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Western Conference Notebook (Jan. 26)

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators
The league heads into the All-Star Break after tonight's games. January has started to serve as a separation month in the Conference -- five teams have created at least five points buffer from the playoff cut line and three teams have fallen at least five points off the playoff pace. But with all teams having at least 30 games remaining on the schedule, things are far from settled, including a pack of five teams from the No. 6-10 seed in the conference separated by just three points.

So far Western Conference teams have continued their dominance over Eastern Conference foes, posting a 101-58-27 record through the first 186 inter-conference match-ups with a .616 points percentage vs. Eastern Conference teams. The Central Division has benefitted the most from inter-conference play posting a combined 30-13-8 record, while the Northwest has gone 34-22-11, and the Pacific 37-23-8. There are 84 more cross-conference games remaining in the regular season.

Central Division
The division has eight players scheduled to participate in the 2011 All-Star Game, including one captain (Nicklas Lidstrom) and one alternate captain (Patrick Kane)
Forwards - Kane (A - Team Lidstrom); David Backes, Rick Nash, Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews
Defensemen - Lidstrom (C); Dunan Keith, Shea Weber
Goaltenders - none

The Detroit Red Wings lead the Western Conference in scoring with 3.35 goals per game, second in the NHL only to Philadelphia (3.46 goals per game), while Chicago ranks fifth in the NHL with 3.08 goals per game ... Nashville leads the Conference in defense allowing just 2.35 goals against per game ... Nashville, Chicago, and Detroit all rank among the league's best five-on-five teams. The Predators and Blackhawks rank tied for fifth in the NHL in ratio of five-on-five goals scored to allowed; the Red Wings rank tied for seventh ... Nashville (9-3-0) and Chicago (6-4-1) are the only two teams in the division to win more than 50% of their games in the month of January. Detroit has won 5-of-10 games this month (5-4-1), Columbus 3-of-11 (3-6-2), and St. Louis 2-of-11 (2-7-2) ... Nashville's Pekka Rinne leads the conference in Goals Against Average (2.11) and Save Percentage (.928), second in the NHL in both categories.

Northwest Division
The division has seven players scheduled to participate in the 2011 All-Star Game and two rookies joining in for the SuperSkills competition.
Forwards - Ryan Kessler (A - Team Staal), Matt Duchene, Martin Havlat, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Paul Stastny
Defensemen - Brent Burns
Goaltenders - none
Rookies - Taylor Hall, Kevin Shattenkirk

Vancouver is the only team in the NHL to rank in the top-5 in both offense (No. 3 in goals per game) and defense (No. 4 in goals against per game) ... Four of the five teams in the division have posted points percentage of .500 or better during January: Vancouver (7-2-4, 18 pts/13 gp), Minnesota (8-4-0, 16 pts/12 gp), Calgary (6-3-3, 15 pts/12 gp), Colorado (5-5-1, 11 pts/11 gp). Only Edmonton (3-8-1, 7pts/12 gp) failed to reach the .500 mark ... Vancouver's Daniel Sedin leads the Conference in scoring (63 points) ... Vancouver's Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kessler are tied for the Conference lead in goals (27) ... Colorado's Paul Statsny is the only skater in the Conference to take more than 1000 faceoffs, winning 52.8% of his draws in the process.

Pacific Division
The division has seven players scheduled to participate in the 2011 All-Star Game and three rookies joining for the SuperSkills competition.
Forwards - Loui Eriksson, Anze Kopitar, Corey Perry, Brad Richards
Defensemen - Dan Boyle, Keith Yandle
Goaltenders - Jonas Hiller
Rookies - Logan Couture, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Cam Fowler

The Pacific is the only division in the Conference with three teams to post seven or more wins during the month of January (Anaheim - 8-3-0; Dallas - 7-2-1; Phoenix - 7-4-2) ... The division hosts two of the three highest scoring defensemen in the NHL this season. Anaheim's Lubomir Visnovsky leads all league defensemen with 43 points, while Phoenix's Keith Yandle is tied for second with 42 points ... Anaheim's Toni Lydman leads the Conference in plus/minus rating this season (+24) ... San Jose's Logan Couture is the only rookie in the league with more than 20 goals this season (22 goals in 48 games played) ... San Jose's Dan Boyle leads the NHL in average ice time (27:02 per game) ... Anaheim's Jonas Hiller ranks among the NHL's top-3 goaltenders in Wins (1st, 25), Saves (1st, 1354), Time on Ice (2nd, 2665:11), and Save Percentage (3rd, .926).

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