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2011 NHL New Year’s resolutions: Central Division

For many people around the world, the beginning of 2011 elicits the creation of a list of new year’s resolutions. Many scoff that odes to stop smoking or lose 20 lbs. are pipe dreams, but what’s wrong with a little optimism as the world cleans the slate of its calendar?

With that in mind, we decided to recommend a few changes (or sometimes with successful teams, what not to change) for each NHL team. We’ll go division by division in alphabetical order, because one of our resolutions is to be fair.

Click here for the Atlantic Division post.

Central Division new year’s resolutions

Chicago

Get healthy

The Blackhawks dealt with injuries to Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa so far this season. Simply put, they don’t have the depth to deal with these problems in 2010-11.

Continue development of younger players

For all the talk of the loss of valuable depth players, a big reason the Blackhawks progressed last season was because of the development of young players such as Antti Niemi, Dave Bolland and Niklas Hjalmarsson. They won’t go very far unless they yield results from Corey Crawford, Jack Skille and so on.

Columbus

Find Rick Nash some help

Year after year, the Blue Jackets fail to support Nash. It’s their equivalent to the “lose weight/stop smoking” types of resolutions.

Right the old ship Steve Mason

The team gave Mason a contract extension, so they have every reason to be patient. Well, every reason if he produces results.

Detroit

Re-sign Jimmy Howard

The Red Wings’ cheap goalie “model” will be tested this summer, as Jimmy Howard’s contract will expire. On the bright side for Detroit, the market is tough for goalies right now.

Rest the oldies

Nicklas Lidstrom’s season has been astounding, but the Red Wings would be wise to limit the amount of time he spends on the ice. The same goes for aging players such as Brian Rafalski.

Nashville

Re-sign Shea Weber

The Predators carved out an impressive place in the league as a team that gets by without much star power, but losing Weber would be a dramatic and devastating loss to the franchise.

Don’t let their market be an excuse for playoff failure

Yes, the Predators are a small market team, but does that excuse them from never advancing past the second round of the playoffs? Sooner or later something must give.

St. Louis

Get healthy

The Blues have been bombarded with injuries during this season, so getting the likes of David Perron and TJ Oshie close to 100 percent would be a boon for them.

Don’t overwork Jaroslav Halak

St. Louis made a big investment when they signed Halak, but they shouldn’t forget that they have a capable backup in Ty Conklin.

Reduce home dependence

The Blues are on a five game winning streak and could be perfect on their current five game homestand, which shouldn’t be a coincidence. That’s because St. Louis is far better at home (14-4-2) than on the road (6-8-3). Considering the fact that they are likely to be a lower seed in the playoffs – at best – they need to learn to win away from their own arena.

Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

Read about that blowout here.

Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.