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Flawed Flyers land in top spot

NOTE: All records and stats through games of Monday, February 28.

NHL Power Rankings
1Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 2
Though they seem well positioned to make a repeat run at the Cup final, their one hiccup has been their sputtering power play, which is on 0-for-10 and 2-for-27 skids. Assistant coach Joe Mullen, once a deadly sniper on power plays in Calgary and Pittsburgh, has been firing up new drills to get his players to move pucks quicker and hit the slot harder. Coach Peter Laviolette laments, "[The power play] hasn't been where we've wanted it since the All-Star break." Last week: 1-1-1
 
2Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 1
With this year in mind, they acquired two veteran forwards at the deadline without giving up a roster player: Chris Higgins, who has been a 20-goal man and may give them some pop on one of their bottom three lines, and Maxi Lapierre, who hasn't always played with the sort of Ivy-League smarts they can expect from ex-Yalie Higgins, but he's a willing agitator and gumption was in short supply last spring. Last week: 1-2-0
 
3Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 6
They finished a record 12-game homestand with a solid 7-3-2 mark. Of note, Tampa is also the only team to have beaten resurgent New Jersey since Feb. 4, doing so, 2-1, by putting up a wall around goalie Dwayne Roloson in the final minutes. Of his team's strong defensive finish, Roloson remarked, "On a scale of one to ten, that was probably about a 13 or 14." Last week: 3-0-0
 
4Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 3
By surviving the losses of Dan Cleary, Pavel Datsyuk and Brad Stuart, they now look stronger than ever since those players have returned. Detroit has taken seven of its last nine and is again within shouting range of conference-leader Vancouver. "With people out, we got used to doing certain little things well," says coach Mike Babcock. "As long as we don't forget them now, that should help us." Last week: 2-2-0
 
5San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 9
San Jose Sharks (36-21-6)
They inked goalie Antti Niemi to a four-year deal, validating both his Cup-winning performance for Chicago last year and Doug Wilson's faith in him. In fact, San Jose's second-half rebound mirrors Niemi's. In his first 21 games through Jan. 3, he gave up four goals or more seven times. He has yet to do so even once in his 21 games since January 3. Last week: 3-0-0
 
6Boston Bruins
Last Week: 8
Boston Bruins (36-19-7)
They built a five-game win streak entirely away from home, outscoring foes 19-9 and toppling hard-charging Calgary and West-leading Vancouver during the trip. "We seem to play a little smarter sometimes when we're on the road," notes coach Claude Julien. "We're not trying to perform for the crowd; we're trying to keep them quiet. Sometimes, the simple play achieves that." Last week: 3-0-0
 
7Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 5
Alex Kovalev returned in style, scoring his 150th goal as a Penguin -- his first for them in eight years, of course -- in a win over Toronto. Kovalev, who also tallied in the shootout, was foundering in Ottawa, and the injury-riddled Pens, who potted only 26 goals last month, hope the career 1,000-point man will provide desperately-need offensive punch while the wait for Sidney Crosby's return continues. Last week: 1-1-1
 
8Washington Capitals
Last Week: 4
Give George McPhee credit. Rather than be blinded by his team's talents and recent strong play, the GM addressed some leadership needs in his dressing room by bringing in Jason Arnott, a No. 2 center who has a Cup-winning goal on his resume and reasonably fresh legs at 36. "Those kind of intangibles are something that we wanted in the room," says McPhee, who also picked up forward Marco Sturm and blueliner Dennis Wideman. Fear the Caps in the spring. Last week: 1-1-0
 
9Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 12
The NHL named Jonathan Toews the Player of the Month for February, acknowledging his performance on the ice (21 points in 13 games) and also the words of encouragement in the locker room that he still downplays. "Jonathan certainly has worn his letter well," coach Joel Quenneville says of his vaunted captain. "This is the push for us and he's leading the charge." Last week: 3-0-0
 
10Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 15
It didn't quite take a Kings ransom to land Dustin Penner, but GM Dean Lombardi certainly rolled the dice by giving up two high picks and a prospect to land the hulking forward. Penner scored 21 goals for last-place Edmonton and could be a nice fit with Anze Kopitar and Wayne Simmonds. He potted 32 last season and won the Cup with Anaheim. "We got our man," said Lombardi, whose players now have a mandate to parlay their hot play into playoff success. Last week: 3-1-0
 
11Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 7
Phoenix Coyotes (33-21-10)
Ed Jovanovski's injury last month dictated a pair of moves that GM Don Maloney felt compelled to make. Having already shipped Wojtek Wolski to the Rangers for Michal Rozsival, Maloney again dealt scoring punch for defense, sending winger Scottie Upshall and backliner Sami Lepisto to Columbus for Rostislav Klesla and forward Dane Byers. "We had been focused on getting help up front," Maloney says, "but when Jovo got hurt, we felt vulnerable on our blue line." Last week: 1-2-1
 
12Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 14
A recent 3-1 win in Atlanta highlighted the Habs' mantra of keeping shots on the outside and clearing rebounds from the middle. Even though Carey Price made 40 saves, he never seemed overworked. "It was much easier than it sounds," he said afterwards. "They kept the angles clear and kept the rebounds away. Really there weren't many tough ones. If they do that for me every night, we should win most of them." Last week: 2-1-0
 
13Calgary Flames
Last Week: 10
Calgary Flames (32-23-9)
Workhorse goalie Miikka Kiprusoff shut out the Blues, who hadn't been blanked in 110 straight games, the NHL's longest active streak, and in his 17th straight start increased his scoreless streak against St. Louis to 132 minutes. Calgary's top line of Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay and Brendan Morrison combined for 10 points in a 6-0 win that has the club eyeing not only playoffs, but home advantage in the first round. Last week: 1-1-1
 
14Dallas Stars
Last Week: 17
Dallas Stars (33-23-6)
For a team that's been licking its wounds lately, the return of Adam Burish and Krys Barch was welcome indeed. Both forwards suffered facial fractures in fights with Boston last month and watched as Dallas went 1-6-1 without them. Last week, they helped the Stars record consecutive wins against Detroit and Nashville. Said the ever-physical Steve Ott, "The majority of our strength [in the wins] was because of what [Burish and Barch] brought to the table." Last week: 2-1-0
 
15Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 13
Minnesota Wild (33-24-6)
With the playoffs looming and in need of a center to help make up for the losses of Mikko Koivu and Guillaume Latendresse, they opted for foward-thinking at the deadling, getting Bruins minor leaguers Jeff Penner, a puck-moving blueliner, and speedy Swedish forward Mikko Lehtonen. "It started to become apparent a few weeks ago that there just wasn't going to be a lot out there for us," GM Manager Chuck Fletcher told the Minny Star-Tribune. "To go out and overpay for a marginal player or a role player...didn't seem to make any sense." Last week: 2-2-0
 
16Nashville Predators
Last Week: 11
Recent inconsistent play has left them on the playoff bubble at a critical time. With five injured players out, the Preds head to Western Canada for a key four-game road swing. They will continue to rely on unheralded goaltender Pekka Rinne, who stands second in the NHL in save percentage (.928) and third in goals-against average (2.14). "We need to find ways to score," says center David Legwand. "We can't ask our goalie to save us [every game]." Last week: 1-2-1
 
17New York Rangers
Last Week: 19
They held onto most of their young assets by the deadline, picking up veteran Bryan McCabe from Florida. The 35-year-old blueliner has more than 1,100 games and 1,700 penalty minutes in his rear-view mirror. He'll need to help out goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who now faces life without backup Marty Biron, who was sidelined for the regular season with a broken collarbone, but may be back for the playoffs, should the Rangers reach them. Last week: 2-1-0
 
18Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 16
It's been a sharp revival for the Rick Nash-led Jackets, who were outgunned 85-49 in the 23 games before their 11-4-3 run since Jan. 14 and are now thinking they may have to cancel their mid-April tee party. Now if they can just figure out how to win in Nashville, where they've fallen in their last 16 trips, the NHL's longest such streak of futility for a visitor. Last week: 2-1-0
 
19Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 18
Anaheim Ducks (33-25-5)
Last year, they made a run at picking up forward Brad Winchester as a free agent. When the 6'5", 230-pound bruiser re-signed with the Blues, Ducks GM Bob Murray didn't give up the chase. Last week, he got his man in return for a pick and a prospect. "Some of the teams in our conference are big teams and we just felt we had to add some size," says Murray, who also added feisty winger Jarkko Ruutu as well as goalies Dan Ellis and Ray Emery to hold the fort until Jonas Hiller returns from his bout with dizziness. Last week: 1-1-1
 
20Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 22
Buffalo Sabres (29-25-7)
The acquisition of 28-year-old forward Brad Boyes has strong potential to work out nicely ... or end up a thumping flop. He scored a career-high 43 goals for the Blues while skating with Paul Kariya and Keith Tkachuk in 2007-08 and also has seasons of 33 and 26. Yet, he's managed just 26 in 144 games over the last two seasons and will cost new owner Terry Pegula $4 million against the cap. Buffalo's playoff chase still rests squarely on goalie Ryan Miller, who was 2-3-1 during a recent six-game homestand despite a sparkling 1.83 GAA. Last week: 2-0-1
 
21Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 21
A young team that had been playing with great discipline didn't do its playoff hopes any favors as rookie Jeff Skinner, 18, took a penalty in the offensive zone during the final minutes and Montreeal scored the decisive goal with 3:53 to play. "It's disappointing," said coach Paul Maurice. "We've had three games in the last three weeks where we didn't take any penalties. That hurts." Indeed. Buffalo has been breathing down their necks and the hope is that newly-acquired veteran Cory Stillman will be a steadying influence. Last week: 1-1-1
 
22Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 24
Even if they don't make the playoffs, their recent 8-2-4 run plus the emergence of goaltender James Reimer and the two first-round picks that await them this summer have to give the locals some hope for the future. Reimer's superb numbers (10-4-3; .929, 2.31) suggest Hogtown's goaltending fog may soon be lifting, as it fortunately did in the rookie's noggin after he was kneed by Atlanta's Evander Kane and had to leave Sunday's game. Last week: 2-0-2
 
23New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 23
In the midst of one of the strongest runs in their history, they turned out to be deadline sellers after all, sending Jason Arnott to the Caps for penalty-killing center and ace face-off man David Steckel plus a second-round pick and valuable cap space after shipping Jamie Langenbrunner back to Dallas in January. If the Arnott trade wasn't a white flag, it was at least an acknowledgement that this year's climb from the dungeon to the playoffs is still awfully long and hard. Last week: 2-1-0
 
24St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 20
St. Louis Blues (28-25-9)
They've dropped four of five, all against conference opponents. Still, with starting goalie Jaroslav Halak out with an injured right hand, rookie Ben Bishop provided a couple of hopeful glimmers when he stopped 39 shots in a 5-0 shutout of Edmonton and turned back 16 of 17 in a tough 1-0 loss to Calgary. "It's been a big lift for us," said coach Davis Payne, who previously mentored Bishop in Peoria. "He's been patient. This is a big chance for him to help us." Last week: 1-3-0
 
25Atlanta Thrashers
Last Week: 25
With his team fighting for its playoff life, GM Rick Dudley resorted to some Wheeler and dealin', bringing in forward Blake Wheeler and defenseman Mark Stuart from Boston on Feb. 18, then adding forward Radek Dvorak from Florida and defenseman Brett Festerling from Montreal at the deadline as well as plucking the mercurial Rob Schremp off waivers from the Islanders. What does it all mean? "We wanted to make changes," Dudley said. "We did. We got some people who are young and enthusiastic. I think it's good." Time will tell. Last week: 1-1-1
 
26Florida Panthers
Last Week: 27
By shipping four veterans (Chris Higgins, Bryan Allen, Dennis Wideman, Radek Dvorak) for prospects and players with expiring contracts, they essentially declared that they preferred building for the future to their dimming prospects of making the playoffs, never mind making a dent if they got there. Last week: 1-2-0
 
27Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 28
They simply don't win low-scoring games, as 2-1 or 1-0 nailbiters have become common. After a 3-2 loss to Anaheim, Colorado is now 0-34-4 since Feb. 2010 when scoring two or fewer goals. That may seem like a logical drought, but no other team has a similar one that has lasted as long. Think the Avs miss Chris Stewart? The onus grows on recent acquisitions blueliner Erik Johnson and goaltender Brian Elliott to keep the puck out of the net. Last week: 1-3-0
 
28New York Islanders
Last Week: 26
Just as the keep-your-fingers-crossed playoff talk started, they dropped three straight, including one in OT, by a single goal, squandering precious points. None was more disappointing than the 3-2 home-ice defeat to the Caps who rallied from a 2-0 hole after being outshot 14-5 in the first period. "We got away from our game in the third period," said Kyle Okposo, bemoaning a common fate for a young team with growing pains. "We simply let them off the hook." Last week: 0-2-1
 
29Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 30
Ottawa Senators (21-32-9)
Bryan Murray's housecleaning service has been open for brisk business as the GM attempts to wipe a miserable season's slate clean. After sending defenseman Chris Campoli to Chicago on deadline day, Murray had shipped seven players and acquired five draft picks, a prudent long-term approach. Last week: 2-1-0
 
30Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 29
Edmonton Oilers (20-35-8)
In exchange for Dustin Penner, they picked up a first-round pick, a conditional second-rounder, and defenseman Colten Teubert, the Kings' 2008 first-rounder who is 6'4", 195 and plays with an ornery side that the Oilers lack. They now have a potentially fruitful draft to look forward to this summer. Last week: 1-3-0
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