- 1. Nashville Predators (38-12-6; last week-1) – The Predators are flying high: they have the most points in the NHL (82) and they are riding the longest current win streak in the NHL (five games). Nashville bolstered its depth by trading for Toronto defenseman Cody Franson and forward Mike Santorelli on Sunday, signaling that they are really going for a Stanley Cup this season. Pekka Rinne (33-7-2, .931 save percentage, 1.97 goals against average, three shutouts) announced his return by earning the No. 3 star of the week in the NHL.
- 2. St. Louis Blues (37-15-4; last week-5) – The second best team in the NHL also resides in the Central Division. St. Louis has won its last three games and is 8-2-0 in its last 10 games. The Blues are tied with Chicago for the best goal-differential in the league (plus-41).
- 3. Montreal Canadiens (36-15-4; last week-6) – The top two teams in the Eastern Conference are having quite a battle in the Atlantic Division. Montreal and Tampa Bay both have 76 points but the Canadiens have done it in three fewer games and they are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. Montreal has a big divisional showdown on Monday in Detroit.
- 4. Tampa Bay Lightning (35-17-6; last week-3) – Tampa Bay kicked off its five-game road trip by destroying San Jose 5-2 on Sunday. Things figure to get tougher for the Lightning in Los Angeles on Monday and Anaheim on Wednesday. Tampa Bay’s goal-differential (plus-33) is the second best in the Eastern Conference behind the Rangers (plus-37).
- 5. Anaheim Ducks (35-15-7; last week-2) – With Frederik Andersen on IR (neck), the Ducks are scuffling a bit (4-5-1 in their last 10 games). The good news is that no matter what happens, it is highly unlikely that the Sharks will catch them (San Jose still trails Anaheim by 11 points). Anaheim lost 5-3 to Washington on Sunday but at least Ryan Getzlaf was able to publicly bash Capitals star Alex Ovechkin for diving “all over the ice.”
- 6. Chicago Blackhawks (35-18-4; last week-7) – The Blackhawks are picking it up (5-3-2 in their last 10 games) to grab the fourth seed in the Western Conference. Marian Hossa (17 goals, 25 assists) is on fire, he had two goals in three straight games last week to earn the No. 1 star in the NHL. Chicago has four more games in a row at the United Center, including a huge contest vs. Detroit on Wednesday.
- 7. New York Islanders (37-18-1; last week-8) – The Islanders have bounced back with four wins in a row. It is a big week for them as they host the Rangers on Monday and Predators on Wednesday, they also go to Washington on Saturday and Vancouver visits on Sunday. They have scored the second most goals (179) in the league, only behind Tampa Bay (189).
- 8. Detroit Red Wings (31-13-10; last week-4) – The Red Wings dropping four spots from last week is more a function of the teams around them playing really well since they are still 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. They are four points behind Montreal and Tampa Bay but they have a good chance to catch the Lightning since they have played four less games than them. Detroit’s game vs. Montreal on Monday is their last one at Joe Louis Arena in February, after that they head out on a season-high six-game road trip.
- 9. Pittsburgh Penguins (32-15-9; last week-9) – The Penguins are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games and they were right there before dropping a 2-1 shootout in Chicago on Sunday. Tuesday’s game vs. Washington is very important in the Metropolitan Division standings. Saturday in St. Louis should also be an entertaining tilt for the Penguins.
- 10. New York Rangers (33-16-5; last week-10) – So far, the Rangers are doing more than just surviving without the services of Henrik Lundqvist. New York has won its last three games ahead of a meeting on Long Island with the Islanders. The Rangers are due for a win since the Islanders are 3-0 so far in 2014-15 vs. them.
- 11. Washington Capitals (30-17-10; last week-11) – Ovechkin took over the goals lead in the NHL with two tallies at Anaheim, giving him 36 on the season (1 ahead of Rick Nash). After finishing their road trip in Pittsburgh, the Capitals return to DC for more big games vs. the Jets on Thursday and the Islanders on Saturday. The race for the top four spots in the Metropolitan Division is tight with five points separating four clubs (Islanders, Penguins, Rangers and Capitals).
- 12. Winnipeg Jets (29-19-10; last week-13) – I thought that the Evander Kane saga was done for the season since he’s out with an injury but Winnipeg dealt him and defenseman Zach Bogosian last week to Buffalo for defenseman Tyler Myers, forward Drew Stafford, two prospects and a first-round pick. We’ll see who ends up with the better deal in the long run but Myers and Stafford should help the Jets in the short term as they try to reach the playoffs. Winnipeg is 3-5-2 in their last 10 games but they did pick up a 5-4 shootout win at Detroit on Saturday and they host Edmonton on Monday.
- 13. Minnesota Wild (28-20-7; last week-17) – Minnesota is still the hottest team in the NHL (8-0-2) but now they go on the road (where they are 12-13-2) for three games. The Wild are currently two points out of the playoffs but conveniently they play the two teams right in front of them (Vancouver and Calgary) in their next two games. They also get to play Edmonton twice in their next five contests which is always a bonus.
- 14. Calgary Flames (31-22-3; last week-16) – The Flames are one point behind San Jose and tied with Vancouver but of those three teams, Calgary is playing the best hockey (6-4-0 in their last 10 games). The Flames also have the top goal-differential in the Pacific Division (+18) which is surprising. Calgary hosts three playoff contenders this week at Scotiabank Saddledome: Boston, Minnesota and Anaheim.
- 15. Los Angeles Kings (25-18-12; last week-20) – The Kings are still out of the top eight in the West (currently 10th) but they have won their last four games to show some much-needed life. I still believe in them more than the Sharks, Canucks and Flames so there is that. Tyler Toffoli (18 goals, 18 assists) had four goals and two assists last week, including his first career hat trick, to earn the No. 2 star in the NHL.
- 16. San Jose Sharks (29-21-8; last week-14) – Unless they make a substantial trade in the next few weeks, it’s hard to picture the Sharks being anything but a team that loses in the first round of the playoffs (yet again). San Jose is 4-4-2 in its last 10 games after getting embarrassed on their home ice by Tampa Bay on Sunday (5-2 loss). A win in Nashville on Tuesday could really help their club’s shaky confidence.
- 17. Vancouver Canucks (31-21-3; last week-15) – The Canucks lost 3-2 in Calgary on Saturday, a critical two points that could come back to haunt them in the spring. Vancouver will have to recover fast though since they host red-hot Minnesota on Monday then go cross-country to face the Rangers on Thursday. The upcoming five-game road trip that begins in New York will go a long way towards determining if the Canucks make the playoffs or not this season.
- 18. Boston Bruins (28-20-7; last week-12) – As much as any other team in these power rankings, the Bruins are in desperate need of a trade. Boston has dropped its last three games and they have four remaining on this treacherous road trip (Calgary, Edmonton, St. Louis and Chicago). The B’s are 11-11-3 on the road this season and their goal-differential is down to +3.
- 19. Dallas Stars (26-22-8; last week-18) – The Stars’ playoff hopes for this season were likely dashed when Tyler Seguin went down with what appeared to be a serious knee injury on Friday. He’s been placed on IR and Dallas said that he could be out anywhere from three to six weeks. In its first game without him, the Stars fell 4-1 to the Avalanche on Saturday.
- 20. Florida Panthers (24-19-12; last week-19) – The race for the eighth seed in the East isn’t exactly a classic, at least so far. Boston is still hanging on, three points ahead of Florida. Even if the Bruins continue to falter, it’ll be hard for the Panthers to gain much ground on them since their next five games are all on the road where they are only 12-11-6 this season.
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