In this edition of Center Line Chatter we update you on the new leaders in the Central Division, the injury to Chicago Blackhawks forward Artem Anisimov, and we discuss a potential dark horse emerging just in time for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Blackhawks on Top of the Central…For Now
To say the Chicago Blackhawks are a model of consistency would be an understatement. The Blackhawks have only lost three games in their past seventeen outings and have reclaimed the top spot in the Central Division after a win over the Montreal Canadiens in Montreal on Tuesday night. While the Minnesota Wild lost to a Washington team that broke their slump on Tuesday night. The Blackhawks have been engaged in a points-swapping duel for first place in the Central Division and the Western Conference as a whole with Minnesota as of late. Both teams play again Thursday, with Chicago playing Ottawa and Minnesota playing Carolina.
Minnesota however. appears on the surface to be hitting their yearly slump at what appears to be one of the worst possible times. Minnesota dealt draft picks for Martin Hanzal and Ryan White, and neither have performed as of yet. Granted, it has only been two weeks since the trade deadline, and team chemistry can take a few weeks to develop. A big indicator will be if Minnesota can rebound against a struggling Carolina Hurricanes team.
Calgary Still on Franchise-Record Streak
The Calgary Flames still remain on their franchise-record ten win streak, and have gone from a non-playoff team to second overall in the Pacific Division. Calgary’s done it on the backs of their skilled youth players and good goaltending by Brian Elliot.
It remains to be seen whether or not Calgary will maintain the streak into the playoffs, but unless something drastic happens, they’ll be one of the hottest teams entering the imminent Stanley Cup Playoffs.
An Update on Artem Anisimov
Also, a bit of an update on injured Blackhawks Center Artem Anisimov. Anisimov was able to return to Chicago while wearing a walking boot. Joel Quenneville announced today that Anisimov is out three to four weeks with a lower-body injury.
This news, for Blackhawk fans, is both good and bad. The good news is that this would mean in theory, and barring any setbacks, that Anisimov would be back in time for the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Joel Quenneville has stated Anisimov will “hopefully” be back in time for him to be in the lineups for the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The bad news is that the Chicago Blackhawks lose their second line center for the rest of the regular season amid ferocious competition for the top seed in the Central Division and the Western Conference.
It’s pretty obvious the lower body injury Joel Quenneville is alluding to is his ankle, since Anisimov was fallen on by Montreal forward Alexander Radulov at the end of the first period and was seen wincing and hollering in pain. He was unable to skate or walk off under his own power and was taken off the ice via the corner tunnel of the Bell Centre in Montreal.
Another piece of good news is that it’s assumed that Nick Schmaltz would take Anisimov’s spot on the second line while Anisimov recovers from his injury. That also means you have flexibility in keeping Marcus Kruger on the third line, and a mix of Tanner Kero and perhaps newly-signed John Hayden on the fourth line. Schmaltz’s play style isn’t like Anisimov’s, Schmaltz is faster and more of a playmaker, while Anisimov is a hard-nosed center who does his best work down near the crease and low slot.
As always, keep it here on TalkingBaws for the latest NHL updates and analysis.