After that long CMA-driven road trip, the Nashville Predators get to enjoy a bit of home cooking this week, as they are in the middle of a 5-game homestand. The teams coming in, however, boast some of the top individual goal-scoring talents in the entire NHL, however, with two guys (Alex Ovechkin & Rick Nash) with 3 Rocket Richard trophies between them, along with the current league leader, Phil Kessel.
Follow after the jump for a quick look at these upcoming games, and the week ahead for the Central Division...
Washington Capitals - Tuesday
The Caps have gotten off to a strong start (10-4-1), especially with former Predator Tomas Vokoun in goal, but come limping into this matchup with several banged-up defensemen. Mike Green took a knee-on-knee hit Friday night against New Jersey, and Roman Hamrlik got dinged Saturday, too. My only question is which player will receive the warmer welcome - Vokoun, or Joel Ward?
|2011 - Tomas Vokoun||11||627||8||2||2||25||2.39||316||291||.921||1|
Toronto Maple Leafs - Thursday
The Leafs shot out of the gate and had folks in Toronto thinking about a return to the playoffs, but their long-standing tradition of lousy goaltending has sobered the mood there, after giving up 7 goals to the Bruins, and 5 to the Panthers, in consecutive home games recently. That Phil Kessel guy's getting the job done, however, as he stands alone at the top of the NHL's goal- and point-scoring lists:
|2011 - Phil Kessel||17||12||12||24||9||4||2||0||3||57||21.0|
Columbus Blue Jackets - Saturday
They can't really be this bad (3-12-1), can they? With high-price summer acquisitions Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski finally in the lineup together, I'm guessing that the team leadership has earned a temporary stay of execution while they see how their planned lineup really looks in action. I'm sure they didn't anticipate this guy leading their team in scoring:
|2011 - Vinny Prospal||16||5||9||14||-2||10||1||0||0||43||11.6|
Around the Central Division
After going 2-2-0 last week, they started off this week with a 6-3 win over Edmonton on home ice last night. The Blackhawks now head out for a long western road trip with stops in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton this week, followed by San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles next. If they can pull out 7 or more points out of this roadie, they could set themselves up to pull away from the Central pack during the month of December.
The Red Wings are riding a 4-game winning streak currently, but they too will head out west with games at St. Louis, San Jose, and Los Angeles coming up. Henrik Zetterberg currently has just 3 goals and 3 assists through 15 games, so they'll need to get him going if they want to keep within striking distance of Chicago.
A 2-0-1 week helped bring them back into the middle of the Western Conference pack, thanks in part to a strong 5-1-1 record at home. After welcoming in Detroit on Tuesday and Florida Thursday, the Blues head to Minnesota for a Saturday night game. The real oddity in St. Louis is that after that big Erik Johnson-Chris Stewart trade last spring, it's actually Kevin Shattenkirk, somewhat of a throw-in on the deal, who is tied for the team scoring lead.
As mentioned above, the Blue Jackets are pretty much hitting the reset button on this season now that they've finally got Carter & Wisniewski in the lineup, and could be much more dangerous than their record suggests. After hosting Minnesota on Tuesday, Columbus heads to Boston, then Nashville to close out the week.