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Stars rising fast in Power Rankings

First off, we're another week closer to the HBO Winter Classic special with inside looks at the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers. That means with every passing week another little deposit of drool leaks from the corner of my mouth. Are you kidding? John Tortorella, behind the scenes, chewing out reporters and cursing out his team? What time is it right now again?But there are 28 other teams to consider, and lots of them had good weeks. They won't get their own HBO show, but they will get some recognition from SI.com in this week's NHL Power Rankings.

NOTE:: All records and stats through games of Monday, Nov. 7

NHL Power Rankings
1Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 1
It won't be long now. On Monday, Sidney Crosby used the P word -- possibility -- to describe his playing status for the coming weekend. Could Sid, out since Jan. 5 with concussion symptoms, really be in the lineup Friday at home against Dallas? Hardly seems like the Pens need him as they took three of four points from Pacific Division stalwarts San Jose and Los Angeles on the road last week and continue to get balanced scoring plus some good goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury. Last week: 1-0-1
 
2Washington Capitals
Last Week: 2
They lost to the struggling Islanders over the weekend, but Alex Ovechkin looked good in that 5-3 setback and that's the best news of the week for coach Bruce Boudreau, whose benching of No. 8 late in a recent game against Anaheim made headlines. A.O. scored his first goal since Oct. 29 and nearly potted a couple more. More good news: On Monday, defenseman Mike Green (ankle) had his first full practice since Oct. 22 and should return soon. Last week: 2-1-0
 
3Dallas Stars
Last Week: 8
Dallas Stars (10-3-0)
What's going on in Big D? Don't the Stars know they are supposed to be devastated by the free-agent defection of Brad Richards and in turmoil on and off the ice because of ownership issues? Defenseman Sheldon Souray continues to be the early leader for comeback player of the year honors. Banished to the minors last season by Edmonton, he's found a seemingly unlikely home with the Stars, entering Tuesday with four goals and eight assists at plus-10. Quite a bargain so far at one-year, $1.6 million. Oh, and Loui Eriksson (8 goals, 15 points) can play. So much for being unable to function without Richards as his linemate. Last week: 2-0-0
 
4San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 4
Yeah, I'm a bit of a sucker for all their potential. Not that they haven't fulfilled at least some of it the last couple years (they did make the 2011 Western finals, so cool it on the jokes about their playoff mettle). These rankings not only reflect where a team is at the moment, but where it figures to be a week or two from now. There is some grumbling in Silicon Valley about goalie Antti Niemi right now, but he'll be OK. This team is very good when it wants to be, which is most of the time. Last week: 2-0-1
 
5Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 3
They lost badly at home to Vancouver Sunday (6-2), but the game was close most of the way and things are looking much better here than they did last season. The Cup Hangover has been slept off and the role players are improved. Defenseman Duncan Keith (dreaded lower body injury) has been out the last couple of games, which has hurt the goals-against in obvious ways. Last week: 1-1-1
 
6Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 5
Their six-game win streak ended Sunday in Phoenix, but they continue to gather lots of buzz. Super-rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 18, was set to make his first appearance in Montreal Tuesday and has paid proper homage to Habs legend Maurice Richard, telling The Edmonton Journal about a fifth-grade project he did on the Rocket, saying he "aced" it and couldn't wait to play in the city where hockey was founded. "Just stepping out there is pretty cool. It's going to be a lot of fun," he said. Last week: 1-1-0
 
7Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 7
OK, so losing 7-0 on home ice to Boston on Saturday was not a great thing, but a bad game was due for a team missing its top goalie, James Reimer, who has now been out nearly two weeks with possible concussion symptoms -- a genuine worry with Jonas Gustavsson and Ben Scrivens not exactly grabbing the reins in his absence. But not many people thought the Leafs would have this fine a record at this stage with or without Reimer. Last week: 2-1-0
 
8Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 9
They're still only a .500 team, but they will get on a roll soon. Their win at Chicago last weekend proved they can still go into a very tough building and look great. And the Sedin twins are getting into their next gear, combining for seven points in the win, but we would like to see a bigger, badder presence on the blueline. (How great would Shea Weber be with Vancouver?) Last week: 2-2-0
 
9Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 11
Here's the encouraging thing: they lost Mike Richards and Jeff Carter and really haven't gotten much in the way of good goaltending from Ilya Bryzgalov. Yet, the offense is producing (league-leading 56 goals, with Claude Giroux entering Tuesday second in scoring) and Bryzgalov is going to get it together at some point. And how about that Jaromir Jagr? I'll admit I thought he'd look like Willie Mays in a Mets uniform, but he's been great so far. Last week: 2-0-1
 
10Nashville Predators
Last Week: 19
Big news in Smashville was the signing of Pekka Rinne to a seven-year, $49 million extension. Critics worry that the Preds will have to sacrifice Shea Weber or Ryan Suter for cap reasons when their contracts are up. Legit concerns perhaps, but you can't second-guess a team too much for wanting to keep a guy like Rinne around for a while. He's just so big in net, literally and figuratively, and certainly didn't seem complacent in his first start after signing: a 35-save shutout of a good Phoenix team. Last week: 2-0-0
 
11New York Rangers
Last Week: 16
Their win streak reached four with Sunday's shutout of Winnipeg and their website is entitled "Blueshirtsunited.com" -- wicked cornball, but that's the spirit John Tortorella wants for his team. Maybe the best part of their season so far: Martin Biron (0.95 GAA, .962 save pct. through three starts, all wins) looks like the first legit backup the Rangers have had in years. Tortorella actually sounds happy. Well, a little. Last week: 3-0-0
 
12Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 14
Looks like Lindy Ruff's big bag skate last week got the message across. Buffalo won a couple to get its record back in better form, but the big story is the goaltending. For the first time in five years, Ryan Miller sat out back-to-back games while healthy, in favor of Jhonas Enroth. Miller almost certainly will be the man down the stretch, but his pine time is still a big story. "I thought [Enroth] deserved it," Ruff told the Buffalo News. "He's given us a lot of good efforts. He's obviously fresh. I just gave him the nod, a little bone for as well as he's been playing." Last week: 2-1-0
 
13Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 28
They made the Canucks look silly in a 5-1 win last week. Are they for real? Still too soon to say, but they've been getting great goaltending from Nik Backstrom and Josh Harding, and the return of Guillaume Lantendresse has energized the offense. Last week: 3-0-0
 
14Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 13
They bore you to death, but coach Dave Tippett could give a hoot about style points. Goalie Mike Smith has been better than some (me) thought, and a lot of solid veteran forwards have bought in to Tippett's conservative style. How about Ray Whitney, too? He's 39 but still puts up a point per game. He has 940 for his NHL career, possibly the quietest potential 1,000 points in league history. Last week: 2-1-0
 
15Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 6
Let's be honest: Drew Doughty has been a bust after holding out for big bucks. Through the first nine games, he didn't have a goal and was a minus player. And this team just can't find any consistency. It's great one night, terrible the next. Dustin Penner (one point in his first 12 games) at $4.25 million is quite possibly the most overpaid forward in the NHL. If these guys slip under .500, coach Terry Murray could be in some trouble. Expectations are very high in L.A. this season and ownership won't tolerate mediocrity without a change. Last week: 0-2-1
 
16Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 10
Coach Mike Babcock's team broke a six-game losing streak with a big shutout of Anaheim. These guys can win on any night against anyone, but let's face it, the excitement is waning in Motown. The Wings really are looking tired in some ways. Age gets us all, even Pavel Datsyuk, who was minus-5 with only two goals through his first 12 games. This opinion probably guarantees an undefeated week for the Winged Wheel and plenty of scorn in my in-box, but hey? Last week: 1-1-1
 
17Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 17
Steven Stamkos is heating up (four goals in his last two games), terrible news for the rest of the East, as the Bolts slowly get their overall game together. "I'm so proud of him right now," coach Guy Boucher said after a Stamkos hat trick against Chicago last week. "He's not dangling. He's using his speed to charge through opponents. He's using his scrambling skills around the net." Last week: 2-1-0
 
18Boston Bruins
Last Week: 29
Like Dunkin Donuts coffee at 6 a.m., the defending champs are becoming dependable again. Their nice week included a smoke show over the Maple Leafs on enemy ice. And how about Tyler Seguin? The kid has 14 points in his first 12 games -- only eight fewer than he had in 74 games as a rookie. "Yeah, so much credit goes to him," coach Claude Julien told reporters. "Because as much as we've tried to teach him, he's just kind of bought in big time and believes in it. He wants to be that kind of player. We all know he's great offensively, but he wants more than that. He also wants to be reliable." Last week: 3-0-0
 
19Florida Panthers
Last Week: 15
Things have been going pretty well, but GM Dale Tallon made a bizarre move by sending rookie goalie Jacob Markstrom back to the San Antonio on Monday. All Markstrom did was post a .944 save pct. in five appearances, but Tallon opted to send him to down in favor of veteran Scott Clemmensen, who returned from knee surgery. Maybe Tallon will be proven right -- that Markstrom needed more time in the minors before being an NHL regular, but Clemmensen and Jose Theodore are just a little too ordinary for me to get real excited about this team. Last week: 0-0-2
 
20New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 18
Knock off the "old" jokes about Martin Brodeur, at least for another couple days. The Jersey icon rebounded from a terrible game against Toronto with a solid win over Winnipeg, his first victory of the season (and 626th of his career, most in NHL history). As long as Zach Parise is in the lineup, this team still has a puncher's chance on any night. Last week: 2-1-0
 
21Calgary Flames
Last Week: 21
These guys are still a frustrating team to figure out. Maybe .500 is just what they are. They can go on the road and beat teams like Detroit, then they'll play a bad game in Buffalo. Goalie Miikka Kiprusoff had a solid 2.19 GAA and .925 save pct. in his first 10 starts, but blueliner Jay Bouwmeester continues to take money under false pretenses: one goal, four points, minus-2 in his first 13 games. Last week: 2-2-0
 
22Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 12
There's no place like home for these guys, and that's in the worst way. After a great start, they are starting to slide, mostly because of their baffling in ability to win at the Pepsi Center (1-5-0 after a loss to Calgary on Sunday and 4-18-1 dating back to last season). On a brighter note, coach Joe Sacco moved Matt Duchene to left wing on a line with Paul Stastny, and Duchene had three goals and an assist in his first two games there. Last week: 0-2-1
 
23Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 22
Just when the bleu, blanc et rouge looked to ready to go streaking up the standings, it went into Madison Square Garden and played poorly, slipping back under .500. Scott Gomez could be coming back soon. Say all you want about his bloated contact, but at least he plays hard. If he were making $2 million a year, fans would probably love him in Montreal. Last week: 1-1-0
 
24St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 24
Not to toot my own klaxon, but I had Davis Payne riding the hottest seat in the league in SI.com's preseason predictions. New coach Ken Hitchcock no doubt will get this underachieving group to play hard and, probably, well. He's a proven winner with a Stanley Cup on his resume. His previous players have said that his nagging style grates on nerves after a couple of years, but until then maybe a fast turnaround will take place in St. Louis. Last week: 1-1-0
 
25Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 25
Jim "GM for life" Rutherford promised some "changes" soon if his Canes don't start winning. Of course, his job is safe and so, too, he said, is coach Paul Maurice. So what then? "We will get together and discuss what we need to do to get back on track this week," Rutherford told the Raleigh News and Observer. Well, that clears it up then. Last week: 1-2-0
 
26Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 23
Coach Randy Carlyle's team has lost five in a row. Things are going so bad that likable enforcer George Parros is now out 3-4 weeks with a detached retina. The Ducks will make a run again, but beyond their first line, it's becoming all too evident that there just isn't enough talent there to be a serious contender. Last week: 0-1-2
 
27Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 20
After their amazing six-game win streak, things are back to normal again ?- which means mediocrity. Ottawa is -10 in goal differential (45-55), but the fact that the Sens are still anywhere near the top of the standings speaks well of new coach Paul MacLean, but he'll be able to do only so much with this shaky squad. Last week: 0-2-1
 
28Winnipeg Jets
Last Week: 27
They're still on their mammoth seven-game road trip and hanging in there. Really, the way this team has played after a truly bad start is a tribute to its character. But the Jets are probably where they should be. Wins and points will be hard to come by all season in the 'Peg. Last week: 1-1-1
 
29New York Islanders
Last Week: 26
A win over the mighty Caps aside, they're underachieving again, the usual damp, clammy blanket that gets tossed on signs of promise. These guys just can't stay out of prolonged funks or go on a sizeable win streak. I mean, even Ottawa has rattled off six Ws in a row. The Isles are loaded with top young draft picks, but will they ever coalesce into a winning team? Last week: 1-2-0
 
30Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 30
Good lord. The dark days drag on in C-bus, home of Wendy's hamburgers. Do the good burghers of this fine Midwestern city deserve this malarkey? Their friendly, neighborhood NHL franchise is 5-23-8 going back to last season. "It's definitely been my toughest challenge as a captain, and really the toughest challenge of my career," Rick Nash groaned to the Columbus Dispatch. "It's not one player or a couple of players, it's the whole team." Now that Ken Hitchcock has run off to St. Louis, who will ride to the rescue when a coaching "change" is made? Last week: 0-2-0
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