Blackhawks

NHL Central Division roundup: Blues display consistency in November

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NHL Central Division roundup: Blues display consistency in November

The standings are beginning to take shape through the first two months of the season. Let's review how November played out for each team in the Central Division.

Chicago: The Blackhawks finished October with a 6-5-0 record, and started a bit slow in November too, going 2-2-1 in their first five games. But in the final eight games of the month, Joel Quenneville's club turned it on, picking up at least a point in seven of those games, including a 3-1-2 record during their annual Circus Trip. Patrick Kane extended his point streak to 19 games, setting a new record for longest by an American-born player, and was named the NHL's No. 1 star for November.

[MORE: Blackhawks: Patrick Kane named NHL's No. 1 star for November]

Colorado: It was a roller coaster November for the Avalanche, whose 3-6-1 record in October was by far the worst start out of any team in the Central. Colorado went on a three-game winning streak and outscored its opponents by 10 in those three games, but followed it up with a three-game losing streak and were outscored by 9. If a rapid turnaround doesn't occur in December, the Avalanche may look to make not only roster changes, but personnel changes.

Dallas: The Stars are still just as hot as they were in October, if not hotter in November. They're 5-0-0 in games following a loss, and have followed up each of those losses with winning streaks of 5, 3, 3, 5, 2 (and counting). Dallas played four Central Division opponents the first two months of the season. They'll play six in December, three against the Blues, who aren't far behind in the standings.

Minnesota: The Wild went 3-1-0 in their first four games of November, and appeared to be showing no signs of slowing down. But then they suffered a big blow to their roster when Zach Parise was sidelined for several weeks with a knee injury as the team spiraled to a 1-4-2 record in their final seven games of the month. Minnesota saw its goals per game average slip from 3.18 at the end of October to 2.86 in November, and although it still ranks ninth-best in the league, the Wild aren't getting enough consistency on offense. Their defense isn't helping, either, allowing 2.77 goals per game, which ranks in the bottom 10.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Nashville: Not getting enough secondary scoring has been a long-time problem for the Predators, and it was evident their inconsistency on offense hasn't been solved. After finishing October with a 7-1-2 record, Nashville went 5-6-2 in November, and got only one goal from Filip Forsberg, the team's leading scorer last season. The Predators are ready to take the next step, but it won't happen without additions on offense.

St. Louis: The Blues got off to a fantastic start in October (8-2-1) and, considering the circumstances, their November (7-4-2) was just as good. Jake Allen has emerged as the No. 1 goaltender for a team that has been searching for one, and Paul Stastny returned to the lineup after missing more than a month with a broken foot. Eight of their 16 games in December will be against divisional opponents, which will be a good test to close out the calendar year.

Winnipeg: No team in the Central had a more lopsided first two months of the season. The Jets were 7-3-1 with a plus-6 goal differential in October, but finished November with a 4-9-1 record and a minus-19 goal differential, slipping to sixth place in the division. December will be a month the Jets decide whether to become buyers or sellers, and, by the end of the month, will have a better grasp on whether to trade Dustin Byfuglien, who's an unrestricted free agent this offseason, before the trade deadline or sign him to a long-term extension.

Previous roundups: October

Niklas Hjalmarsson gets standing ovation from United Center crowd in Chicago return

Niklas Hjalmarsson gets standing ovation from United Center crowd in Chicago return

Niklas Hjalmarsson played for the Blackhawks for 10 years and won three Stanley Cups with the team so his return to the United Center was a big deal.

The defenseman, now with the Arizona Coyotes, made his return to Chicago in Thursday's game. The Blackhawks had a tribute video for him during the game and the crowd gave him a standing ovation after the video.

He was teary-eyed after getting the warm reception.

Hjalmarsson was traded by the Blackhawks to the Coyotes for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin after the 2016-17 season. He played against the Blackhawks on Oct. 21 and again on Feb. 12 last season, but both games were in Arizona.

Injuries limited Hjalmarsson to 48 games last season and he missed Arizona's only trip to the United Center last season, which came in December.

Watch the video above to see Hjalmarsson's tribute and reaction.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Corey Crawford is BACK, are the Bulls legitimate playoff contenders?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Corey Crawford is BACK, are the Bulls legitimate playoff contenders?

Mark Lazerus and Hub Arkush join David Kaplan on the panel.

The guys discuss Corey Crawford’s return and what it means for the team’s playoff chances.

Khalil Mack misses practice again. The guys debate if it would be better to leave him out vs. the Patriots.

The latest on the MLB playoffs with controversy in Houston and gamesmanship by the Brewers.

Will Perdue and Kendall Gill join the panel to discuss Kris Dunn’s absence from the opener and the team’s playoff chances this season.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below.

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