Vancouver Canucks v Chicago Blackhawks

Central Division Watch (March 1)

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.

Sabres place Lehner on IR; Recall Lieuwen

Connor Brown, Robin Lehner
Leave a comment

They’re just one game into their regular season, but the Buffalo Sabres have already had to shift things around in their crease.

The Sabres announced that they have placed starting goaltender Robin Lehner on injured reserve after he was knocked out of Thursday’s game with a lower-body injury.

In a corresponding move, the club has recalled Nathan Lieuwen from their AHL affiliate in Rochester.

The 24-year-old didn’t play in the NHL last season, but he did have a 1-4-0 record with a 2.98 goals-against-average and a .906 save percentage in seven games during the 2013-14 season.

Lieuwen was Buffalo’s sixth round pick, 167th overall, in the 2011 draft.

The Sabres also announced that they have loaned defenseman Jake McCabe and goaltender Linus Ullmark to the Rochester Americans (AHL).

McCabe was a healthy scratch in Thursday’s game against Ottawa, while Ullmark is being activated off I.R. after having double hip surgery during the off-season.



Chara ‘doubtful’ for game against rival Canadiens

Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara
Leave a comment

It looks like the Boston Bruins will be without their captain again on Saturday night.

Head coach Claude Julien told members of the media that Zdeno Chara is considered doubtful for tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens.

Chara suffered an upper-body injury during the preseason and he’s already been forced to miss Boston’s season opening loss to the Jets.

Per CSN, Chara says he’s improving but he won’t return to the lineup until he’s as close to 100 percent as possible.

“Every area of the injury is improving,” said Chara. “Hopefully it’s not long before I’m free of any kind of discomfort. That’s what we’re doing right now…we’re being patient. For sure you don’t want to come back, and be half of what you are…and basically hurting yourself and the team. And you’re putting yourself in a position where you could be missing more time. At this time of the season, I think it’s important to be as close as you can be to 100 percent.”

Based on the number of defensive mistakes they committed on Thursday, the Bruins need Chara back as soon as possible: