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The Week in Hockey – December 11-17

It’s been an interesting week in the NHL, and WildXtra has your weekly digest on the news and happenings, as well as a look ahead at next week.
Image courtesy of Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
There were 49 games since last Saturday, and the Metropolitan Division once again came out on top, going 14-8-4. There were 6 games between the Metro and Central last week, with the Central going 3-2-1. Next best was the Central, going 14-9-1. The Pacific went 12-10-0, while the Central was 2-1 against the Pacific. The Atlantic finished the week 9-8-9 with the Central going 1-1 vs the division.

The Big Drama of the week was Cody Eakin trying to take Henrik Lunqvist out, figuratively and literally.

He was given a 5 and a Game for that, probably as much for his own safety as punishment. Nonetheless, the Department of Player Safety was not pleased.

Couple interesting things here. I noticed a bunch of people claiming the goalie is fair game. The NHL, in their video, points out that this is simply not the case. Incidental contact is acceptable, but as the attacking player, Eakin makes no effort to avoid contact, and even launches into the hit.

This is the sort of thing that angers me as a fan. Back in the old days, the joke was that “you went to the fights and a hockey game broke out.” So any antics that serve to put hockey in a bad or violent light, in my opinion, don’t help. Remember Todd “Hockey Punch Player” Bertuzzi?

So good on the NHL for taking a stand here. (Even if it was transparently protecting a star player.)

The Department of Player Safety wasn’t done:

He got 2 games for that. While it looks like he tried to get him in the back and the crosscheck slipped, this is still a dangerous play.

Like the hit on Lundqvist, these are the type of hits that can put careers in jeopardy.

The former hottest team in the NHL finally lost, regrettably, to the Stars. Their 10 game streak included 3 overtime wins and one shootout win. The combined score was 36-22 over those 10 games. And you might be thinking that the Wild might finally get their due as the hottest team. Not so fast – The Wild are still second fiddle to the Blue Jackets, who are on an 8-game tear.

I’ve mentioned several times the reversal of fortunes of the Islanders and Blue Jackets, but how about Detroit being on the outside looking in? They haven’t missed the playoffs since before I was an adult and for many, the Red Wings in the playoffs is as normal as the sun rising.

Bad news in the Steel City. Kris Letang and Trevor Daley are both expected to miss some time. Letang is expected to be out several weeks, while Daley is week to week with an upper body injury. Daley and Letang are leading the Pens in ice time.

Couple Wild on the leader boards around the league: Ryan Suter leads NHL defensemen (indeed all players) in +/- (+22). But he’s also joined by Jared Spurgeon (+18) and Jason Zucker (+17) in the top 10. (Nino Niederreiter and Eric Staal are 13th and 16th at +14 and +13, respectively). Suter is also 3rd in the NHL in ice time, at 26:58. We at WildXtra have been watching his ice time over the season, and it’s definitely down, and he seems to be playing better. Coincidence? Interestingly, Suter ranks 20th in shifts per game, meaning he’s still taking comparatively long shifts.

Also on the leader board? Eric Staal, who is tied for fifth with the third-most game winning goals, with 4. Staal also leads the Wild in takeaways and is 22nd the NHL with 24 takeaways.

Want to guess who leads the team in giveaways? Dumba (16), Granlund, and Coyle (13 each).

Wild speculation of the week: The Wild will find a way to protect Eric Staal in the expansion draft.

Bits and Pieces Round:
  • Joel Eriksson Ek has 2 goals and an assist since returning to Sweden. He’s also +2, making him one of the leaders on his team.
  • Eriksson Ek has a little brother who doesn’t look too shabby in net. Don’t wait for the Wild to draft him though. They don’t seem to have a history of doing that sort of thing.
  • The Wild have taken the 10th fewest penalty minutes in the League.
  • Helped along by Cody Eakin, the Stars now lead the NHL in game misconducts.
  • The Wild have the second fewest giveaways in the NHL.

Looking ahead:
  • Four Central Division games this week: Colorado gets the Jets, Wild, and Chicago.
  • Also: Stars and Blues Tuesday.
  • Nerd fight of the week: Jets and Avs today.

follow Mike Berg on Twitter: @minnesotaberg
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