Wednesday January 26th, 2011

NOTE: All records and stats are through games of Monday, January 24.

NHL Power Rankings
1Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 1
The league co-leaders played so well during a recent stretch that included nine road games in 10 contests that coach Peter Laviolette had them stay in a hotel before their home game against Washington, a 3-2 win. "I don't know the rationale or the reasoning behind it," Laviolette said, "but there is something to the fact that when you come off of road trips, you come home, get settled in and you play a flat game." Last week: 3-1-0
 
2Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 2
After an overtime loss and a pair of shootout defeats in which they endured key patches of sloppy play, they broke out with a 7-1 rout in Dallas, as Mikael Samuelsson broke a 14-game goal-scoring drought. "We had a game plan and we executed good," he said. "We got away from that the last three or four games. We did it good tonight for 60 minutes, and it showed us what we can do when we stick to our plan." Last week: 1-0-3
 
3Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 8
After 19 straight one-goal wins, the Bolts enjoyed a 7-1 laugher against the Thrashers, their 11th straight win over their divisional patsies. Not that they were doing too shabbily in the squeakers. With names like Stamkos, St. Louis and Lecavalier available for a shootout against Atlanta, coach Guy Boucher used Victor Hedman, Ryan Malone and Dominic Moore, who scored the winner in just his third career try. The next night, Moore tallied again in an SO win over Florida.Last week: 4-0-0
 
4Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 5
Thriving despite adversity, they won for the fourth time in five games without Sidney Crosby by beating Carolina. Their one loss, a 2-0 defeat in New Jersey to the suddenly resurgent Devils, marked the first time in 437 games they'd played without both Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. "This is giving some of our other guys a chance to shine," said defenseman Brooks Orpik. "It should make us better once we get to full strength." Last week: 2-1-0
 
5Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 3
Without several key players, including Pavel Datsyuk, Dan Cleary and Tomas Holmstrom, the Wings struggled through a tough week. Even their 4-3 win against St. Louis included a blown three-goal lead. "Whoever is on deck has a chance to play and play well," said coach Mike Babcock. "When people get injured, other guys find jobs and create opportunity and value for themselves." Sometimes it's easier said than done. Last week: 1-2-0
 
6Washington Capitals
Last Week: 7
The Alex Ovechkin explosion finally took place in Toronto, where he scored three times. More impressively, the Caps allowed just five goals in four games last week. "Eventually they will start scoring again at the rate they are capable," coach Bruce Boudreau stated. "If they learn to play defense and then they get the balance with the offense, our team will be in good shape." Can't argue with that. Last week: 2-0-2
 
7Dallas Stars
Last Week: 4
Dallas Stars (29-15-5)
They earned their eighth straight road win by beating Edmonton, 4-2, then allowed seven goals in both Calgary and Vancouver. "Sometimes you have really bad games," coach Marc Crawford sighed after a hideous 7-1 loss to the Canucks in which netminder Kari Lehtonen was yanked. "He has been, if not our MVP, largely responsible for our resurgence. Tonight was a total team collapse. As a head coach, we obviously didn't have them ready to play tonight, that's my fault. It's humbling, and by some small measure, maybe, it puts us back in our place." Last week: 1-2-0
 
8Boston Bruins
Last Week: 6
Boston Bruins (27-15-7)
Goalie Tim Thomas was on an 8-0-2 streak that included a 3-2 win in Carolina that featured a clash of All-Star goalies with Cam Ward, and the B's were on a 10-4-3 roll since team president Cam Neely voiced concerns about their preparation and consistency. Alas, their week ended with a 2-0 loss in LA and the sobering news that Marc Savard has another concussion, sustained in Saturday's 6-2 win over Colorado, and will be out indefinitely. Last week: 2-2-0
 
9Nashville Predators
Last Week: 11
When things are going good, as they were during last week's three-game win streak, on the road yet, and recent 10-2 roll, even your goalie's equipment makes saves on its own. (See: Pekka Rinne vs. the Oilers) Coach Barry Trotz has also fought through the frustration of trying to get J.P. Dumont to play smarter and earn his ice time. In Phoenix, Dumont notched his first hat trick in 10 years. Last week: 3-1-0
 
10New York Rangers
Last Week: 13
Having lost six forwards to injury, the Blueshirts showed some guts in shootout wins in Atlanta and Washington. "It's going to be like this for the next 2-1/2 months," lamented coach John Tortorella after losing forward Brandon Dubinsky to a stress fracture in his left leg. "We have to get used to it." Perhaps Marian Gaborik can pick up some of the slack, as he did with four goals in a 7-0 breeze over Toronto, 7-0. Last week: 3-1-0
 
11Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 10
Max Pacioretty came back in style after a scary incident in which he took a slap shot to the chest and had to be hauled to the hospital. He produced a goal and an assist in a 7-1 blowout of Ottawa and two power play tallies in 4-3 SO loss to the Ducks. "Everyone in this league plays hurt," he said. "Everyone on our team is willing to pay a price." That scrappiness was reflected in the Habs' grabbing points in five straight games despite two losses. Last week: 1-0-2
 
12Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 15
Anaheim Ducks (27-20-4)
An unsightly 5-2 loss to the Leafs marred an otherwise upliftiung week made notable by a 4-3 SO win in Montreal that marked the return of Saku Koivu to the city where he served as captain and overcame cancer. In a cool gesture, his teammates skated to the bench before opening intros to let him enjoy a lengthy ovation. This week's All-Star break provides a breather after a four-game road trip for a team that's a surprising fifth overall in the West and boasting the NHL's wins leader: Jonas Hiller. Last week: 2-1-0
 
13Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 9
Phoenix Coyotes (24-16-9)
Despite a 2-0 win against the division rival Kings, in which Ilya Bryzgalov made 36 saves to pick up his 19th career shutout, coach Dave Tippett was not pleased by his team's approach in a 5-2 home-ice loss to Nashville. "We chased the puck (against San Jose earlier in the week) and we chased it again tonight," he said. "That is not who we are going to be if we are going to win on a consistent basis." Last week: 1-2-0
 
14Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 14
A mood bolstered by the possible return of Peter Forsberg turned grim when the Avs learned forward Tomas Fleischmann will miss the rest of the season due to blood clots his lungs. "We're all professionals," coach Joe Sacco said. "We have to carry on." It would help if the goaltending was a steadier and Chris Stewart (two points and -3 since his return on Jan. 14) got going. The top line winger found himself parked on the pine during the third period of a 4-3 win over St. Louis on Monday. Last week: 2-2-0
 
15Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 12
The surging defending champs had a chance to lift themselves by winning a challenge game at home against the Flyers, who were searching for revenge for last year's Cup final defeat. Instead, the 4-1 loss left the Hawks to fend for their playoff lives as they hang on to the eighth spot with six pursuers within five points of their tail. "This should tell us we're not up with those good teams the way we're playing," said Tomas Kopecky. "It has to get better." Last week: 1-1-0
 
16Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 18
Minnesota Wild (24-19-5)
"The guys have been playing really well," says goalie Niklas Backstom, who spent nine games on the shelf with an injured hip. "It's been fun to watch and it makes you hungry to come back." As well as they've done of late (a three-game win streak in which they outscored their foes 14-1), clearly the Wild need a healthy Backstrom to make a playoff run. Last week: 2-1-0
 
17San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 19
San Jose Sharks (25-19-5)
Are they back? Their recent four-game streak included a 2-1 golden nugget of a win in Vancouver in which they unleashed 25 second-period shots and Joe Pavelski scored his first goal since Dec. 8. Alas, these often frustrating fish also won four straight last month and then collapsed. "We had our game going well and somehow forgot everything over a 48-hour period, so there is concern there," confessed coach Todd McLellan. Last week: 2-0-0
 
18Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 17
Home is clearly sweet as they prepare to host the All-Star Game. Monday's 6-4 win over the Leafs enabled them to grab their 13th point of a possible 18 at RBC Center for the month, and 18-year-old All-Star Jeff Skinner continues to impress. These 'Canes are not an easy out, not when they have a lead anyway. They're 16-0-0 when in front after two periods and 7-0-1 when Skinner lights the lamp. Last week: 2-2-0
 
19Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 20
The heat is clearly on. As rumors swirled that coach Terry Murray was within sniffing distance of a pink slip, GM Dean Lombardi earned himself a tidy $50k fine for impugning the officiating after a questionable goal helped cost the first game of a home-and-home vs. the Yotes. Fortunately, this frustrating squad ended its 0-22 power-play drought that spanned seven games. After blowing a 3-0 lead, Jarrett Stoll's winner in the third periond of the rematch with Phoenix led into an impressive 2-0 shutout of Boston -- badly needed points for a team that's lucky to find itself only three points out of a playoff spot. Last week: 2-2-0
 
20Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 24
With just one win in their previous 11 visits to St. Louis, they got physical early, dropping their gloves and snaring a 5-2 win after trailing 2-0. "This has been a real tough place for us to play - no success here at all," said forward Rick Nash, stating the obvious. "We knew we had to do something to change things around." Maybe these black and blue Jackets can slug their way into playoff spot. Last week: 2-0-1
 
21Calgary Flames
Last Week: 23
Calgary Flames (23-21-6)
After a stinging 6-0 loss to the Wild, they manned up and won three straight games, torching the hot Stars for seven goals and getting an SO winner against conference leader Vancouver from Alex Tanguay. "When you lose, it's almost like you don't want the puck," said Tanguay. "Right now everybody wants it and it's very contagious." Last week: 3-1-0
 
22Atlanta Thrashers
Last Week: 16
Their early-season optimism is, well, gone with the wind. After a pair of 3-2 SO losses to the Bolts and Blueshirts, they dropped a 7-1 stinkbomb in Tampa that left them with one win in their last eight outings and dimmng playoff forecasts. "We got into a lot of good habits, and now it's like we've forgotten how to do most of them," lamented defenseman Dustin Byfuglien. Last week: 0-1-2
 
23Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 25
Buffalo Sabres (22-21-5)
Winning three of four (while beating division rivals the B's and Habs) boosted their recent hot streak to 8-3-1. After an obviously upset Ryan Miller was pulled in a loss to the Islanders on Friday, he came back with 31 saves in a rematch win as Nathan Gerbe continued his fine play, netting the game-winner two nights after becoming the first NHL player since Pete Mahovlich (1971) to pot two goals in five seconds. The All-Star break should provide some welcome rest for Thomas Vanek, who has been working his way back from an upper body injury. Last week: 3-1-0
 
24St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 21
St. Louis Blues (22-19-7)
After falling behind the Avs, they staged a late surge...and came up short, 4-3, for their third loss in a row and ninth in their last 11 outings. So much for moral victories, although it was a refreshing change from their usual habit of coughing up leads. "We showed a lot of character and a lot of good things and it's a step in the right direction," offered David Backes, who scored with 1:27 left to draw his beleagured bunch within one. "But steps in the right direction don't get you any points." This is true. And points are precious when you've got four teams to pass for the last playoff spot. Last week: 1-2-1
 
25Florida Panthers
Last Week: 22
Their season in microcosm could be seen in their blowing a 2-1 lead in the final minute against not-so-mighty Columbus and falling in OT. Two more tough lossed followed: 2-1 to the Bolts in a shootout, and 5-2 to the revived Devils. "This is a repeat of a lot of other nights," moaned coach Peter DeBoer after the loss to the Jackets. "We lose our composure in the last few minutes of the game. That's the story." Last week: 0-1-2
 
26Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 26
Though they lost 4-1 to the Caps and gave up six to the Canes in Carolina, nothing stunk more than the 7-0 egg they laid in Madison Square Garden against the depleted Rangers. "We stopped skating," lamented coach Ron Wilson. "They beat us to every loose puck in our zone. The forwards weren't getting pucks, and our defense wasn't winning any races back to them. You end up chasing your tail and they made us look silly." Wasn't the first time that's happened this season. Last week: 1-3-0
 
27Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 27
Ottawa Senators (17-25-7)
Embattled coach Cory Clouston was disappointed after his team's 2-1 shootout loss to Anaheim, saying, "It was very similar to probably seven of our last nine games." And that's why his name has been mentioned in conjunction with the unemployment line although owner Eugene Melnyk has vowed that his coach and GM are safe as a bit of a housecleaning looms. Just in case, Clouston's Sens left nothing to chance in their next two games, losing to Philly and Montreal by a combined 13-3. Last week: 0-2-1
 
28New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 30
With old-new coach Jacques Lemaire working his magic, the once-woebegone Devs swept the week, holding foes to three goals in three games and upping their recent run to 6-0-1. Even Ilya Kovalchuk managed to squeeze out three points against Florida. "It's been encouraging," said forward Patrik Elias. "It's more compact for us up the ice and back in our zone. We're in the right place and not giving the other team too much time." Last week: 3-0-0
 
29New York Islanders
Last Week: 28
Rookies provided some more good signs for the future when Nathan Lawson and Kevin Poulin combined to stop 36 shots and Michael Grabner scored twice in a 5-3 win over Buffalo, but don't try to sell hope to Evgeni Nabakov. The veteran goalie thought he was headed to contending Detroit. When it turned out to be the Isles, he balked, hanging up on GM Garth Snow -- accidentally, on purpose. Snow, though, got the last laugh as Nabokov has been suspended for refusing to report. Last week: 1-2-0
 
30Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 29
Edmonton Oilers (14-25-8)
The numbers keep dropping for the league's new doormat. Veteran goalie Nikolai Khabibulin has now lost 10 straight starts. The power play went powerless for 44 straight chances before Magnus Paajarvi scored against Minnesota. Even ever-optimistic coach Tom Renney admitted that his young team's struggles have been "tough to swallow." Best clear the throat soon or the ax may fall. Last week: 0-2-1

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