-line actions, but isn’t apologizing (58)
- Report: O’Reilly wants $6.7M deal, Avs counter at $5.5M (58)