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Central Intelligence: Key injuries affecting teams in playoff push

Injuries dot the rosters of teams preparing for postseason run

by Kayleigh Jackson / Wild.com

With three Central Division teams locked into the postseason, two eliminated and two still battling for the remaining wild card spot, the few remaining games of the regular season are pivotal to earn positioning and, for some, even a shot at a championship. 

But the injury bug has bitten, and it's bitten hard. Central teams have lost not only several players in recent days but core players. 

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Central Intelligence: Just another day in the Central Division

All five teams in action on Tuesday gained at least one point, further complicating a crowded standings picture

by Dan Myers @DanMyers / Wild.com

Just consider it another night inside the Central Division.

By now, the tightly contested nature of the division is no secret. Of the five NHL teams that have already clinched a playoff berth, two reside inside the Central. 

Four others are either atop the playoff cut line or within five points of it. 

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Central Intelligence: Minnesota's place in current playoff picture

Six of seven Central Division teams are gridlocked in the pursuit of the playoffs

by Kayleigh Jackson / Wild.com

With less than a month until the advent of the NHL postseason, the playoff picture is starting to come into focus -- at least for a few teams. 

Those at the top of the standings haven't officially clinched a spot yet, although it's all but assured for the Vegases, Nashvilles and Tampa Bays of the world. Meanwhile, for some of the other high-level teams, postseason berths are expected, but the exact positioning may shuffle around as the wild card race heats up. 

So if the playoffs started right now, what would the bracket look like? And what would that mean for the Wild?

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Central Intelligence: Wild's East Coast success a rarity

Minnesota and St. Louis have accounted for half of Central Division's wins in New York area this season

by Dan Myers @DanMyers / Wild.com

The "California swing" is one of the most daunting road trips NHL teams face in a season. But don't overlook the "New York swing," which is also no picnic for visiting clubs. 

The Wild just completed its three games against New York-area franchises this week, finishing with a 3-0 record against the Islanders, Devils and Rangers. 

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Central Intelligence: Blackhawks' Crawford inches closer to return

But is it too little, too late for Chicago, which has reached the postseason nine-straight years?

by Dan Myers @DanMyers / Wild.com

The Chicago Blackhawks could be on the verge of getting a major piece of its puzzle back from injured reserve.

Goaltender Corey Crawford, who has missed much of the past two months with a head injury, returned to the team this week, joining teammates for morning skate in Arizona on Monday. 

When Crawford will return to game action is unknown, but getting back on the ice is certainly a positive step.

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Central Intelligence: All-Star Game will highlight division's star power

Five first-time All-Stars among Central's team this weekend in Tampa

by Dan Myers @DanMyers / Wild.com

The 2018 NHL All-Star Game takes place this weekend in Tampa, Florida, with the skills competition on Saturday and the game itself taking center stage at Amalie Arena on Sunday. 

In case you're not familiar, here are some of the particulars of the game:

  • Each of the NHL's four divisions will go head-to-head in a 3-on-3 format.
  • The Western Conference divisions will face off in a 20-minute, 3-on-3 mini game, followed by two Eastern divisions.
  • The two winners will then play with $1 million in prize money on the line.
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Central Intelligence: Klingberg a shining example for Dallas' blue line

Stars are in the playoff picture again, have a bunch of talented young defensemen on the way

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com

One of the biggest reasons for the Dallas Stars' turnaround this season has been the play of defenseman John Klingberg.

The fourth-year Swede has played a sizable role in Dallas' fortunes in recent seasons, dishing out 48 assists and 58 points while posting a plus-22 two years ago when the Stars ran away with the Central Division title. Last season, despite scoring three more goals than he did the year before, Klingberg had 49 points and was a plus-2, as the Stars finished well out of the Stanley Cup Playoff picture in the Western Conference.

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Central Intelligence: Turris has Nashville back on track

Predators red hot since acquiring former Badger in early November

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com

If the Nashville Predators are able to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals like they did last season, the turning point in getting them there could be their trade for centerman Kyle Turris on Nov. 5.

Perhaps there was some hangover during the first month of the season from the deep run last spring, but the Predators got off to a rough start over the first month of the 2017-18 campaign.

Of course it didn't help that Nashville lost a pair of key pieces to its Cup run last fall; captain Mike Fisher retired over the summer, and the team lost James Neal to the Expansion Draft in June.

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Central Intelligence: Hellebuyck has Jets flying high

Goaltender helps turn Winnipeg's fortunes, has Jets sitting near top of division early

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com

One of the early-season surprises in the NHL has been the play of the Winnipeg Jets.

In a deep and talented Central Division, with plenty of postseason pedigree among the contenders, the Jets have put themselves in quality position as the regular season hits the quarter pole. Winnipeg began Friday in second place in the Central, four points behind the division-leading St. Louis Blues and one point clear of the defending conference champion Nashville Predators.

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Central Intelligence: Has Yakupov found a home in Colorado?

Top overall pick in 2012 Draft off to quality start with Avalanche this season

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com

When Nail Yakupov signed a one-year, $875,000 contract with the Colorado Avalanche four days after free agency began last summer, the move barely registered around the NHL. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft by the Edmonton Oilers has struggled to find a home through the first few years of his NHL career.

After scoring 17 goals and 31 points in 48 games as a rookie during the lockout-shortened 2013 season, Yakupov has been unable to build on the promise that made him the clear choice for the top selection in his draft year.

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