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Central Division Weekly: Wild lose top scorer

Meanwhile, Dallas’ offense is nowhere to be found and Arizona and Chicago are desperate for a first win.

Ryan Hartman #38 of the Minnesota Wild celebrates his goal with Kirill Kaprizov #97, Marcus Foligno #17 and Jon Merrill #4 against the Seattle Kraken during the first period on October 28, 2021 at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, Washington. Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

We’re closing out the third week of the season and the Arizona Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks are in a race to see who can set a new league record for the earliest a team can be mathematically eliminated from playoffs, without a single win between them.

The other half of the Western Conference is supposed to be harder to win, but right now, things are still wide open for the Central’s six other teams.

Here’s this week in the Central at a glance:

Arizona Coyotes (0-6-1)

You can’t buy a win in Arizona these days. The Coyotes played in three games this week, getting outscored 13 to 4, including a shutout by the New York Islanders last Saturday. The team hasn’t collected a standings point since their Oct. 16 shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres and sit at the bottom of the Central in their first season in the division.

If you’re looking for light at the end of the tunnel, it’s not coming any time soon. In Monday’s 5-3 loss to the Florida Panthers, three Coyotes players were injured. Goaltender Carter Hutton suffered a lower-body injury in the first period, followed by injuries to defender Conor Timmins (lower-body) and forward Ryan Dzingel (upper body) in the second period. Hutton is expected to miss two to four weeks, while Timmins is out for 8 to 12.

Chicago Blackhawks (0-5-2)

I don’t really want to talk about the Chicago Blackhawks and they’ve made that easy by continuing to be some of the biggest losers in the league. The Detroit Red Wings scored six goals on them on Sunday, then they lost in overtime to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday. It’s almost impressive to be so hated right now that people are okay with breaking the Leafs’ objectively hilarious losing streak just to keep you winless.

The front office faced an exodus this week as an independent investigation into the team regarding sexual abuse carried out by their video coach in 2010 was made public, as well as the identity of the victim, Kyle Beach. In an interview with TSN’s Rick Westhead, Beach spoke his truth and the hockey world has rallied around him, while those involved continue to lie about their role in covering up Beach’s abuse.

The organization is an embarrassment to the league — which is saying something, because the clown league handed down a paltry $2 million fine after the investigation.

Colorado Avalanche (3-4-0)

Though there’s a significant gap between Colorado’s 6 points in the standings and Chicago (2 points) and Arizona (1 point) below them, it’s still surprising to see the Avalanche at sixth in the division standings. Since last Saturday, the Avalanche have earned 4-3 shootout win against the Lightning in Tampa Bay, fell 3-1 to the Vegas Golden Knights back home in Denver, and finally flew to St. Louis to get a 4-3 win over the Blues.

It’s honestly kind of impressive that the Avalanche are managing to even stay mostly average, given their laundry list of injuries. The team already had Pavel Francouz (lower-body), Devon Toews (undisclosed), Valeri Nichushkin (undisclosed) and Stefan Matteau on injured reserve, but this week Samuel Girard and Mikko Rantanen joined them, missing last night’s win in St. Louis.

Rantanen is ranked fifth on the team in points with 3 goals and 2 assists. Nathan MacKinnon leads the team with 1 goal and 6 assists. J.T. Compher leads in goals with 4.

Dallas Stars (3-3-1)

The Stars were also map-hopping this week, with a fun twist of extra hockey in multiple games. First came a 3-2 overtime win against the Los Angeles Kings at American Airlines Center, before the team headed to Ohio, where the Columbus Blue Jackets put up a 4-1 slaughter. They headed back to Dallas, where the Golden Knights pulled out an overtime win of their own, 3-2.

The Stars’ offense is bone dry, with just nine total players who have scored a goal this season, and no player has scored more than two goals. Some big names aren’t showing up, with center Jamie Benn, a former Art Ross winner, held goalless and with 2 assists over seven games. Tyler Seguin has notched two goals, and leads the team with 21 shots. The team as a whole is shooting at just 6.3 percent.

One thing on their side is that the Stars are near-fully healthy, aside from goaltender Ben Bishop, who has been on long-term injured reserve since January.

Minnesota Wild (5-2-0)

An outbreak of COVID on the Wild’s bench has spread to the players, and the team placed Rem Pitlick and Mats Zuccarello on the COVID Protocol on Thursday. That might put a halt on their hot start, as Zuccarello leads the team with 7 points (3 goals, 4 assists). Dmitry Kulikov (lower-body) and Alex Goligoski (upper-body) were also added to the injured reserve ahead of Thursday’s 4-1 loss to the Seattle Kraken.

Prior to that, though, Minnesota rallied to their second consecutive overtime win, 4-3 over the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday. Playing host on back-to-back nights, they dropped 5-2 to the Nashville Predators on Sunday. On Tuesday, the Wild were in Vancouver, beating the Canucks 3-2. Their schedule doesn’t really slow down until mid-week next week, so it’s going to be crucial for their depth to hold down the fort and keep the Wild on top.

Nashville Predators (3-4-0)

The Predators hit the road at the end of last week, heading into Winnipeg with just one win so far in the season. While they didn’t find a second one against the Jets, they put up a mighty effort, falling 6-5 on Saturday. Despite the overnight travel, Nashville came to St. Paul sick of losing and sunk five goals and hold a hot Minnesota offense to just two goals for their second win of the season on Sunday.

Then they came to San Jose and well ... they won 3-1, okay? Don’t make me go over it again.

Roman Josi, the handsome scamp, is currently averaging more than 25 minutes a game, which I’m sure is extremely sustainable. Josi does lead the team in all three scoring measures with 9 points (3 goals, 6 assists), as well as in total shots on goal, with 27. Two of his three goals have come on the power play.

St. Louis Blues (5-1-0)

As much as it pains me to admit, the Blues did something that absolutely rules this week: the Kings came to visit for a two-game series and St. Louis beat them both times, pitching one shutout and out-scoring them 10-3 over the series. They did another cool thing by following it up with a loss to the Avalanche. Forward Ryan O’Reilly was missing from the line up in the loss due to health protocols.

David Perron is having himself a season already, putting up 6 goals and 2 assists, ranking first in goals and second in points. Jordan Kyrou is ahead of Perron with 9 points (2 goals, 7 assists). Despite Thursday’s loss, Vladimir Tarasenko added a goal and an assist, tying him for ninth in the franchise’s scoring leaders.

Special teams have been huge for St. Louis, as the team boasts a 35.29 percent effective power play and stunning 90.48 percent effective power kill.

Winnipeg Jets (4-2-1)

Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff is just one of several executives under scrutiny due to the investigation into the Blackhawks and so far appears to be the only one avoiding any discipline for his role in covering up the abuse of Kyle Beach. I’ll leave it to Arctic Ice Hockey to explain further on that.

On ice, the Jets are rolling right now after dropping their first two games of the season, which is about to be bad news for the San Jose Sharks. On Saturday, the Predators rolled into town and the Jets took them down 6-5, with scoring throughout the line up and two goals from Paul Stastny. Both team netted two power play goals in the high-scoring match up.

The Jets then left to do a California swing, steamrolling the Ducks (4-3) and Kings (3-2) this week. After playing San Jose tomorrow, the Jets will go on a seven-game homestand, really getting a chance to build a cushion for themselves in the standings, especially as they mainly will face Western Conference opponents.

Center Mark Scheifele is currently finishing a 10-day quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 and did not travel to the United States with the team. Blake Wheeler has also been missing this week due to COVID, but after his quarantine period ended, he met with the team. He did not play against the Kings.

Kyle Connor, a 25-year-old winger selected in the first round of the 2015 draft by Winnipeg, has gone on a tear, netting 6 assists and 7 points, ranking third in the league with 13 points.