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Attention to defense lifts Capitals

NOTE: All stats and records through games of Monday, Feb. 21.

NHL Power Rankings
1Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 1
The best compliment paid to the Sedin twins may have come from an opponent. "You know what they're going to do and they still do it," said Dallas captain Brenden Morrow after Daniel took the NHL scoring lead with three points against the Stars. "They are not physical guys, they're not bigger or faster or stronger, they just think the game. It's pretty frustrating, but you've got to tip the hat to them." That kind of talent helps cover problems, like a battered blueline that is beginning to heal with the returns of Keith Ballard and Dan Hamhuis. Last week: 2-1-0
 
2Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 2
In a testament to how disciplined they've become, they played an entire game without committing a penalty for just the third time in franchise history, beating, of all teams, the division-rival Rangers in New York, 4-2. "It's kind of out of the ordinary," said team enforcer Dan Carcillo, who has 90 penalty minutes this season. "We kept it clean for Hockey Day in America, I guess." Last week: 3-1-0
 
3Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 3
With road wins over the Lightning, Panthers and Wild, they're looking like a team that nobody wants to face in the spring. They also tipped their hat to grizzled Todd Bertuzzi, who played in his 1,000th game. "He's one of those established guys you need this time of year," said coach Mike Babcock. The 36-year old has more than 700 career points and 1,300 penalty minutes. Last week: 3-0-0
 
4Washington Capitals
Last Week: 14
Their newfound attention to defense was never more evident than in a 1-0 victory over injury-plagued Pittsburgh. "We're buying into something that's been a little foreign to the guys because of all the talent here," says Mike Knuble. "We know we can protect a one-goal lead." The Caps' last five games have each been decided by a goal. Last week: 3-1-0
 
5Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 5
The once offensively flush Penguins have not scored more than three goals in a game since February 1. Still, the acquisition of power forward James Neal and skilled defenseman Matt Niskanin from Dallas did not seem to come at too steep a price: Alex Goligoski. "This is the trade we've been looking for," insists Pens GM Ray Shero. Given the absence of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, it was as good a deal as the over-a-barrel Pens could hope for. Last week: 1-1-1
 
6Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 4
Sublime sniper Steven Stamkos still leads the NHL with 40 goals, but he's gone five games without one, and against Florida he got taken into the end boards by Mike Weaver, coming up grabbing his knees. He returned, but was ineffective. "We're really lucky on this one," Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said. "Anytime there's knees going into the boards at full speed, there's a lot of worry there. We need him." Last week: 0-1-2
 
7Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 7
Phoenix Coyotes (32-19-9)
A total team effort produced wins against Atlanta and Nashville that extended their red hot roll to five straight victories by one goal and seven straight overall. Since a 6-0 loss to Vancouver, they've held foes to a total of 11 goals in the seven wins. A good style of hockey to play as the stretch drive intensifies. Last week: 2-0-0
 
8Boston Bruins
Last Week: 10
Boston Bruins (33-19-7)
It took a while, but they finally got their man in defenseman Tomas Kaberle, the power-play quarterback acquired from Toronto last week. Fellow blueliner Adam McQuaid was excited about the effect Kaberle could have on the club. "He has a lot of poise, a lot of patience in the pocket," McQuaid said. "He tends to open things up for other guys and just buys some more time." Last week: 2-1-0
 
9San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 12
San Jose Sharks (33-21-6)
They're streaking, with forwards charging the net and getting garbage goals that eluded them earlier in the season. As a result, they earned points in 13 of 15 games and moved into the West's top four. "We've played a lot better lately and we're still only two points away from ninth place," said Devin Setoguchi, who scored three goals in a win over Colorado. Last week: 3-0-0
 
10Calgary Flames
Last Week: 16
Calgary Flames (31-22-8)
After a couple of tough losses, they bounced back to bag three straight by a combined score of 18-3, running their points streak to at least one in 18 of their previous 20 games. Their frosty victory over Montreal in the Heritage Classic gave a good accounting of where this team stands for its playoff drive. "What is giving us success over the past little while here is we've been taking one game at a time and not getting too caught up in the standings," says wise old Steve Staios. "As you know, it's ninth to fourth in any given night." Last week: 2-0-0
 
11Nashville Predators
Last Week: 6
As his team headed into the stretch, coach Barry Trotz lamented the way his players sometimes ruin good efforts by letting points slip away in key games. "Little mistakes," he groaned after a 3-2 loss to Phoenix in which the Preds outshot the Coyotes, 32-26. "Preventable mistakes. I was disappointed in the way we've given up goals we don't have to give up." Last week: 1-1-1
 
12Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 19
Should they somehow manage to repeat their playoff magic of 2010, it will forever be known in Chicago folklore as "the speech," the moment when captain Jonathan Toews gave his team a verbal thrashing between periods after they trailed the Blues, 2-0, before rallying to win. "It was a little frustrating and maybe I got after the boys a little bit too much, but obviously you saw the guys responded to it," Toews said. "The leaders in this locker room held the rest of the team accountable and everyone stepped up to the plate" Last week: 3-1-0
 
13Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 9
Minnesota Wild (31-22-6)
Despite a five-goal outburst in a win over the Ducks, they squeezed out just one goal in each of three losses to topflight conference foes Chicago, Vancouver and Detroit. And with seven teams all within three points of each other in the Western Conference's cluttered playoff race, coach Todd Richards was left looking for solutions to the offensive deficiency, which became more pronounced with the loss of Mikko Koivu (busted finger) for the rest of the regular season. "It's time for us to find some bounces," said Richards. Last week: 1-2-1
 
14Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 11
Before their clash with Calgary in the Heritage Classic, goalie Carey Price paid tribute to a Habs' legend by having Jacques Plante's eyes and mouth painted onto a specially constructed mask for the game. "It's kind of creepy," Price said. The more unsettling thing for the Habs was their one win in their previous seven games. With 12 of their last 19 matches away from home, there is no masking the tough road ahead. Last week: 0-2-1
 
15Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 15
After a 5-0-3 start to a 10-game road trip, they went face-down in a pail of whitewash on Long Island, their first shutout by the Islanders since 2003. "We looked like a tired team," noted coach Terry Murray. "We've been doing a lot of good things lately. Our commitment to transition has been strong. Our goaltending has been good. As long as this is a temporary hurdle, we should be OK." Last week: 1-1-1
 
16Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 17
These Jackets look sharp. They've won six of their last eight games and a team-record six in a row on the road. And they're 9-3-3 since dropping five in a row to start January. "They're all big [games] down the stretch," observed goalie Steve Mason, a redemption story himself, with five wins in his last six appearances. "The way this team is looking at every game now is they are must-wins. It's fun hockey right now because they are so meaningful." Last week: 1-0-1
 
17Dallas Stars
Last Week: 13
Dallas Stars (31-22-6)
Their swoon continued as they dropped three games in the Pacific Northwest, bringing their record for February to a woeful 1-7-1. The trade of James Neal and Matt Niskanen to Pittsburgh for defenseman Alex Goligoski left this slumping team unsettled. "Guys are feeling the pressure of being in a race and not being at your best," said coach Marc Crawford. "When you go through tough times, you can't just have four or five guys play hard and well." Last week: 0-3-0
 
18Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 8
Anaheim Ducks (32-24-4)
Netminder Curtis McElhinney, who came into the week riding a three-game win streak, was torched for 18 on 52 shots as the suddenly sieve-like Ducks surrendered 21 goals in three losses. Meanwhile, ordinarily reliable starter Jonas Hiller remained out because of dizziness. "It doesn't matter who's in net," forward Ryan Getzlaf grumbled. "It's not that they're bad goals. [Other teams are] getting bounces against us because we're not working for them." Last week: 0-3-0
 
19New York Rangers
Last Week: 18
As if the worst season of his career wasn't going badly enough, blanks-shooting sniper Marian Gaborik left a game against Philly due to a concussion that apparently occurred earlier in the week. Gaborik had been saying that he wasn't feeling well, but he'd skated on as the Rangers' play became pretty sickly, too. At 2-7-1 in their last 10, their playoff hopes are in jeopardy. Last week: 1-2-0
 
20St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 21
St. Louis Blues (27-22-9)
They finally figured out how to keep a nemesis like Chris Stewart from racking up the points against them: they acquired him (and puck-moving defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk) in a trade. Stewart made an instant impact, scoring twice in a 9-3 rout of Anaheim. Whether he and Shattenkirk will be enough to help the Blues climb over four teams into the eighth playoff berth remains to be seen. Last week: 2-1-0
 
21Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 22
Despite three losses to hard-charging New Jersey, they can take hope from a memorable night when they beat the Flyers in the closing minutes after sending Rod Brind'Amour's No. 17 to the rafters. "This was a playoff atmosphere and we took advantage of it," said goalie Cam Ward. "It's desperation time now for us." Last week: 1-2-0
 
22Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 20
Buffalo Sabres (27-25-6)
Though the current edition faces a tough battle for playoff berth, the future looks much more hopeful. New owner Terry Pegula, a lifelong Sabres fan, teared up during his introductory press conference while speaking to Buffalo great Gilbert Perreault and recalling sitting on overpasses to catch radiocasts of his favorite team's games. The deep-pocketed Pegula's vow that "starting today, the Sabres' reason for existence will be to win the Stanley Cup" is welcome news indeed. Last week: 1-3-0
 
23New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 26
Can they actually pull off a Lazarus act? By beating the Rangers and Hurricanes, they extended their winning streak to seven games and came ever closer to climbing over the four foes standing between them and an improbable playoff berth. And in true vintage Devils style, they've given up only eight goals in their seven wins. "Every time they step on the ice," says coach Jacques Lemaire, "they really skate and get on top of the other team." Last week: 3-0-0
 
24Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 28
As he retools for next season, GM Brian Burke took pains at a press conference to clear up loose ends from the Tomas Kaberle trade: the defenseman's first choice had been an extension, not a swap. When Burke felt he couldn't grant it, he agreed to Kaberle's request ? not demand ? to look at Boston first. In return, the Leafs got a first-round pick and 6'5" center Joe Colborne, of whom Burke said, "He's not an unduly physical player. We're not getting him for that. We're getting him for his skill." Is pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence going out of style in Hogtown? Last week: 2-0-1
 
25Atlanta Thrashers
Last Week: 23
With losses to Phoenix and Edmonton, they fell to 1-6-1 for this so-far dismal month. A club that was once eight games above .500 in mid-December has fallen to .500 on the nose. "It's been disheartening," sighed coach Craig Ramsey. "Especially in our own zone, we aren't making the same level of commitment." With a five-game homestand ahead, they may have one last gasp at the playoffs. Last week: 0-2-0
 
26New York Islanders
Last Week: 27
Their playoff door may be closing, but it isn't quite shut. Seldom used journeyman Al Montoya became the latest, and surprisingly effective, addition to the goalie carousel and Matt Moulson's hat trick in a 5-1 win over Florida boosted the hopeful young squad's mark since the All-Star break to 8-3-0. "We never quit," insisted Moulson, who quietly scored 30 goals last season and now leads the club with 26. "It's not over until the season's done." Last week: 3-1-0
 
27Florida Panthers
Last Week: 24
Their 3-2 win over the cross-state rival Bolts was a highlight of an otherwise dispiriting season that has left almost the entire roster on the trade block. "One thing that this team does is give the fans their money's worth in effort," said coach Peter DeBoer, searching for a bright side. "It's not always pretty, and we don't always win, but they don't cheat you in effort." Last week: 1-3-0
 
28Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 25
Their 0-9-1 skid is their longest winless streak since their relocation from Quebec City in 1994, and they haven't scored more than three goals or given up fewer than three on any night during this hideous schneid. "Any one mistake seems to be enough to deflate us right now," moaned coach Joe Sacco, who was given a vote of confidence amid flying rumors that his crew was staging a mutiny against him. "We know we're a better team than this." Perhaps new additions Erik Johnson and Jay McClement will help them show it. Last week: 0-1-1
 
29Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 30
Edmonton Oilers (19-32-8)
With wins over the Stars, Habs and Thrashers -- as many victories as they'd enjoyed in their previous 17 games -- they looked like an actual hockey team, with some resilience to boot. Prized rookie Taylor Hall's natural hat trick, in a 13-minute span, rallied them from two goals down against the Thrashers. "We're a team fighting to gain respect and create an identity and at the same time throw a wrench in other teams' plans," says coach Tom Renney. Last week: 3-0-0
 
30Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 29
Ottawa Senators (19-31-9)
Acquired last week from Colorado in a goalie swap, Craig Anderson made 47 saves to beat the Leafs, 1-0. "A good start," he said. In fact, the unrestricted free agent is just auditioning, but he will likely help determine the appeal the struggling organization holds for free agents next summer. Last week: 1-1-1
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