Central: Hossa proving his value with Toews out of the lineup

By Andrew Sykes

Photo: Winger Marian Hossa has been the offensive catalyst for the Chicago Blackhawks this season (courtesy of

Robin Alam/Icon SMI)

In helping the Chicago Blackhawks to big wins over the New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues, Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa takes the top spot in the weekly edition of the Central Division’s three stars.

Hossa is joined by a sizzling Andy McDonald and a rejuvenated Sergei Kostitsyn to make up the top three performers in the Central Division for the week of March 9-15.

First Star: Marian Hossa, RW, Chicago Blackhawks –
With five assists in Chicago’s three games this week, Hossa continues to arguably be the Blackhawks Most Valuable Player this season. The club’s leading scorer with 69 points, Hossa’s week started with two assists in Friday’s win over the New York Rangers, followed by another helper in Sunday’s overtime loss to the Kings. In the entertaining and hard-fought win over first-place St. Louis on Tuesday night, Hossa was at his best, collecting another two assists, putting five shots on net and dishing out a game-high six hits.

Second Star: Andy McDonald, C, St. Louis Blues
McDonald’s impressive return from concussion problems continued this week with the slick center registering five points in the Blues’ four games. In 20 games since returning to the lineup, McDonald has scored at nearly a point-per-game clip and has nine goals and 10 assists. His offensive ability has been a major boost to a team that was already good without him, but St. Louis may now be faced with the possibility of playing
without him once again. McDonald left Thursday night’s game with what appeared to be a shoulder injury and will be re-evaluated sometime today.

Third Star: Sergei Kostitsyn, LW, Nashville Predators
Earlier in the week I wrote a piece on Andrei Kostitsyn and how he has picked up his game since being traded to the Predators. The trade has also benefited his brother Sergei, who is currently playing his best stretch of hockey this season. Kostitsyn had a four-game point streak snapped last night but had six points in his four previous outings, including four in Nashville’s three games this week. He assisted on both of his brother’s tallies on Saturday against Detroit and dished out two more helpers in a 5-4 win over Phoenix on Monday.

Central Division Notes

Chicago Blackhawks – The club learned yesterday that the status of captain Jonathan Toews remains very much an uncertainty and that it is a matter of waiting and hoping for daily improvements. Toews has missed the last 12 games with concussion symptoms and is yet to string enough days of feeling free of his symptoms in order to be cleared. The Blackhawks will look to feed off the momentum gained in Tuesday’s big win over St. Louis when they play in Dallas tonight and then at home against the Capitals on Sunday.

Columbus Blue Jackets
On a three-game slide, the Blue Jackets will be in tough this weekend as they wrap up their Western Canadian road swing. On Saturday, Columbus will be in Vancouver to tangle with the Northwest-leading Canucks, and will then head to Calgary for another tough game against a Flames team in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.

Detroit Red Wings
With the possibility of losing home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, the Red Wings will hope to rebound from what has become a road trip to forget. Yesterday the club opted to send Nicklas Lidstrom home as the Hall of Fame defenseman continues to be frustrated by a bone bruise on his right ankle. On a brighter note, they may have Pavel Datsyuk back in time for their lone game this weekend in San Jose on Saturday.

Nashville Predators
Patric Hornqvist scored the lone goal in regulation and Pekka Rinne made 34 saves in a 2-1 shootout loss in San Jose last night. The Predators now sit one point back of the Detroit Red Wings in the battle for fourth-place in the Western Conference standings. With a game in hand on Detroit, Nashville will wrap up their California road trip against Los Angeles on Saturday and Anaheim on Sunday.

St. Louis Blues –
For just the third time this season, the Blues failed to score a goal in a rare shutout loss at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes last night. The Blues outshot the Hurricanes by a 40-30 margin but ran into a hot Cam Ward who turned aside every shot he faced. Six points ahead of the Vancouver Canucks, but with two more games played, the Blues will be looking to hold onto their Western Conference lead when they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.