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Central Division Weekly: Weary Winnipeg facing injury woes

Injuries dominate the Central Division, as the Jets struggle and the Avalanche hold onto their top spot.

Paul Stastny #25 and Pierre-Luc Dubois #80 of the Winnipeg Jets discuss strategy during a second period stoppage in play against the Vancouver Canucks at the Canada Life Centre on January 27, 2022 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images

The Colorado Avalanche are topping the Central Division (fulfilling our playoff bracket predictions), while the Winnipeg Jets slide further in the standings. Several blow-out games with eight or more goals dominated the results this week, and some records took a big hit (Arizona, I’m looking at you), or a huge boost (Dallas, winning games?).

Here’s how the Central Division shook out this week:

Arizona Coyotes (10-27-4)

It was a mediocre week for the Coyotes, but what else is new? They’ve basically committed to the tank by reportedly shopping Jakob Chychrun and potentially playing out of Arizona State University for the next few years.

The Coyotes lost all four games this week. On Friday, the Coyotes were shut out, 4-0 versus the New York Islanders. The next night, the New York Rangers crushed Arizona, 7-3. Tuesday brought a 6-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, to close out a four-game road trip. They returned home last night to lose 2-1 to the Boston Bruins. Business as usual, I guess.

Chicago Blackhawks (16-20-7)

It was a middling week for the Blackhawks, although it’s hard to expect much from a team that was destined to be a tire-fire this season. Brent Seabrook’s legacy night has been postponed due to COVID, although a new date has yet to be released. The week started with a back-to-back home-and-home series against the Minnesota Wild. The Wild took both games, 5-1 at United Center and 4-3 in overtime back in St. Paul.

The team stayed on the road and were shut out 2-0 by the Avalanche on Monday, but scraped together a 3-4 overtime win over the Bruins on Wednesday. The Avalanche came back into town last night and dealt another loss to Chicago, this time 6-4.

The Blackhawks have dealt with injuries this week; defender Riley Stillman was placed on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury, along with forward Jujhar Khaira for a back injury on Jan 22. Goaltender Kevin Lankinen joined IR for his hand the next day, Jan 23.

Colorado Avalanche (30-8-3)

It’s been a slow climb back to the top of the division, but it’s a well-deserved place of honor, considering the Avalanche won all three of their games this week, reminding us all why we keep putting them at the top of our playoff brackets.

On Saturday, the Avalanche beat the Montreal Canadiens, in a game that, considering their opponents, probably should have been settled in regulation, but ended 3-2 in overtime. Monday marked Pavel Francouz’s second consecutive shutout appearance for a 2-0 win over the Blackhawks. Wednesday was a special day; it was forward J.T. Compher’s 300th career NHL game, saw defender Kurtis MacDermid’s first goal of the season and was the 17th straight win at home. The Avalanche won, 4-3 in overtime against the Bruins. The team traveled to Chicago for a 6-4 win last night.

Dallas Stars (22-16-2)

Who are these Dallas Stars? In a surprising twist of fate (or maybe I just have low expectations), the Stars won three of their four games this week. The Stars began the week on the second half of a back-to-back on the road, having already beat the Buffalo Sabres the night before. In a repeat performance, the Stars won again on Friday, 5-4, this time in overtime over the Detroit Red Wings.

On Monday, the Stars earned a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers, marking their third win in a row on the road. That same day, forward Michael Raffl was placed on IR for a lower-body injury. Continuing the back-to-back victory trend, the next night saw a 5-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils.

Yesterday, Anton Khudobin was assigned to the Stars’ AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars. The team returned home to host the Washington Capitals, who in turn broke the win streak, shutting out the Stars, 5-0.

Minnesota Wild (25-10-3)

For a good long while, the Wild were sitting at the top of the division, but have since fallen behind. Even so, the Wild won all four games this week. Staging a comeback, perhaps? The Wild played back-to-back against the Blackhawks to start the week. Friday resulted in a 5-1 win over the Blackhawks, although Jonas Brodin was placed on IR for an upper-body injury that same day. The next night’s game fell on Hockey Day in Minnesota, and the team celebrated with a 3-4 overtime win.

Monday’s 8-2 win over the Canadiens was a mood-booster for sure; Connor Dewar scored his first NHL goal during that game, and Kirill Kaprizov earned his 100th NHL point. The Wild closed out the week in New York City, where they beat the Rangers 3-2 after honoring goaltender Henrik Lunqvist’s retirement in a pregame ceremony.

Nashville Predators (27-14-4)

The Predators began the week by placing defender Dante Fabbro on IR for an upper-body injury on Jan 20. Things did look up for the team in Tennessee, however, considering their 5-2 win over the Jets saw Tanner Jeannot’s 25th point of the season. Jeannot became the third-fastest rookie in franchise history to reach that mark (in 42 games), behind only Fillip Forsberg (25 games) and Craig Smith (35 games).

On Saturday, the Predators shut down the Red Wings, 4-1, and then the Seattle Kraken on Tuesday, 4-2. Traveling to meet the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday resulted in a narrow 3-2 shootout loss, but the game wasn’t all bad news — Forsberg scored his 200th career NHL goal.

St. Louis Blues (26-12-5)

Every game the Blues played this week felt like chaos incarnate, netting at least four goals in each. The Blues met the Kraken on Friday for a 5-0 shutout win. The game featured goals at even-strength, power play, short-handed and a penalty shot, marking just the third time in franchise history the team has done so.

On Sunday, the Blues played their most sedate game of the week, resulting in a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks. The next night, the Calgary Flames blew the Blues out of the water in a 7-1 loss. Forward James Neal was re-assigned to the Blues’ AHL affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds the following day (unrelated). Their final game of the week was a rematch against the Flames, this time a 5-1 win for the Blues at Enterprise Center, and Tyler Bozak’s 800th NHL game.

Winnipeg Jets (17-16-7)

All aboard the injury train; this week was a train wreck for the Jets, with five losses in a row and a lengthening injured list. The team played back-to-back, posting a 3-2 loss to the Bruins and a frustrating 3-2 shootout loss to the Penguins, wrapping up a lengthy eight-game road trip.

On Tuesday, the Jets played their first home game in the month of January, a 5-3 loss to the Florida Panthers. Home ice didn’t bring any relief, as they dropped Thursday’s game against the Canucks, 5-1. Thursday also marked forward Adam Lowry’s 500th NHL game, and defender Johnny Kovacevic’s — a third-round selection by the Jets in 2017 — NHL debut.

Now for the injuries: forward Nikolaj Ehlers was elevated to long-term injured reserve with a knee injury on Jan. 22, where he was joined by forward David Gustafsson on Jan. 25 for a lower-body injury. Also on Jan. 25, defenders Logan Stanley and Dylan DeMelo were placed on IR with lower-body injuries. To round out the week, rookie defender Dylan Samberg was placed on IR with an upper-body injury that is considered week-to-week.