Marek Zidlicky, Greg Zanon, Jarome Iginla, Matt Stajan

Northwest Division Watch (March 4)

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.

Northwest Division outlook (March 4 -March 10th)

1. Vancouver Canucks (40-16-9 for 89 pts; 65 Games Played)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Four away games – vs. Los Angeles (Saturday), Anaheim (Sunday), Phoenix (Tuesday) and San Jose (Thursday).

Thoughts: The Canucks’ are comfortably in control of first place in the Northwest, but their hold on the top spot in the West might be a bit tenuous. That’s because they’re facing a tough March. They play four road games against hungry Pacific teams plus another away game against equally anxious Calgary next week, then get three homes games before four more games in a row on the road. If they start April on top of the West, there shouldn’t be much doubt about their power.

2. Calgary Flames (33-24-9 for 75 pts; 66 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Home vs. Columbus (Fri), home vs. Nashville (Sun), @ Dallas (Wed) and @ Phoenix (Thurs).

Thoughts: There are two ways to look at the upcoming week of games for the Flames. A negative person would point out that they must face teams as desperate as they are in all four contests. A positive one would say that Calgary “controls their own destiny.” Really, both sides are right.

3. Minnesota Wild (34-25-6 for 74 pts; 65 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Home vs. Buffalo (Sun), home vs. Colorado (Tues), @ Nashville (Thurs).

Thoughts: While Minnesota would be wise to store some points by winning those two home games, it’s not like they need to panic about a tough four game road stretch that begins in Nashville. After all, the Wild are 18-12-3 away from Minnesota, a trend that might come in handy if they make the playoffs as a low seed.

4. Colorado Avalanche (26-30-8 for 60 pts; 64 GP)

Current streak: Four straight losses.

Week ahead: Home vs. Edmonton (Sat), @ Minnesota (Tues), home vs. Anaheim (Fri).

Thoughts: The Avs have just one win in their last 15 games. At this point, the team might as well go about losing so they can get almost as many lottery balls as their division mates in Edmonton. It’s sad to see a young, attacking team dissolve like this as the threat of widespread trapping grows, but there’s no denying this team is just a mess right now.

5. Edmonton Oilers (22-35-8 for 52 pts; 65 GP)

Current streak: Two wins.

Week ahead: Three road games – vs. Colorado (Sat), Philadelphia (Tues) and Washington (Wed).

Thoughts: I understand that it’s important to build character and confidence by winning at least a bit, but the Oilers must be eye-balling the draft lottery more than anything else right now. Playing five straight road games and seven of their last nine away from home should help them retain the highest odds for another No. 1 pick.

Jason Demers tweets #FreeTorres, gets mocked

Los Angeles Kings v San Jose Sharks - Game One

Following his stunning 41-game suspension, it looks like Raffi Torres has at least one former teammate in his corner.

We haven’t yet seen how the San Jose Sharks or the NHLPA are reacting to the league’s hammer-dropping decision to punish Torres for his Torres-like hit on Jakob Silfverberg, but Jason Demers decided to put in a good word for Torres tonight.

It was a simple message: “#FreeTorres.”

Demers, now of the Dallas Stars, was once with Torres and the Sharks. (In case this post’s main image didn’t make that clear enough already.)

Perhaps this will become “a thing” at some point.

So far, it seems like it’s instead “a thing (that people are making fun of).”

… You get the idea.

The bottom line is that there are some who either a) blindly support Torres because they’re Sharks fans or b) simply think that the punishment was excessive.

The most important statement came from the Department of Player Safety, though.

Bruins list Chara on IR, for now

Zdeno Chara

Those who feel as though the Boston Bruins may rebound – John Tortorella, maybe? – likely rest some of their optimism on the back of a healthy Zdeno Chara.

It’s possible that he’s merely limping into what may otherwise be a healthy 2015-16 season, but it’s definitely looking like a slow start thanks to a lower-body injury.

The latest sign of a bumpy beginning came on Monday, as several onlookers (including’s Joe Haggerty) pointed out that Chara was listed on injured reserve.

As Haggerty notes, that move is retroactive to Sept. 24, so his status really just opens up options for the Bruins.

Still … it’s a little unsettling, isn’t it?

The Bruins likely realize that they need to transition away from their generational behemoth, but last season provided a stark suggestion that may not be ready yet. Trading Dougie Hamilton and losing Dennis Seidenberg to injury only make them more dependent on the towering 38-year-old.

This isn’t really something to panic about, yet it might leave a few extra seats open on the Bruins’ bandwagon.