Wednesday December 22nd, 2010

NOTE: All stats and records are through games of Monday, Dec. 20.

NHL Power Rankings
1Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 2
Wins over the Pens, Habs and Rangers would have made their top ranking an easy call. Then came their mystifying 5-0 loss at home to Florida. "We caught them with one foot out the door for Christmas break," Florida coach Peter DeBoer said. Still, the six goals that the Flyers allowed in three games against tough conference rivals confirmed their ability to shut down the league's elites when they're on their game, even with Chris Pronger on the shelf for a month. Last week: 3-1-0
2Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 1
Coach Dan Bylsma decided to play Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin together more than usual after tough losses to the Flyers and Rangers. Good call. Malkin had two goals and three assists in 27 minutes against the Coyotes. "We've played together five years," said Malkin, who is usually on a different line to help balance the Pens' attack. "He's an amazing player. We just work hard together." And that's lousy news for their opponents. Last week: 1-2-0
3Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 3
With his certain seat in the Hall-of-Fame getting warm, Nick Lidstrom recorded his first career hat trick in a 5-2 win over St. Louis, and Henrik Zetterberg chipped in four assists. "Good for him," coach Mike Babcock said about Lidstrom. "He's done everything else, might as well do that. . . . Like fine wine, he gets better with age." Last week 1-1-1
4Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 6
After a perfect week, they're now on a 9-1-1 roll and looking like the Cup contenders many have expected. Ryan Kesler scored all three goals in their 3-2 win over Columbus to earn his first career hat trick. "I was sniffing for a while to get that third one, not only this year but last year," he said. "There's not much margin for error in this conference, so we've got to stay on the W train because the teams are so close." Last week: 3-0-0
5Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 15
They improved to 10-2-2 at home after a 5-1 win against Carolina in which Steven Stamkos recorded his 26th goal of the season and 100th of his career. "It's a number," Stamkos said in downplaying the milestone. "But to do it when you're winning makes it special." Just like the Bolts' unblemished week. Last week: 3-0-0
6Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 10
Injuries haven't seemed to matter as the streaking Avs improved to 7-0-1 in their last eight games. Tomas Fleischmann's hat trick in Chicago was a highlight of the week. Playing with Matt Duchene and Tomas Ryan Jones, Fleischmann had qo points in his first seven games since his arrival from Washington. "He's the kind of guy who plays well with skilled players," said coach Joe Sacco. "No question he's been a big lift to our team." Last week: 3-0-0
7Dallas Stars
Last Week: 8
Dallas Stars (20-10-3)
Grabbing five points of a possible six, they're now 10-2-2 in their last 14 games. And they forged one of their more impressive wins of the season over the weekend in Detroit, where Brendan Morrow's goal tied the Wings with 3:14 to play and Loni Eriksson scored the winner at 4:11 of overtime. "It says a lot about team, the way we can win these games," Morrow said. Last week: 2-0-1
8Nashville Predators
Last Week: 4
If a goalie controversy was brewing, their 6-1 loss to L.A. over the weekend may have made life easier for Barry Trotz as he waits for Pekka Rinne to return from injury. Anders Lindback finally lost, allowing three goals on nine shots before Trotz yanked him. The rookie sub had been 6-0-1 since Rinne underwent knee surgery. Last week: 2-1-0
9Atlanta Thrashers
Last Week: 12
Everyone contributes here and that's key to their surprising success. Enforcer Eric Boulton entered the weekend's game against New Jersey with 22 career goals and 1,082 penalty minutes. Though he'd never scored more than four in any of his 10 NHL seasons, he had a hat trick and is now plus-10. "Everybody's involved in the offense," says coach Craig Ramsay. "We don't designate a scorer. We don't designate checkers." Last week: 2-0-2
10Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 7
To help snap a season-high three-game skid, they called up Max Pacioretty, the AHL's leading scorer, from their minor-league affiliate and the new blood seemed to energize them. Pacioretty had a goal and an assist and was a surprising complement to inconsistent forward Scott Gomez, who now has four points in two games -- as many as he'd had in his previous 11. Last week: 1-2-0
11Washington Capitals
Last Week: 11
How bad was that inexplicable 0-6-2 slump, in which their explosive offense scored just 11 goals? After the slump-breaker, a 3-2 win against struggling Ottawa, Mathieu Perreault said, "We felt like we just won a championship." Even Alex Ovechkin, with his modest 12 goals for the season, was excited. "You get two points and you feel like a kid," he said. But even after the skid, the Caps are still running strong in the Southeast standings. Last week: 1-1-1
12New York Rangers
Last Week: 13
With their rally from a 3-1 deficit against Phoenix, they're now 9-0-0 in the second halves of back-to-back matches, but their signature game of the season was a 4-1 win in Pittsburgh, where they got four goals from four different players in the last 10 minutes. "We stick to our system," says goalie Henrik Lundqvist, "and we don't make excuses about being behind or being tired." Last week: 2-1-0
13Boston Bruins
Last Week: 5
Boston Bruins (17-11-4)
It isn't as if they've propped up goalie Tim Thomas during what has so far been an All-Star-caliber season. Thomas leads the NHL with a 1.70 goals-against average and .948 save percentage. He also has 15 wins, but the B's have failed to score a goal in three of his four defeats, including a recent flat 3-0 loss to Anaheim. "We can play better for him," says Coach Claude Julien. "We can't sit and watch." Last week: 1-3-0
14Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 9
After they got lit up during a sloppy 6-4 loss in St. Louis to start the week, the team that ranks first in the West in GAA (2.34) showed up in Nashville as if someone had knocked over the hallowed Hollywood sign. The Kings scored four times in the first period and the Preds were never in the game. "We had that taste in our mouths," said defenseman Drew Doughty. Last week: 1-2-0
15Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 16
Anaheim Ducks (18-15-4)
Go figure. With four road games on the schedule, they beat Boston and Washington as Jonas Hiller stopped 75 of 76 shots in the victories, but dropped decisions to likely April golfers the Islanders and Hurricanes. "It's been a mystery for us," said Ryan Getzlaf, whose goal with 56.6 seconds left in OT sunk the Caps. "We're just not consistent." No kidding. Last week: 2-2-0
16San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 17
San Jose Sharks (17-11-5)
Where would the Sharks be without Calder candidate Logan Couture? The 21-year old netted the OT gamer in Dallas and then scored twice in a 4-1 win in St. Louis. The superb rookie has scored 14 of his 17 goals on the road this season. "Simply put," says coach Todd McLellan, "he's been saving our bacon. You have to love his poise and his game." Last week: 2-1-0
17Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 19
With consecutive wins at the United Center against Detroit and L.A., they seem to have located their old home mojo. You knew the crowd was fired up before the game against the Wings, when it booed mercilessly as ex-Hawk-turned-Wing Chris Chelios, an Evergreen Park, Ill. product, was introduced. Chicago then played a sound, disciplined game, beating Detroit, 4-1, without taking a single penalty. Last week: 2-1-0
18Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 14
Phoenix Coyotes (15-10-7)
A bizarre week. After starter Ilya Bryzgalov came down with the flu in New York, they had to sign retired minor-leaguer Tom Fenton, a communications director at a local college, to stand in as the backup. Hey, stuff happens. Then they survived a shootout on Long Island, where even Walter Mitty could beat the Isles. "We're a score-by-committee team," said coach Dave Tippett. "We need everybody chipping in." Last week: 1-2-1
19Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 23
They came from three goals down to beat Florida in a game Tuomo Ruutu called, "an early Christmas present." Then they came from 2-0 down to beat Atlanta for their first three-game streak of the season. The scrappy 'Canes made it four against Anaheim, as Cam Ward made 88 saves over two games in one of Carolina's more productive weeks. Last week: 3-1-0
20Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 21
Minnesota Wild (15-13-4)
Mikko Koivu's three-point night paced them in Calgary, as they swept a home-and-home against the Flames, gave coach Todd Richards a rare chance to crow about one of his marquee players. "Mikko stepped up and the rest of the team followed," he said. "We have other leaders on the team, but when you're wearing the 'C,' that's one of the responsibilities. The team takes on your personality, takes on how you play the game." Last week: 2-1-0
21Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 18
A 2-1 loss to Dallas was their season of lost momentum in microcosm. They registered the first nine shots, then went to sleep. Before the game, they called on Espen Knutsen, their first All-Star, to drop a puck in honor of the team's 10th anniversary. That forgettable forward shows how far the Jackets have to go to build a meaningful tradition. Last week 0-2-1
22St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 20
St. Louis Blues (15-12-5)
They moved to 10-2-2 at home after topping the Kings, 6-4, then managed one goal each night in two pancake-like home games against San Jose and Vancouver. "We didn't pass that test," coach David Payne said. "Outworked to the puck, outworked at the puck. These are areas we take pride in. We didn't meet our standard." Last week: 1-3-0
23Florida Panthers
Last Week: 25
Where did this firepower come from? In their three games, they faced solid goalies Cam Ward, Ryan Miller and Sergei Bobrovsky and knocked them all out of the games with an onslaught. Their week could have been perfect, except they blew a 3-0 lead against the 'Canes and lost in regulation. "One of the toughest games I've lost in my career," said goalie Tomas Vokoun. "No words can describe it." The New York Giants can sympathize...Last week: 2-1-0
24Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 24
Edmonton Oilers (12-14-5)
Unlike other clubs mired in mediocrity, they have something to build upon. They closed out a six-game homestand with one of their strongest offensive showings of the season, beating Columbus, 6-3, thanks to their touted newbies. Jordan Eberle scored twice and Taylor Hall and Linus Omark had three-point nights. "It tells us what we do when we work together like that," Eberle noted. Last week: 1-1-0
25Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 27
Ottawa Senators (14-17-4)
It was a week of promise and disappointment with one-goal defeats by the Avs and Caps. In their 6-5 loss to the Avs, they gave up a tying goal with 3:13 left in the third period and lost in OT. "We did a lot of good things," said coach Cory Clouston, "but we didn't defend well enough when we need to." Last week: 1-1-1
26Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 22
Buffalo Sabres (13-16-4)
It was a nice return for Drew Stafford, who'd missed 15 of the prior 16 games with a shoulder injury: a hat trick in a 3-2 win over Boston. "I think I'm going to take another two weeks off," he joked after the game." One telling stat about the Sabres' compete level: they're 10-3-2 against backup goalies, but only 3-13-2 against starters. Last week: 1-2-0
27Calgary Flames
Last Week: 26
Calgary Flames (14-17-3)
They began the week strong, scoring three times in 57 seconds to beat Toronto. Then they dropped a home-and-home to Minnesota, scoring just once in each game. In the first, captain Jarome Iginla, the only real reason to watch this team, had his point streak snapped at nine. "We didn't have any answers," he groaned. "You can't win a lot of games like this." Indeed. Last week: 1-2-0
28Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 28
At times, the Leafs seem more like the Loafs, a self-defeated team weighed down by its deficiencies (and buried in waffles thrown by their disgruntled fans). In consecutive losses to Calgary, Vancouver and Atlanta, they never looked like they had enough hunger to pull out a point. Even coach Ron Wilson sounded miffed at his players for only putting one past Roberto Luongo on a night when the Canucks' goalie was noticeably fighting the puck. Groused Wilson, "Our guys have to do what they're paid to do, which is score." Last week: 1-3-0
29New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 29
It was an up and down week for Ilya Kovalchuk, who scored twice in Martin Brodeur's 113th career shutout, a 3-0 win against Phoenix. But Kovalchuk also suffered through a miserable night in his old stomping grounds in Atlanta, where the Devils got thrashed, 7-1. Sayeth the sniper, "Everything went wrong. It was terrible." Just like their season so far. Last week: 1-2-0
30New York Islanders
Last Week: 30
The mood on the Island is so bad that a nurse reportedly razzed a number of Isles when they went to visit sick children in a local hospital. It wasn't much better in the dressing room even after this downtrodden bunch beat Anaheim, 3-2, with P.A. Parenteau, Blake Comeau and Matt Moulsen scoring within a 99-second span. Said recently injured (again!) goalie Rick DiPietro, "It's good that we won, but we're not happy." Last week: 1-0-1

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