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Western Conference Notebook (Jan. 6)

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators
The Holiday Season has passed and the calendar has moved into the 2011 portion of this season's schedule. As most teams move toward the midpoint of the schedule -- every team has played at least 38 games and four Western Conference teams have already played its 41st game of the season -- I figured it is time to take a stab at some mid-season All-Division Teams for the Central, Pacific, and Northwest.

Plenty of very worthy players were left out, so if you disagree with the selections shoot us a message with your choices.

Between now and the end of the season, opions will likely change -- there's a lot of the season left. But let the debates begin....

Central Division
Forwards: Rick Nash (CBJ), Patrick Sharp (CHI), Henrik Zetterberg (DET)
Defensemen: Nicklas Lidstrom (DET), Ryan Suter (NSH)
Goaltender: Jaroslav Halak (STL)
Top Rookie: Alex Pietrangelo (D, STL)

A loaded crop of defensemen to select from. Shea Weber may very well earn an All-Star Game invitation, Duncan Keith is the reigning Norris Trophy winner, etc. At the end of the day, Lidstrom has been outstanding (top three among NHL defensemen in goals, assists, and points while being, well, Nick Lidstrom on defense) and the difference in the Predators team play with and without Suter was eye-opening while he was injured earlier in the season. Nashville has the Western Conference's stingiest defense, so a strong case could be made for a Preds goaltender (and both Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback have been impressive). 

Northwest Division
Forwards: Matt Duchene (COL), Daniel Sedin (VAN), Henrik Sedin (VAN)
Defensemen: Brent Burns (MIN), Ryan Whitney (EDM)
Goaltender: Roberto Luongo (VAN)
Top Rookie: Taylor Hall (F, EDM)

If not for an injury, Colorado forward Chris Stewart would have been in; Stewart had 11 goals and 25 points in 23 games before being sidelined. And Jarome Iginla could just as easily earn a spot at forward. It was tough to keep defenseman John-Michael Liles (Colorado) out, but just look at what Burns and Whitney have accomplished. Fellow Edmonton rookie Jordan Eberle is stride-for-stride with Hall.

Pacific Division
Forwards: Anze Kopitar (LA), Corey Perry (ANA), Brad Richards (DAL)
Defensemen: Toni Lydman (ANA), Keith Yandle (PHX)
Goaltender: Jonathan Quick (LA)
Top Rookie: Logan Couture (F, SJ)

Jon Quick or Jonas Hiller in net; tough to make a call -- Hiller's done an admirable job behind a banged-up (and very young) defensive corps and his 19 wins are second in the NHL. Maybe I should change my mind again? And some other real interesting options on defense. Dan Boyle in San Jose and Lubomir Visnovski in Anaheim could easily be included and LA's Drew Doughty was a Norris Trophy Finalist last season. But Yandle leads his team in scoring (playing over 24 minutes a game) and Lydman leads the Western Conference with a +21 plus/minus rating (and like Hiller has done it with a young banged up Ducks d-corps).
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