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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.

Video: Canucks escape Arizona with another win for the moms

at Pepsi Center on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.
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With their mothers traveling on the road trip — Matt Bartkowski‘s mom, Beth, has become a cult hero in Vancouver after another priceless media interview — the Canucks took back-to-back wins, moving them right back into the thick of the playoff fight in the Western Conference.

After beating the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, the Canucks held on for the 2-1 victory in Arizona on Wednesday, despite being without Brandon Sutter (broken jaw), Alex Edler (broken fibula) and Derek Dorsett, who was scratched from the lineup due to illness, as per Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy.

It was only a few days ago, following a home loss to the Calgary Flames, that it felt like the Canucks’ playoff hopes were essentially dashed. They fielded their healthiest lineup in months and couldn’t score and couldn’t win.

Two quick wins later, they’re two points out of a Wild Card spot in the West, despite getting outshot in Arizona.

Up by a goal in the third period, defenseman Alex Biega played the hero, pulling the puck out of the crease after it got by Ryan Miller on a backhand shot from Kyle Chipchura, maintaining Vancouver’s lead.

Phaneuf burned on Zetterberg game-winner in Sens debut

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A day after getting traded out of Toronto, Dion Phaneuf made his Ottawa Senators debut.

It ended with a 3-1 road loss for the Senators, and Phaneuf getting burned by Henrik Zetterberg on the eventual game winner early in the third period.

Zetterberg picked up the puck near the Ottawa blue line, beat Phaneuf to the outside, slipped the puck under the stick of the Sens’ newest blue liner and quickly roofed his shot on Craig Anderson.

“He made a real good play and you’ve got to give credit when credit is due,” Phaneuf told the Ottawa Sun.

“I put my stick there, he put (the puck) under and he made a good shot. I’ve got to have a better stick in that situation, but you’ve got to give him credit for that play.”

Phaneuf finished the night with a minus-one rating and two hits in almost 22 minutes of ice time, putting him second among Sens defensemen in that category behind Erik Karlsson, who played a whopping 33:30.

Phaneuf drilled Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser with a hard slap shot early in the third period.

DeKeyser played one more shift — all of 10 seconds — before exiting the game.

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.

Video: Wideman hearing ‘a tricky case’ as NHLPA hopes to get 20-game suspension reduced

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There is no certain timeline for when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might rule on Dennis Wideman‘s appeal, according to a report from hockey insider Darren Dreger on NBCSN, as the Calgary Flames defenseman hopes to get his 20-game ban for hitting linesman Don Henderson reduced.

“Now, ultimately what they’re hoping from a Wideman perspective and the Players’ Association is that commissioner Gary Bettman will rule and he will reduce the number of games suspended down from 20,” said Dreger during a segment on NBCSN.

“Is he going to reduce it by three games? Five games seems a bit of a stretch. And when might he do that? There’s no timeline on this.”