Given Nashville's woes at forward, we might be seeing a lot of this tonight. (PHOTO: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports)

Central Division: Preds Face Royal Test, Chicago Loses


Yesterday was one of the first truly quiet days in the Central Division since this NHL season began, with just one team in action. The division-leading Chicago Blackhawks finally took their first loss of the season, but they still earned a point for falling in the shootout. Today sees the Nashville Predators looking to rebound two days after their worst performance of the season.

Around The Central Division: January 31, 2013

YESTERDAY

Central Division leaders, the Chicago Blackhawks, finally lost last night

Even when losing, the Central Division-leading Blackhawks still earn a point. (PHOTO: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

Minnesota Wild 3, Chicago Blackhawks 2 (SO)

From yesterday’s Central Division round-up:

Minnesota has finally recovered from losing three straight and might be in a spoiling mood at home against Chicago.

It wasn’t easy, but the Wild pulled off the upset. They opened the game on Matt Cullen’s first of the year at 1:30 of the first period, but Josh Harding surrendered back-to-back goals at 5:14 and 6:45 to get the early hook from coach Mike Yeo. Nicklas Backstrom was perfect in relief, and the Wild kept the game knotted after Cal Clutterbuck got his first of the year on a deflection in the second period. Matt Cullen’s shootout goal would be the decider:

Corey Crawford played an excellent game, including this save:

The loss was Crawford’s first of the season. After opening the season with 11 goals in two games, Chicago has now scored 13 goals in its last five. Sad emoticons abound in Chicago tweets, even though, as Blackhawk Up’s Brian Kinkade writes, it couldn’t last forever.

Transactions

There were no trades or waiver acquisitions yesterday for the Predators or any other Central Division team. Maybe Poile is waiting to see what happens tonight against L.A. (or measuring our bottom six by some secret rubric unfathomable to mere mortals).

Standings

Central Division standings

Leaders

Points: Patrick Kane (CHI) – 10
Goals:
Marian Hossa (CHI) – 5
Assists:
Patrick Kane, Kevin Shattenkirk (STL) – 8
PIM:
Jared Boll (CBJ), Jordin Tootoo (DET) – 25
Wins:
Corey Crawford – 5
GAA:
Chris Mason (NSH) – 1.00
SV%:
Chris Mason (NSH) – .967

TODAY

After two days off to think about what they’d done back in Phoenix, the Nashville Predators finally return to the ice tonight to face the defending Stanley Cup champions.

Nashville Predators (1-2-3) at Los Angeles Kings (2-2-1)
9:30 p.m. CST
FOX Sports Tennessee

After their 4-0 loss on Monday, the Preds have something to prove to themselves and their fans. They’ll have to do it against the Kings, who got off to an awful start but have since won two straight. Los Angeles’ lineup is stacked with weapons so this will be a real challenge for a Nashville squad that sports the league’s lowest averages in both shots and goals.

Fans of the Central Division's St. Louis Blues can be a little strange

I just want to know how that poor woman can stay so patient with this guy bombing the camera like that. (PHOTO: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports)

St. Louis Blues at Columbus Blue Jackets
6:00 p.m. CST

St. Louis has looked like a very strong contender for best team in the NHL early this season. Columbus has played hungry hockey and punched above its weight class with teams like Chicago and Minnesota. An upset has been brewing for a while in Columbus, but it’s hard to imagine it happening to such a loaded Blues team. Fire That Cannon takes a look at the possibilities.

Tags: Central Division Nashville Predators