NHL Betting – Central Division Preview
After three straight years of hosting the Western Conference champions, the Central division sent three teams to the 2011 NHL playoffs once again, but none of them could made it past the second round. The Detroit Red Wings clinched the top spot in the division with 104 points, but both the Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks were right behind them.
Both the Predators and Blackhawks will challenge the Red Wings for the top spot in the Central once again this year, while the St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets both made moves to be more competitive.
Only time will tell whether or not those moves will be enough to compete for a playoff spot, and whether Detroit can continue to lead the division as the league’s most successful franchise from the past two decades.
On The Rise: Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets landed the biggest haul of the offseason with the additions of Jeff Carter and Vinny Prospal up front, and James Wisniewski on the back end. While Carter and Prospal were immediately moved to Columbus’ top line alongside Rick Nash, Wisniewski will be relied on to contribute in all situations at both ends of the ice. With 10 goals and 51 points in 75 games with the New York Islanders and Montreal Canadiens a year ago, the Michigan-native proved that he could be an offensive weapon when given a chance, and will help quarterback the powerplay while logging shorthanded minutes.
Carter should bring an edge and help Nash with the offense if he can stay healthy, while Prospal was brought in as a pure scorer that can contribute in the right situation. The Blue Jackets are banking on Steve Mason recovering his Calder trophy form after struggling last year, and if he can raise his level of play then Columbus will contend for a playoff spot.
On The Decline: Nashville Predators
The Predators remain one of the hardest teams to project for the coming season, as all signs point towards them declining. Nashville lost Joel Ward, Steve Sullivan, and Cody Franson, all at the expense of keeping captain Shea Weber on the roster. Head coach Barry Trotz ranks among the best in the NHL, and if there is anyone that can keep the Predators competitive this year it is him.
But without a proven star player up front and the loss of a couple of key depth players, Nashville will have a tough time staying in the top-six in the Western Conference.
Projected Winner: Detroit Red Wings
Although the Blackhawks added a number of depth forwards with enough toughness to excel in the grind of the postseason, they may not have the skill to beat out the Red Wings for the top spot in the division. Despite losing veterans Brian Rafalski and
Kris Draper, Detroit still has several role players that will help open things up for a healthy Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
The Red Wings managed to maintain the services of defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, and while he is certainly getting up there in years, he still ranks among the best defenseman in the NHL.
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