Divisional opponents are starting to pop up more frequently, and there are some tests in the near future for the Dallas Stars.
The division is tough, yeah, we get it. But the Stars record against the division last year probably kept them out of the playoffs.
Let's take a look at those division rivals now. How have they been playing?
Record: 10-14-1 21 Points
Playoff Position: No
The Central's lovable loser, the Colorado Avalanche are still holding down last place in the division. The Avs are trading wins for loses unable to get on any kind of roll.
The goaltending has continued to be an adventure with the defense in front of them not much better. On a game by game basis, the club has won the possession battle a few times. But the advanced stats of this team tell the same story they did two years ago: they need some pixie dust for long term success.
It is difficult to look at a team with the roster the Avalanche have and think, "wow that team isn't good". With guys like Duchene and MacKinnon it is hard to imagine this team struggling to score.
When you watch the Avalanche play, it seems like they are in their own head. They either come out and focus on offense, or come out and focus on defense. And you guessed it, on the nights where they focus n defense they can't score, and when they focus on offense... you get the idea. Just my hot sports opinion.
You have to think at some point these guys will develop a more fluid game, but who knows.
Look, their season is over. They are "only seven points back"; but history says they are dead in the water.
Record: 12-12-2 26 Points
Playoff Position: No
Ondrej Pavelec suffered a lower body injury and is expected to return in late January - early February. A brutal stretch in November where the Jets earned 3 points in 8 games has put them behind the eight-ball.
In the absence of Pavelec, Connor Hellebuyck has sparkled. He has allowed 2 goals in the 2 games he has started since Pavelec went down. He is 22 years old and is bound to have a melt down at some point, but fans of the team are hoping they have found the next Hamm-burglar.
Aside from the 2 Hellebuyck starts, the Jets have been getting torched defensively this year. They have given up 80 goals, goof for 29th in the league. You can use any kind of paintbrush you like, but that isn't a pretty picture.
Winnipeg is treading water hoping to stay in the mix, and they certainly have the horses to do that. But the team has looked slow on defense and the zone exits have been a nightmare. "They have to clean up their game" and "compete" and "#hockeythings" to improve. Fast.
Record: 12-7-4 28 Points
Playoff Position: 2nd Wildcard
Zach Parise is back. That is great news for the Wild, and not so good news for everyone else.
The Wild are no juggernaut, but they have a top 10 defense and the offense is in the top half of the league. Typically teams with those kinds of numbers aren't on the playoff bubble, but #MDK.
Dallas went to Minnesota last week and broke the hearts of Minnesotans everywhere. It turns out that even defensively minded teams cant retreat into a shell with 40 minutes left in a hockey game.
Minnesota is not the most fun team to watch in the division (source needed), but they have been able to claw back into the picture after a rough start to the year. Devan Dubnyk doesn't look like the same player as he was last year, hashtag shocker, but he has regained at least a portion of his form lately. Just like last year's magical run, their wagons are tied to Dubnyk.
Record: 13-9-3 29 Points
Playoff Position: 1st Wildcard
Patrick Kane is on a 21-game point streak. He put up 3 points last night in Ottawa, and the team lost 4-3 in overtime.
As spectacular as Kane as has been, the Hawks have been unable to capitalize lately in the results category dropping 5 of their last 7; 3 of those in overtime.
But the loser point is a wonderful thing, and the slide has not crippled the Hawks as much as it could have. The powerplay is cooking, Kane is unstoppable, and the defense has not played poorly since the return of Duncan Keith.
Chicago added a lot of pieces in the offseason and they will continue to require patience while they mold a new roster.
Hopefully they keep losing.
Record: 13-7-4 30 Points
Playoff Position: 3rd in Central
There has been some rumblings among the Predators fanbase that they need to shore up their center depth. On the heels of Mike Fisher going out with an injury for the next week or so. Could the lack of center depth keep them among the 30-point team log jam in the division? It's possible.
It could be manifesting on the road, where the Predators don't get as favorable matchups. Nashville is a middling 5-5-2 on the road. They're also only 4-5-1 in their last 10 games.
Record: 15-7-3 33 Points
Playoff Position: 2nd in Central
The Blues have seen the gap between them and the first-place Stars seemingly remain constant or grow slightly lately. Eight points behind the pace in the division, the Blues are only three points ahead of a three team log jam in the division. While it may feel like they're chasing the Stars, the Blues might be focused on staying ahead of the rest of the pack behind them and looking to add some separation there.
Ten of their 14 matches in December are on home ice, where the Blues boast a 7-3-2 record. A healthy dose of Eastern teams mixed with several Central opponents await the Blues this month.
In related to the NHL (sort of) news, St. Louis missed out on the chance to host the 2018 World Juniors Championship. Rumor has the Buffalo area as the host instead, beating out St. Louis and Pittsburgh. On the positive side, they have a great way to shake off that loss.