From The Point: Eye towards the playoffs

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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

ANAHEIM

The top two lines that did all the damage for the Ducks in the playoffs last season will look a little different this time around. Last year’s No. 1 unit of Chris Kunitz-Andy McDonald-Teemu Selanne now features Doug Weight in the middle, and is considered Anaheim’s No. 2 line.

Weight has revived his game since landing with the Ducks and he’ll need to keep producing for Anaheim to have any hope of repeating as Stanley Cup champions.

Meanwhile, center Ryan Getzlaf might be feeling a bit nostalgic. The Oilers swiped mammoth winger Dustin Penner in the off-season, and now an errant skate blade (belonging to Avs goalie Jose Theodore) sliced Corey Perry’s right quad tendon and the ultra-smooth right winger figures to miss at least the first round of the post-season. The Ducks recalled Bobby Ryan to replace Perry.

ATLANTA

It’s not about playoff position anymore; the Thrashers are thinking about the draft lottery. Eight straight losses will do that to a team.

BOSTON

A week in which they were outscored 19-4 in three games – including a 1-0 overtime loss, so you can do the math on the other one-sided scores – has seen the Bruins drop from contending for home ice in the first round to hoping they can remain in the playoff race, period.

When you lose 10-2 (Washington) and 8-2 (at home to Toronto) to a pair of non-playoff teams, it can’t do much for the confidence. Bad, bad timing for the B’s to suffer big blowouts.

BUFFALO

As the Bruins and Flyers cling to the Nos. 7 and 8 spots in the East, the inconsistent Sabres continue to rise and fall on streaky play. Still, if they get in, the fact they’ve been to back-to-back conference finals means the Sabres are experienced enough to pull off an upset or two.

CALGARY

The Flames are in a dogfight in the Northwest. They held the No. 3 seed in the West as of Friday, but a couple losses could drop them to eighth – or ninth – in a hurry.

CAROLINA

The Hurricanes are finding out they can do it without captain Rod Brind’Amour. They’ve got the cheapie No. 3 seed in the East and probably have to stay hot to keep ahead of Alex Ovechkin’s hard-charging Capitals.

CHICAGO

Another season, another high draft pick. The difference this year, the past high draft picks are finally paying off. After years – decades, really – of futility, there’s Chicago hope.

COLORADO

One step forward, two steps back. Two stars in, two stars out.

Just as new-old Avs Adam Foote and Peter Forsberg – and whatever they’ve got left – arrived back in Colorado, top wingers Marek Svatos (done for the season) and Ryan Smyth (you know he’ll be back, despite a concussion and shoulder separation) left the lineup.

Colorado’s getting hot at the right time, though, and look determined to return to the playoffs after missing last year. Wonder if it has anything to do with Joe Sakic’s return after 35-plus games on the sidelines?

COLUMBUS

The local fans would’ve liked a couple trade deadline pickups and a late-season playoff charge. But at least when management says “next year,” there’s reason to believe this time around.

DALLAS

They’re scoring way more than anyone thought and even if Mike Ribeiro can’t duplicate his regular season exploits in the playoffs, the addition of Brad Richards makes the Stars a team to watch.

You know their defense and goaltending will be solid. (Right, Marty Turco?)

DETROIT

That February slide was a surprise, but the Wings were missing most of their defense corps. They’re almost healthy again and reeling off the wins.

Their playoff hopes hinge on secondary scoring and either Chris Osgood or Dominik Hasek taking the reins.

EDMONTON

Well, there’s still a home-and-home against Calgary to look forward to.

FLORIDA

Well, there’s still a home-and-home against Tampa Bay to look forward to…

LOS ANGELES

The Kings are going to have the best shot at drafting Steven Stamkos. So there’s that…

MINNESOTA

If you think anybody wants to play the Wild in the playoffs, you haven’t been bodychecked by Chris Simon, Todd Fedoruk, Aaron Voros or Derek Boogaard.

MONTREAL

Regular season surprise team? Check. But in Montreal, it’s all about the post-season. Carey Price will get his chance to do his best Patrick Roy impersonation.

NASHVILLE

If anybody fades in the West, it appears the Preds are ready to pounce on the final playoff spot. A feel-good story, considering the exodus of stars last summer during the franchise’s phase of “where will we be next year?”

NEW JERSEY

Can they possibly win it all with a defense corps featuring household names such as Andy Greene, Mike Mottau, Karel Rachunek, Johnny Oduya and Sheldon Brookbank? Scarily…yes, they just might.

ISLANDERS

After they pulled off the improbable comeback last season and snuck into the playoffs on the last day: never say never say never. But seriously…not this time.

RANGERS

Another Eastern team that could win the conference or miss the playoffs entirely. The Rangers have too many weapons to be done in early April.

OTTAWA

Remember when they began the season 15-2-0? The Senators don’t. They need captain Daniel Alfredsson back (from a bad back) and Martin Gerber to step up. ‘Cause if you think Ray Emery is going to suddenly wake up…you’re dreaming.

PHILADELPHIA

Another team that started out hot this season, only to squander their cushion with a recent 10-game freefall.

At least the Flyers can blame a raft of injuries, including ones to captain Mike Richards and Simon Gagne. Whatever happens, this season has been a ten-fold improvement on last year’s debacle.

PHOENIX

The biggest surprise this side of Montreal, and maybe bigger. Wayne Gretzky’s charges have played better than the sum of their parts – which didn’t figure to add up to much – and even if it all ends in April, it’s been a beautiful year.

PITTSBURGH

With two Hart Trophy candidates – Evgeni Malkin likely leapfrogged Sidney Crosby during The Kid’s lengthy ankle sprain – and Marian Hossa (when he returns from injury), nobody wants a first round matchup against the Pens.

ST. LOUIS

They might not be finishing with a flourish as they’d like, but these Blues are better than the sorry teams of the past couple seasons.

SAN JOSE

Everything’s in place on this deep, talented team. Now it’s just a matter of whether the Sharks are up to the task. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, are you listening?

TAMPA BAY

The Lightning’s four-year fall from grace has seen them in the East basement virtually all season, despite the efforts of Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St-Louis. The team’s struggles this season led to the dumping of Brad Richards.

TORONTO

The playoff dream still burns. Then again…a lot of things burn, but that doesn’t mean they’re any good.

VANCOUVER

They’ll go as far as Roberto Luongo and the Sedins can take them, and not a puck further.

WASHINGTON

Doesn’t everybody want to see Alex Ovechkin in the post-season?

Sam McCaig’s From The Point appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Have a point to make with Sam McCaig? You can reach him at smccaig@thehockeynews.com.

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