Central: Halak continues strong play for the Blues

By Andrew Sykes

Photo: St. Louis Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak has improved as the 2011-12 season has progressed (courtesy of

Terry Lee/Icon SMI)

A star forward from the Detroit Red Wings is sandwiched between two members of the St. Louis Blues as we take a look back at the top three performers in the Central division this past week. (Feb 24-Mar 1).

First Star: Jaroslav Halak, G, St. Louis Blues –
Halak was perfect in three starts this week and continues to rank among the NHL’s elite goaltenders despite getting off to a slow start this season. Halak recorded three straight impressive road wins over Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton and now has 20 victories on the season. The 26-year-old was given the night off for last night’s showdown against Vancouver and, although Brian Elliott allowed just one goal in the loss, head coach Ken Hitchcock might think to play his cards a little differently the next time he is presented with a similar decision.

Second Star: Henrik Zetterberg, LW, Detroit Red Wings
With Pavel Datsyuk out of the lineup, Zetterberg, like he has done so many times throughout his career, has stepped up to fill the offensive void for the Red Wings. With a three-assist performance in Saturday’s loss to Colorado and a goal and an assist in Tuesday’s win over Columbus, Zetterberg racked up five points in two games and is showing a nice chemistry with linemates Valteri Filppula and Jiri Hudler.

Third Star: T.J. Oshie, RW, St. Louis Blues –
Oshie continued his career year with a very productive week of play in helping St. Louis to three road wins. The Blues second highest-scorer with 45 points, Oshie picked up two assists and was the team’s most dangerous forward in a 3-2 shootout win over Winnipeg. He chipped in three more assists in games against Calgary and Edmonton giving him a total of five for the week, with Oshie really starting to assert himself as an exciting and dynamic winger for the Blues.

Central Division Notes

Chicago Blackhawks: After coming up with a much needed two points last night, the Blackhawks will look to sustain that momentum on the road this weekend. The club will be in Ottawa tonight for an inter-conference matchup with the Senators before heading to the Motor City for what will be a major challenge against the Red Wings on Sunday afternoon.

Columbus Blue Jackets:
The Blue Jackets figured to be in tough last night on the road against a Colorado team desperately fighting for a playoff spot. Instead, the team walked into the Pepsi Center and played the role of spoiler with a 2-0 win. Defensemen Nikita Nikitin and Fedor Tyutin scored the goals and Steve Mason stopped all 32 shots he faced to pick up his first shutout and ninth win of the season. Columbus will head to Phoenix to play their only game of the weekend against the Coyotes on Saturday.

Detroit Red Wings:
Owner’s of the longest home win streak in NHL history, the Red Wings will be hoping to get back to their dominant ways at the Joe Louis Arena this weekend. Having lost their past two home contests, Detroit will entertain the Wild tonight and then welcome their Central division rival, the Chicago Blackhawks, for a Sunday matinee.

Nashville Predators:
Hoping to keep pace in the division with St. Louis and Detroit, the Predators lone action this weekend comes Saturday night when they pay a rare visit to Sunrise, FL to take on the Florida Panthers. They can expect to encounter a very motivated group after the Panthers were trounced by a score of 7-0 in a key divisional game against Winnipeg last night.

St. Louis Blues:
With first place in the league up for grabs, the Blues came up short in what was the biggest game of their season to date. Playing in the fifth of six straight road games, St. Louis never really seemed to find their skating legs and looked a tad sluggish in a hard fought 1-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. Tied atop the Central division standings with Detroit, the club will wrap up the road trip with another tough game against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night before
returning home for three straight in the upcoming week.