1) Chicago Blackhawks (27-5-3, previous No. 2) – The Blackhawks regain the top spot since they’ve won two games in a row and most importantly, they have less injuries to key players than the Penguins. Patrick Sharp could return this week, which will only help Chicago’s NHL-best goal-differential of plus-43.
2) Pittsburgh Penguins (28-9-0, previous No. 2) – Pittsburgh’s 15-game winning streak ended on Tuesday against Buffalo but more importantly, Sidney Crosby (who would be the NHL MVP right now) is out indefinitely after breaking his jaw on Saturday. We’ll have to see how the Penguins play with newcomer Jarome Iginla in the lineup, but no Crosby.
3) Montreal Canadiens (23-7-5, previous No. 4) – The Habs didn’t make any real moves at the trade deadline which signifies confidence in their current group. They’ve won their last three games and they are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. Montreal is 2-1 against Boston this season and they have a chance to wrap up the season series on Saturday at the Bell Centre vs. the Bruins.
4) Anaheim Ducks (24-7-5, previous No. 3) – The Ducks haven’t been themselves lately (4-4-2 in their last 10 games), or perhaps they are finally regressing to the mean after an incredible start. The Ducks begin a five-game homestand tonight (tied for their longest of the season) which is bizarre since they played Dallas on Monday then they play them Wednesday and Friday (three games in a row).
5) Boston Bruins (23-8-4, previous No. 5) – Other than Iginla and Marion Gaborik, the B’s made probably the biggest acquisition of the trade deadline by getting Jaromir Jagr. After playing listlessly for a few weeks, they’ve won their last two games thanks to backup goaltender Anton Khudobin, who earned back-to-back starts (allowing two combined goals). Their concern is Patrice Bergeron’s health after the do-everything center left Tuesday’s game with a possible concussion.
6) Minnesota Wild (21-12-2, previous No. 6) – The Wild are in a dogfight for home ice with Vancouver but they made a nice move by trading for Buffalo captain Jason Pominville (10 goals, 15 assists) before the deadline. He should help create more balance between their lines that are very top heavy.
7) Vancouver Canucks (19-11-6, previous No. 7) – The Canucks were another winner from the trade deadline since they got Derek Roy (18 assists) from the Stars for a prospect and second-round draft pick. Vancouver tried to flip Roberto Luongo to Toronto but his albatross of a contract held them back from getting it done.
8) Los Angeles Kings (20-13-3, previous No. 10) – The Kings obtained defenseman Robin Regehr from the Sabres but other than that, the defending Stanley Cup champs are healthy and still loaded with talent. Thanks to Jeff Carter (20 goals, 4th in NHL), the Kings have scored more goals (104) than expected.
9) Toronto Maple Leafs (20-12-4, previous No. 12) – Toronto has won its last three games but it is weird that they didn’t make any moves at the trade deadline since their situation in goal is still muddled at best. It looks like they’ll make the playoffs which is a big deal for them, but advancing is another story.
10) San Jose Sharks (18-11-6, previously No. 14) – The Sharks are the hottest team in the NHL with five straight wins. It has taken them this long, but they have finally started to live up to their abilities – although it is interesting that they traded one of their emotional leaders, Ryane Clowe, to the Rangers for draft picks.
11) Ottawa Senators (18-11-6, previous No. 8) – If the Senators make the playoffs, they have to hope they don’t play the Bruins. Boston has won all four games against Ottawa this season (they meet once more) and making that more painful, they have all been by one goal. Craig Anderson is close to returning which is why they flipped backup goaltender Ben Bishop to Buffalo for rookie winger Cory Conacher.
12) Detroit Red Wings (18-13-5, previous No. 9) – The Red Wings didn’t make a single trade around the deadline which is interesting since this underachieving team hasn’t played nearly well enough to earn that respect. They are the only team currently in the top eight in the West without a positive goal-differential (zero).
13) New York Islanders (18-13-6, previous No. 19) – Nobody could have imagined this, and we’re still four weeks away from the playoffs, but at this moment the Islanders are the best team in the New York area (Islanders, Rangers, Devils and Sabres). Their next three games are against teams outside the top eight in the East: Washington, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia so they need to rack up the points there.
14) St. Louis Blues (18-14-2, previous No. 13) – Now that the Sharks have gained their skating legs, the Blues have to be called the most underachieving team in the West. Still, they are hanging on to the eighth spot so they haven’t been a complete train wreck. Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who they obtained from Calgary, should help them right away.
15) Edmonton Oilers (15-13-7, previously not ranked) – People have been waiting for years and it looks like the Oilers have finally put together enough good players to get to the playoffs. They have their work cut out for them since the West is better than the East but they’ve won their last four games and are playing well when it counts.
16) New Jersey Devils (15-12-9, previous No. 16) – The Islanders, Devils and Rangers are likely battling for the last two spots in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Of those, I like the New York teams better since New Jersey is treading water (3-3-4 in last 10 games) and their goal-differential is minus-11.
17) Nashville Predators (15-14-8, previously No. 17) – Pekka Rinne isn’t himself, although it’s not all his fault since the Predators are one of the lowest scoring teams in the West with 92 goals. Getting a goal-scorer seemed obvious at the deadline but apparently the front office felt otherwise.
18) Columbus Blue Jackets (15-14-7, previous No. 20) – The race for the eighth seed in the West is going to be one of the NHL’s best heading into the postseason and the Blue Jackets honestly have a decent chance to make it. The lowest scoring team (87 goals) in the West should receive a huge boost from Marion Gaborik (9 goals, 10 assists) who was having a poor season with the Rangers but he scored 41 goals last season and 40-plus two other times in the NHL.
19) New York Rangers (17-15-3, previous No. 15) – I have no idea why the Rangers traded their best goal-scorer when they have scored the fewest goals in the NHL (82) … and if they miss the playoffs, that will be the main reason why. Forwards Derick Brassard (7 goals) and Derek Dorsett (3 goals) along with defenseman John Moore (zero goals) better fit their trapping defensive style, but none of them can put the puck in the net.
20) Winnipeg Jets (18-18-2, previous No. 2) – The Jets are free-falling and they are only two points ahead of the Capitals for first place in the Southeast Division after losing four straight games. They are 3-7-0 with a goal-differential of minus-22 … not the resume of a playoff team in anybody’s eyes.
Follow Metro sports writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate