1.Nashville Predators (32-11-6; last week-2)– The Predators apparently are indestructible as they have still remained at the top of the NHL with backup goaltender Carter Hutton taking over for the injuredPekkaRinne. This is part of the reason why head coach PeterLaviolettewill be the favorite for coach of the year is he keeps this up. Nashville is tied with Anaheim for the most points in the league (70) but they have done it in one less game.
2.St. Louis Blues (32-13-4; last week-5)– The Blues are the hottest team in the NHL-they’ve won their last five games in a row-so they deserve to be up here. Also, they are tied with the Blackhawks for best goal-differential (+40) in the league. They have two huge home games this week vs. Tampa Bay and Chicago, sandwiched around an easy two game road trip to Buffalo and Columbus.
3.Anaheim Ducks(32-12-6; last week-1)– Anaheim drops down two spots from last week since they have lost their last two games. The Ducks are still 7-3-0 in their past 10 but their goal-differential is only +13 which is surprising given their record. They host Carolina on Tuesday before embarking on a tough five-game road trip on the East Coast.
4.Tampa Bay Lightning (32-13-4; last week-3)– The top team in the Eastern Conference continues to roll along. The Lightning have won their last two games and they are 7-3-0 in the past 10. Tampa Bay is only .500 on the road this season (11-11-3) and they are at St. Louis and Dallas this week before home games against LA and Anaheim.
5.Detroit Red Wings(29-12-9; last week-6)– Nobody has paid any attention to them but the Red Wings are putting together a great season in the Motor City. They are 8-2-0 in their last 10 games and only one point behind Tampa Bay. They don’t play another home game for almost two weeks as they head out on a three-game road trip (at Colorado, Arizona and Pittsburgh).
6.MontrealCanadiens(32-14-3; last week-8)– Despite their 3-2 loss to Arizona on Sunday at the Bell Centre, Montreal has been playing well (6-3-1 in the last 10 games). They are tied with the Red Wings and it is all thanks to Carey Price (27-10-2, 2.03 goals against average, .933 save %, 4 shutouts). He was named the NHL’s No. 1 star of the week and they have allowed the fewest goals (111) in the league.
7.New York Islanders(32-16-1; last week-4)– The Islanders faltered last week, losing two straight games to the Bruins and Red Wings-two other contenders in the East. Still, New York is second in the conference and 6-4-0 in their past 10 games. Six of their next seven games are against non-playoff teams so they should bounce back soon.
8.ChicagoBlackhawks (31-17-2; last week-8)– Chicago was blanked 2-0 at San Jose on Saturday, something which rarely happens. The Blackhawks are treading water here (5-5 in their past 10 games). They have three more road games this week (at Minnesota, Winnipeg and St. Louis) before they return to the United Center next Monday.
9.Pittsburgh Penguins (28-14-8; last week-10)– Injuries have predictably taken their toll on the Penguins who are just 4-4-2 in their last 10 games. They bottomed out in a 4-0 loss to Nashville on Sunday. Pittsburgh will have to regroup on the road as they go to Canada (Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver) for the week.
10.New York Rangers (28-15-4; last week-12)– The Rangers are in seventh-place in the Eastern Conference but I doubt they are that low when the playoffs begin this spring. They are only five points behind the Islanders and four behind the Penguins so they are still in play for New York to catch. They host Boston on Wednesday, a team that they typically struggle against.
11.Boston Bruins (27-16-7; last week-14)– Quietly, the Bruins have really turned things around by going 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. They returned from the All-Star break as strong as anybody with a 5-2 win at Islanders then a 3-1 win vs. Kings. Boston hosts the Islanders and Canadiens this weekend in a rare back-to-back at TD Garden.
12.San Jose Sharks (27-17-6; last week-16)– Things start to get murky down here (no pun intended) but San Jose has won their past three games so there is that. The Sharks have somehow snuck into second-place in the Pacific Division as everyone around them is faltering. They can create more wiggle room as they visit Calgary and Vancouver later this week.
13.WashingtonCapitals (25-15-10; last week-13)– It seems like a familiar refrain in DC: don’t blame Alex Ovechkin. He had two goals and an assist in Washington’s entertaining 4-3 loss to St. Louis on Sunday and he leads the NHL with 31 goals this season. The Capitals are tied with the Rangers but they are going in opposite directions.
14.Winnipeg Jets (26-17-8; last week-10)– The Jets have been a mess since they returned from the break: dropping their last three games. It’s a tough stretch for the Jets with a back-to-back at Calgary and Vancouver followed by meetings with the Blackhawks and Avalanche. Winnipeg has fallen to sixth-place in the West and they’ll have to recover fast if they want to stay in the top eight.
15.Calgary Flames (27-20-3; last week-17)– The Flames continue to hang around, going 6-4-0 in their past 10 games. Calgary has a big week with home games against Winnipeg, San Jose and Pittsburgh. The Flames are only 13-10-2 at the Saddledome this season, something which has to get better if they want to make the playoffs.
16.Vancouver Canucks(27-18-3; last week-14)– A 4-2 loss to Minnesota on Sunday at Rogers Arena wasn’t what the Canucks needed but they have three more games there this week: vs. Winnipeg, San Jose and Pittsburgh. Vancouver is 4-6-0 in their past 10 games. The Canucks are in a tenuous position, seventh in the West only three points ahead of the ninth-place Kings.
17.Dallas Stars(23-19-7; last week-19)– Tyler Seguin celebrated his 23rdbirthday on Saturday with three assists in Dallas’ 5-2 win at Winnipeg. The Stars have won their last two games and they’ll need to go on a serious run to make the postseason. They host the Avalanche and Sabres before going to New York (Sabres, Rangers) and Boston.
18.Colorado Avalanche (21-18-11; last week-19)– The Avalanche are in the same shaky boat as the Stars: they are 5-2-3 in their last 10 games but they still have plenty of ground to make up. I believe in them more than Dallas though as their 3-0 win over Nashville on Friday illustrated their potential. Three of their next four games are on the road and they are all against Western Conference foes.
19.Minnesota Wild(23-20-6; last week-not ranked)– Minnesota is in last place (7th) in the Central Division and 12thoverall in the West but hear me out. The Wild have won their last three games thanks to the acquisition of goaltender Devan Dubnyk. Hewas 3-0-0 last week with 1.00 goals against average, .967 save % and one shutout to earn the NHL’s third star of the week.
20.Los Angeles Kings(21-18-7; last week-17)– Look out below folks, the Stanley Cup champs are falling apart. LA is 2-4-4 in their last 10 games and they are in serious danger of missing the playoffs entirely. More bad news for them: their next four games are on the road where they are 5-10-6 this season (3rdworst road record in the NHL).
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate