In one of the biggest comebacks the NHL has seen in the post-lockout era, the New Jersey Devils have rebounded from virtual irrelevance and clawed (a) back within shouting distance of a playoff berth; and (b) further up the THN.com Power Rankings.
After opening the season 10-29-2, the Devils are 20-2-2 in their past 24 games, have lost just once in regulation in their past 13 games and sat eight points behind Buffalo with 17 remaining regular season games. Much of their current success can be attributed to the firing of former coach John MacLean and the return of veteran Jacques Lemaire, but without stellar contributions from star winger Ilya Kovalchuk, goalie Johan Hedberg and others, New Jersey would be languishing at the bottom of the league standings.
The Devils off-loaded veteran center Jason Arnott at the Feb. 28 trade deadline, yet don’t seem to miss him in the least. As well, the schedule-maker appears to have been more than kind to their delicate playoff hopes, at least in the short term: New Jersey has five straight games against non-playoff teams (two games against Ottawa and Atlanta and one against the Islanders) before five straight games against playoff contenders (Washington, Columbus, Boston, Pittsburgh and Buffalo).
Lemaire’s charges will have to take advantage of those first five games to make the next five worth watching.
Nine Canucks have at least 10 goals this season and two (Jannik Hansen and Jeff Tambellini) have nine apiece
Four consecutive losses have Flyers fans worried, but still lots to like here and enough time to steer ship into better waters
Bruins have NHL’s top 5-on-5 goals for/against average (1.47); next best is Vancouver (1.29)
Most potent offense in the league belongs to Wings (3.26 goals per game), but they rank 19th in goals-against per game (2.88)
Have settled into a groove, winning eight of past nine games, but have tough week against Nashville, Vancouver and the Rangers
Caps edge ahead of Bolts in battle for top spot in Southeast
White-hot Hawks putting fears of missing playoffs far behind them
Lightning get tough tests in Caps Monday and Hawks Wednesday, then soft touches on weekend (Sens Friday, Panthers Saturday)
Pens all but assured of playoff spot, but have only won two games in their past eight
Habs face Bruins twice before end of regular season; they’re not far enough from ninth place to allow past brawl to be a distraction
Nine of Kings’ final 17 regular season games come against Pacific Division rivals - including three games against Stars, two against Sharks
Devils’ miraculous run overshadowing Flames’ longer miraculous run
Jamie Langenbrunner has four goals, 10 points in 22 games since trade from Devils
Five-game losing streak snapped with win over Wings, but with two games apiece against Vancouver and Calgary in next two weeks, is another skid on the horizon?
Do-or-die week for Ducks happens March 20-26: four games against Flames, Stars, Preds, Hawks
Without injured Mikko Koivu, Wild now league’s worst in average shots on net (26.1)
Foundering Preds play in San Jose Tuesday; next stretch includes nine of 10 games at home
Brad Boyes averaging a point per game in first four games since coming over from Blues
You never know what you’ll get with mediocre Blueshirts
Home-and-home series against Blues Monday and Wednesday, but after that Jackets have six straight games against playoff contenders until traveling to Colorado March 22
Only six of Canes final 16 games come away from home; that’s good, because their home record (18-10-3) much better than their road record (13-16-6)
Former sad-sacks now making furious push for playoffs; it may be too late, but if they keep limiting opponents to an NHL-low average of 26.7 shots per game, it may not be
Despite loss to Hawks, gutsy Leafs still have shot at post-season
Blues have lost past four games by combined score of 15-4
Little reason to believe Thrashers’ extended tailspin will end now
Next year can’t come quickly enough for wiped-out Cats
Sideshows overshadowing decent end to Islanders injury-riddled year
Peter Mueller to miss entire year with post-concussion symptoms
Oilers will bottom out without Taylor Hall, but with NHL’s worst power play (13.7 percent) and second-worst penalty kill (77.0 percent), how much further is there to fall?
Jason Spezza, Sens counting seconds ‘til nightmare season concludes
Power Rankings will return March 15.
The Hockey News ranks the teams 1-30 each Monday based on a combination of last week’s play and a squad’s overall outlook.
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