NHL Weekly (Week 16)

“You’re playing with the big boys now.”

Whether or not Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators know The Prince of Egypt or not, I’d imagine that’s sorta how they’re feeling right now. Tuesday, the Predators with a 3-1 victory over the Blackhawks passed Chicago in the Central Division standings and proved they really are on a roll.

Nashville has lost only twice this month – to the Rangers and to the Dallas Stars. Predators’ goaltender Pekka Rinne has 27 wins this season, more than any other goalie (Detroit’s Jimmy Howard with 30 wins the lone exception). That the Preds are third in their division becomes all the more impressive when you know that four of the top eight teams in the NHL (in terms of winning percentage) are in the Central Division.

The Detroit Red Wings also made a statement this week: They are the team to beat. They’ve won at home 17 straight games, the longest home winning streak since the mid-70s. And besides, Detroit leads the league with 67 points. Not even their division rivals, the St. Louis Blues, who’d won six straight heading into Monday’s game, could slow Detroit down.

Tonight at 7:30pm EST, the Wings face the Montreal Canadiens.

But the other big news this week is of course the NHL All-Star Weekend:

The 2011-12 All-Star Game takes place in Ottawa this year, the first time that has happened since the Senators joined the NHL 20 years ago. Everyone in Ottawa is very excited.

Daniel Alfredsson will captain Team Alfredsson, Bruins’ Zdeno Chara will captain Team Chara. The official Fantasy Mock Draft to pick the two competing teams will be Thursday at 8pm and will be televised on TSN and RDS in Canada and on NBC in the U.S. This year marks the second All-Star Weekend to involve a draft: yeah, pretty exciting.

The Skills Competition is Saturday, Jan. 28th at 7pm EST. All 12 rookies and 38 all-stars will compete in six events including best skater, fastest shooter, hardest shooter, and best-on-the-breakaway.

Notable last-minute stars include Flyers’ Scott Hartnell, Blues’ goaltender Brian Elliott, and Pens’ James Neal (who replaces suspended Alex Ovechkin).

Drake – with his sophomore album out this fall – has been announced as the weekend’s lead performer.

The puck drops for 2011-12 All-Star Game Sunday, January 29th at 4pm EST.