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Central surge

Steve Sullivan and the Nashville Predators toppled Derek Meech and the Detroit Red Wings 8-0 on Feb. 28, 2009. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Steve Sullivan and the Nashville Predators toppled Derek Meech and the Detroit Red Wings 8-0 on Feb. 28, 2009. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

As of Monday morning, four Central Division teams had identical 6-3-1 records in their past 10 games. The fifth team, St. Louis, really deviated from the pack with a 6-2-2 mark.

Talk about parity.

Long gone are the days of Detroit beating up on everybody in its division en route to the Presidents’ Trophy. The story of a strengthened Central goes well beyond the rise of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Columbus is poised to make the playoffs for the first time, Nashville is still sturdy under Barry Trotz and St. Louis has more or less decided to stop allowing goals of late.

It’s very conceivable all five Central clubs could make the post-season, solidifying its status as the toughest division in hockey.

THE HOCKEY NEWS POWER RANKINGS
RK.
TEAM
LW
OVERALL
L10
THE SCOOP
1
New Jersey Devils
6
41-19-3
8-2-0
Hey Marty, how does that elbow feel?
2
Boston Bruins
8
42-12-9
3-4-3
Just can't see giving up a boatload for Chris Pronger when Boston already has Zdeno Chara
3
San Jose Sharks
1
42-10-9
5-3-2
Ryane Clowe, who gets a bit lost among San Jose's stars, could still hit 30 goals with a strong finish
4
Vancouver Canucks
7
32-22-8
8-2-0
Just two losses in their past 12 contests
5
Detroit Red Wings
2
41-14-8
6-3-1
Could you imagine if they did land Niklas Backstrom from Minnesota? Goodbye goalie questions
6
Calgary Flames
5
37-19-6
7-1-2
Heading out for a seven-game road trip beginning Tuesday in Ottawa
7
Washington Capitals
3
40-19-5
6-3-1
Boy, Ovie sure took Don Cherry's criticism to heart
8
Chicago Blackhawks
4
35-17-9
6-3-1
Antti Niemi made 22 saves to win his first NHL start last Sunday against the Kings
9
Philadelphia Flyers
9
33-18-10
6-3-1
Doesn't feel like they can play with the East's true big boys yet, but more great goaltending from Martin Biron would help
10
Columbus Blue Jackets
12
31-26-6
6-3-1
Probably prudent not to give up too much in any deal for Olli Jokinen at this point
11
Florida Panthers
10
32-23-8
6-4-0
Takes a pretty good team to walk into Washington and hammer the Caps 6-2 as the Panthers did Sunday
12
Montreal Canadiens
17
34-22-7
5-4-1
Jaroslav Halak has been great, but he shouldn't have to make 40 saves a night
13
Nashville Predators
15
31-28-4
6-3-1
Finally broke through with 17 goals over their past three games.
14
St. Louis Blues
24
28-26-8
6-2-2
Have allowed one goal or less in seven of their past eight games
15
Pittsburgh Penguins
20
32-26-6
6-3-1
Nobody would be crazy about seeing these guys in Round 1 if they sneak into the playoffs
16
New York Rangers
21
32-24-8
3-4-3
I know Nikolai Zherdev had three points in John Tortorella's first win as Rangers coach, but why do I have this vision of Torts someday putting the Russian in a stranglehold similar to the one Homer clamps on Bart?
17
Edmonton Oilers
19
31-26-5
5-3-2
In the midst of a playoff battle, the Oilers play nine of their next 13 away from home
18
Carolina Hurricanes
11
32-27-5
5-5-0
Blowing two-goal leads in the third period to Atlanta is not the way to lock down a playoff spot
19
Anaheim Ducks
16
31-28-5
5-5-0
New beginning will serve Ryan Whitney well
20
Minnesota Wild
14
30-26-5
4-4-2
Can't lose both Backstrom and Marian Gaborik for nothing
21
Buffalo Sabres
18
31-25-7
3-5-2
Would anyone take Maxim Afinogenov at this point?
22
Toronto Maple Leafs
23
25-26-12
5-2-3
Tim Stapleton gets a shootout winner in his first NHL game and his first "real" goal in his second
23
Los Angeles Kings
27
26-27-9
2-6-2
Jack Johnson is going to make Carolina regret its odd decision to trade him to L.A.
24
Ottawa Senators
26
23-28-10
5-3-2
GM Bryan Murray has said the Sens will be sellers, but who's wearing the 'For Sale' signs?
25
Dallas Stars
13
29-26-7
3-7-0
Have scored just six total goals in losing five straight
26
Phoenix Coyotes
25
27-31-5
3-7-0
Just wait until next year - wherever that may be
27
Atlanta Thrashers
28
23-34-6
5-4-1
It would be a coup if this team got a top prospect for Kari Lehtonen
28
Tampa Bay Lightning
29
21-30-12
3-6-1
Mark Recchi can still fill a role on a good team
29
New York Islanders
30
19-36-7
3-5-2
Trading Bill Guerin can only help the prospects of drafting No. 1 next June
30
Colorado Avalanche
22
28-34-1
3-7-0
Hit the road and completely bottomed out, getting outscored 19-6 while losing four straight

The Hockey News ranks the teams 1-30 each Monday based on a combination of last week’s play and a squad’s overall outlook.

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