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A Central Division Update

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

Nashville sits in 1st place with 83 points in 60 games played so far. The Predators have won their last three contests and have collected points in eight of their last ten. 7 different players scored goals for the Predators Thursday night in Nashville against the San Jose Sharks (Calle Jarnkrok, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidson, Kevin Fiala, Scott Hartnell, and Nick Bonino). 5 of their 7 goals were scored at 5 on 5.

Nashville registered 46 shots on goal. Pekka Rinne stood on his head and saved 33 of 34 for his 300th career win. An impressive 12 Predators collected points in this game. Nashville’s confidence level has to be high after such a performance.

Their next game is against St. Louis on Sunday at Bridgestone Arena. Preds are 11 points ahead of the Blues with a game in hand so this is a must-win for the Blues who have dropped all three games against the Predators so far this season. We will be seeing them for the last time this weekend. It’s crucial that St. Louis collects.



WINNIPEG JETS

The Jets are just 4 behind Nashville with 69 points in 60 contests. They’re coming off a 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Kings last night, but the game prior, Winnipeg also scored 7 in Florida. Blake Wheeler registered 3 helpers. Kyle Connor capitalized twice. Patrik Laine, Mathieu Perreault, Bryan Little, Mark Scheifele, and Nikolaj Ehlers also scored goals. Meanwhile, goaltender, Connor Hellebuyck saved 25 of 27 Florida shots on goal to win it 7-2.

Winnipeg will look to carry that momentum into St. Louis tonight when they take on the Blues at Scottrade Center. The last time these two teams met, the Blues were able to get the win with a final score of 5-2. In that one, Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice. Jaden Schwartz, Patrik Berglund, and Alexander Steen also scored for the Blues.

Since then, St. Louis has lost 4 games straight. They’re looking to right the ship. One positive for St. Louis is that they’ve beaten the Jets twice this season out of three meetings. This is the last time the Blues will play them in the regular season. I expect both teams to put it all on the line and give us a playoff-like¬†atmosphere.

DALLAS STARS

The Stars have battled their way back into a great spot. They didn’t have an ideal start to the season, but they’re proving to be a threat. Last night, the backup goaltender, Kari Lehtonen was able to get his first shutout of the season in Los Angeles against the Kings. Dallas held LA to just 18 shots. Alexander Radulov and Tyler Seguin capitalized in the 3rd period for the Stars and sealed the victory.

The Stars have had some frustrating games here and there lately. They’ve been blown out by Vancouver 6-0, lost to the San Jose Sharks 5-2, and were shutout by the Anaheim Ducks 2-0. Regardless, the Stars have won 7 of their last 10 so it seems the ability to bounce back after a loss is there. They may lose their composure for a game, but they seem to get it back.

It’s been even between The Blues and the Stars. The 4 times and the teams met this season; They have split the games 2-2. The two clubs will compete once more for the tiebreaker in March. Until then, they’ll be watching each other closely in the standings.



WHO ELSE IS IN THE RACE?

The Minnesota Wild find themselves a point ahead of the St. Louis Blues, and they’ve got a game in hand. Collecting 8 points in their last 10 games; They’re making a run for it. They’ve won 2 in a row, scoring 9 goals in that span. They seem to be clicking right now. We’ll see if they can extend their winning streak tonight against the New York Rangers.

The Colorado Avalanche are right there in it as well. They’ve got a game in hand on the Blues and are only 3 points behind. However, the Avs have lost 6 of their last 10 contests. St. Louis has won all three meetings with Colorado this season and they’ll be playing them 2 more times before the season is over with.

WHO’S NOT A THREAT?

The Chicago Blackhawks are just not who they used to be. They’ve become nothing close to a threat. As you should know, they’re hardly competing with the rest of the division. Chicago is 26-27-8 and has 60 points on the season. Nine points behind the Avalanche.

It’s likely that the Blackhawks will not make the playoffs this year. There is just way too much competition, and there’s work to be done over there. I don’t see them digging themselves out of that hole. Regardless, the Blues have quite the workload ahead of themselves.

IMPRESSIVE HOME RECORDS

Nashville, Winnipeg, Minnesota, Dallas, and Colorado have all won 20+ games at home this season. Actually, each of these teams has lost 9 or fewer games in regulation at home, too. The Blues, however, have lost 13 of 32 in their barn which puts them in 6th place in this category division-wide. A solid home record makes a huge difference in this league. The Blues have an adequate statistic, but the others are proving to do better.

CONCLUSION

This division is filled with very talented and well-coached clubs. It won’t be an easy task for the Blues to maintain a good position. I am not saying it can’t be done, but it is going to be a battle until the end. Especially with the active roster. The trade deadline is upon us and it will have a huge impact on the Blues run for the post-season. Blues fans are itching to find out what player(s) is/are going to come to St. Louis to help save this season. What moves will be made? We’ll find out soon.

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