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.

Of course: Ryan Suter wins it for Wild vs. ‘Hawks after those wild quotes

NBCSN screen

You know what they say: “What a difference a game makes.”

Even in the 82-game marathon that an NHL regular season is, that can be true.

Ryan Suter admitted he went too far with comments during tough times, yet there he was on Tuesday night, grinning ear-to-ear after scoring the 2-1 goal that ended up being the game-winner.

Heck, people were even joking about things. The healing powers of winning, right?

As of this writing, this win places Minnesota in the last wild card spot, and they’re close to elbowing in on the Chicago Blackhawks (who own a standings point advantage, but have played two more games so far in 2015-16).

Jeremy Roenick labels this 2-1 win as a “team win” for Minnesota, and it showed on that 2-1 goal, as the Wild showed off some picture-perfect passing and a willingness to crash the net for rebounds.

Let’s face it, though; Devan Dubnyk deserves plenty of credit, too.

It won’t be easy in the Central Division, and things may get heated again. Still, this is the sort of win that may just help Minnesota build up some confidence.

Hey look: Flyers reel off three straight wins for first time in 2015-16

Sean Couturier
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When you’re talking about bright sides, most people believe that they boil down to the light at the end of the tunnel for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Sometimes it’s nice to enjoy a little success in the present while waiting for that bright future, though.

The Flyers are providing at least a burst of sunshine lately, as Tuesday’s 4-2 win against the Ottawa Senators gives them … (drum roll) their first three-game winning streak of this season.

Joy abounded.

Even in recent darker moments, Philly’s been pretty impressive on offense, so Flyers fans are likely relieved to see a relative offensive outburst.

Sure, it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns – Radko Gudas might have gotten himself into some trouble, for instance – yet this is still a nice sign of life for a team expected to finish in the draft lottery.

If that fails … hey, the future may require shades.

This own-goal captures the start of Dougie Hamilton’s Flames career

Dougie Hamilton
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Here’s an understatement: things haven’t gone very well for Dougie Hamilton early in his first season with the Calgary Flames.

(It must feel like the opposite of Tyler Seguin in Dallas for Boston Bruins fans, but feel free to disagree in the comments.)

You could look at Hamilton’s meager offensive stats and break down his disappointing work through a very of “fancy” and traditional metrics …

… Or you could just fire up a projector and show this own-goal on a loop.

Senators lose Michalek, Zibanejad to injuries vs. Flyers

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It remains to be seen if the Ottawa Senators can avoid losing against the Philadelphia Flyers tonight, but either way, it’s been a costly night.

The Senators saw two forwards leave the game with injuries, as Milan Michalek and Mika Zibanejad were banged up on Tuesday.

Michalek may have gotten hurt blocking a shot while a Radko Gudas hit on Zibanejad left the Senators forward with an upper-body injury.

Gudas may get a call from the league for his infractions.

Update: Michalek’s issue could be significant.

The Flyers ended up beating the Senators 4-2, so a tough night for Ottawa.