By Brian Cazeneuve
March 30, 2011

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

NHL Power Rankings
1 Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 1
Who said anything about cruising into the playoffs? They would rather storm their way in. The NHL's best team won road games in Detroit, Atlanta and Columbus last week, allowing one goal in each game as goaltender Roberto Luongo stopped 108 of 111 shots. "It feels good to be going in on a high note," he declared. "We feel like we're getting contributions from everyone, and that's how we're going to have to do it to be successful in the playoffs." Last week: 3-0-0
2 Washington Capitals
Last Week: 4
They posted a 4-2 mark on their six-game road swing, and as they come home, their final six games are against teams in the bottom half of the league standings. That's welcome news, as is the return of sniper Alex Ovechkin. Goalie Braden Holtby was recalled and shut out the Habs, 2-0 in Montreal, then went back to Hershey of the AHL. Though he is now 10-2-2 since making his NHL debut on Nov. 5, the Caps may opt for more seasoned netminding in the playoffs. Last week: 2-1-0
3 Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 2
Including losses to the Capitals and Penguins, they played in four straight shootouts, going 1-3. And after using three goalies in last year's playoffs, coach Peter Laviolette still must decide on this year's starter. It's critical at a time when the team's confidence may be slipping. "Sometimes I feel like we play a good game," defenseman Kimmo Timonen said, "but we can't bounce back. That's a big worry for me because in the playoffs, you have to put it behind you and focus on the next game." Last week: 1-1-2
4 Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 6
They set an NHL record by winning their fourth straight game in a shootout, beating the Wings, Flyers, Devils and Panthers. They've been remarkable in close games, going 13-1-5 in one-goal contests without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. "We don't coach differently and say, 'Hold on and hopefully we can get the extra one (point) in the shootout," says coach Dan Bylsma, "but sometimes you have to do it that way." Last week: 3-0-0
5 San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 5
San Jose Sharks (44-23-9)
If you think of how often teams fail to score four goals in a game these days, here's an impressive stat from the Sharks' 6-1-3 run: they've gotten at least one goal from each of their four lines in three of those games. "We getting contributions from a lot of people," says Joe Pavelski, who has hit a career-high 61 points after a poor start to the season. "We don't need to rely on one or two people to win games." Last week: 2-0-1
6 Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 3
Detroit Red Wings (44-22-10)
Their recent skid shrunk their Central lead to six points with the Preds within sniffing distance. With Pavel Datsyuk still out and questions in net, the last thing they needed was for Todd Bertuzzi to get himself suspended, but he was fortunate to duck a ban after earning a five-minute major and game misconduct for elbowing Blackhawks center Ryan Johnson last week. Johnson needed stitches to close his ear, but returned after passing a concussion test. "I don't think it was malicious," Johnson said. "He was very apologetic." Last week: 1-2-0
7 Boston Bruins
Last Week: 8
Boston Bruins (42-23-10)
In four games, they allowed just three goals. Tim Thomas, who looks more and more like a Hart Trophy candidate, was 3-0 with a shutout to bring his season marks to 32-10-8, .939 save pct. and 2.00 GAA. Compare to his stats last season (17-18-8, .915, 2.56) and the improvement is striking. "My positioning is better this season," says Thomas, "and so is my conditioning. But really, it's mostly a matter of confidence in myself and the team in front of me." Last week: 3-1-0
8 Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 10
At the worst possible time, they lost their leading scorer, Anze Kopitar, for the season with a broken right ankle. In the best-case scenario, the 23-year-old All-Star, who has 73 points, might have returned after the second round of the playoffs, should the Kings still be alive. But after an MRI revealed torn ligaments, the prognosis worsened. The injury ended his streak of 330 straight games-played. L.A. was already missing Justin Williams (dislocated shoulder) and the hope is he'll be back during the first round, if at less than 100 percent. Last week: 2-0-0
9 Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 7
Phoenix Coyotes (41-25-11)
It isn't a concern yet, but foes have noticed that goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has trouble controlling rebounds. After a 4-1 loss to San Jose, in which three goals came off gifts that Bryzgalov left on the doorstep, Sharks forward Logan Couture said, "We noticed he was not seeing the puck all that well, so I just fired on net. Bryzgalov is one of the best in the league, but with the kind of night he was having, we wanted to put as many pucks on net as possible." In a sign that the playoffs are near, the Yotes recalled tough guy Ryan Hollweg. Last week: 2-1-0
10 Nashville Predators
Last Week: 12
Beware the Preds. After a four-game skid in February, they've come away with points in 12 of 14 games, and won their sixth straight by beating potential playoff rival Dallas. Veteran Mike Fisher, slowed by injury and with just one goal since joining the Preds on Feb. 12, scored two against the Stars. "He is finally getting healthier and you can see it in his play," noted coach Barry Trotz. Last week: 3-0-0
11 Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 13
Anaheim Ducks (43-28-5)
Age is just a number to Teemu Selanne, who also fancies the number three. The 40-year-old future Hall-of-Famer picked up his 22nd career hat trick in a 5-4 win over Colorado. With his team down, 2-0, early in the game, Selanne scored on a penalty shot, a rebound of his own shot from the faceoff dot. and a top-shelf backhand rebound from the lower left circle, continuing his run of clutch goals. "I've been feeling great all year," said the Finnish Flash. "It's been fun and that's the only reason I'm still around." The Ducks, who look more playoff-worthy by the day, are surely happy he feels that way. Last week: 3-1-0
12 Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 9
As they continue to struggle in third periods, coach Guy Boucher points to injuries, notably to Steve Downie (out three weeks) and top-six forward Ryan Malone, who mans the power play. "Third periods are all about depth," Boucher says. "When you've got depth you can maintain and sustain your efficiency, drive, puck possession and forecheck. We haven't had depth for a long, long time now and it's taking a toll." So is Steven Stamkos's Ice Age slump: five goals in his last 24 games. Last week: 1-2-0
13 Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 14
GM Stan Bowman isn't averse to adding kids on short notice if he feels they can help. On a club that already had rookie goalie Corey Crawford playing in 20 straight games, and a pair of 19-year olds, Nick Leddy and Jeremy Morin, 20-year-old Swedish center Markus Kruger is now on the third line. The move to add the playmaker was a necessity after injuries to Dave Bolland and Patrick Sharp reduced Chicago's stock of forwards, but the Hawks forge on, with three wins in their last four as they cling to the West's final playoff berth. "We are real desperate to get points," says Marian Hossa, who beat the Wings in a key game. Last week: 2-0-1
14 New York Rangers
Last Week: 16
New York Rangers (41-30-5)
How many teams can score just one goal in three straight games and walk away with five points out of a possible six? A team with Henrik Lundqvist as its goaltender. The King blanked Florida and Boston, but dropped a 2-1 shootout decision to Ottawa as New York crept closer to a playoff seed. For the week, he had a .987 save percentage and 0.32 goals-against average and celebrated his 400th career game by posting his 35th shutout. "He's a wall right now," says coach John Tortorella. Last week: 2-0-1
15 Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 11
With their three-game losing schneid, during which they were outscored 11-0, they went from a club trying to move up among playoff teams to one just trying to ensure a place in the postseason field. Ironically, the slump followed an eight-goal outburst against the Wild. "I just think we used them all up against Minnesota," said goaltender Carey Price. "We can't get scared and start gripping our sticks even more, because that's not going to help. Nobody's having much fun right now." Last week: 0-3-0
16 Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 18
Buffalo Sabres (38-28-9)
With the playoffs in the balance, goaltending ace Ryan Miller won three games, including two by shutout, turning back 83 of 85 shots. His 1-0 blanking of New Jersey all but eliminated the Devils as one of the teams Buffalo has to worry about. "I'm not going to be happy until the job's done," says Miller. "At this point, our first bad game could be our last, so we all have to pitch in." Last week: 3-0-0
17 Dallas Stars
Last Week: 15
Dallas Stars (38-26-10)
After a rough week, and one win in their last six games, they find themselves in a tight race for the final berth while starting a crucial four-game trip this week against four Western playoff teams. "It's like a playoff series. We've got eight games left," said blueliner Stephane Robidas. "We still have a chance. We've just got to embrace it." Last week: 0-1-1
18 Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 19
They enjoyed a rare three-game win streak before losing the back end of a home-and-home against Tampa Bay as they try to eke out the last playoff spot in the East. Too bad they can't play the Bolts in the first round if they make it. The 'Canes are 14-4-2 in their last 18 against Tampa. "We've just got to make sure that our focus isn't on the standings," says coach Paul Maurice, "but it's playing the kind of hockey that we've played the last two games that I liked an awful lot." Last week: 2-1-0
19 Calgary Flames
Last Week: 17
Calgary Flames (38-28-11)
Their once-bright playoff hopes were dimming as they closed a four-game trip with their lone win, a 5-4 SO win in Edmonton. The recent skid dropped them three points out of the West's last playoff spot. "We're not coming out and playing as confident or assertive as we need to," says captain Jarome Iginla. "In the first period to give up four goals [during a recent loss to San Jose] is not going to win you many games. It's unacceptable. Obviously it's a tough loss at this time of year." Last week: 1-1-0
20 Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 23
Regardless of where they end up this season, rookie goaltender James Reimer has Toronto fans striking at least a note of optimism. He's been especially strong on the road, where before his 4-2 loss in Detroit last week he had been on a gaudy 8-0-1 roll. "James has an easy-going way about him," says admiring coach Ron Wilson. "It doesn't work for everyone, but it helps him because if he lets in a bad goal, he doesn't keep that with him for the rest of the game." Last week: 2-1-0
21 St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 22
St. Louis Blues (34-32-9)
If only they could come out every night the way they did in the first 30 minutes against Minnesota last week. By the time the Wild had four shots on goal, they Blues had scored four times. "We'll keep playing hard until the end of the season whether we're eliminated or not," said David Backes. "Whether its Game 7 or game 75 that really has no playoff implications, you're looking for guys putting it all out." One who didn't wasn't center T.J. Oshie, who got his butt benched for two games for not showing up for practice on Monday. Last week: 2-1-0
22 Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 21
Minnesota Wild (35-32-8)
They're on an 0-7-1 slide since March 8 and have been outscored 37-12. After a recent 6-3 loss to St. Louis, coach Todd Richards closed the door to reporters for 30 minutes to address his team as whispered charges of quitting floated about like a black cloud. "It's serious," captain Mikko Koivu said. "We're responsible for each other in the room. We're responsible for the organization. We're responsible for the fans." Last week: 0-2-0
23 Atlanta Thrashers
Last Week: 25
Atlanta Thrashers (32-32-12)
With a five-game trip looming against five Eastern playoff teams, they have a good chance to play spoiler and end the season on an up note. Coach Craig Ramsay pointed to a few areas he'd like improved. First: the power play, up and down all season, is on a one-for-its-last-19 fizzle. Second: communication between his goalies and defensemen has been, how you say, poor. In a recent game against Ottawa, Atlanta spit up four goals while its blueliners stood in the crease, picking their teeth. On two occasions, there were two on the same side of the crease. Last week: 2-1-0
24 Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 20
With playoff hopes slipping away, they can blame home ice. After setting a franchise mark of 17 road wins, the tattered Jackets have gone 0-4-2 in their last six in Columbus. Unable to bury chances, they outshot the league-leading Canucks 40-24 in a 4-1 loss. "We peppered them with shots from everywhere," groused RJ Umberger. "We had a lot of rebounds. It's frustrating when you get those chances and don't score." Last week: 0-2-1
25 New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 24
After a great run to get back into playoff contention, they have just one win in their last six games. Ilya Kovalchuk's power play goal in the first period against Boston was their only goal over a three-game span. After that, they went 173:55 without one. "They weren't ready to play," coach Jacques Lemaire groaned. "Guys are trying. They're getting chances. They're not scoring. You can excuse it to a certain limit. Not being prepared to play, that's different." Last week: 0-2-1
26 New York Islanders
Last Week: 27
New York Islanders (29-35-12)
They're playing out the string for the fifth time in the last six seasons, but goalie Rick DiPietro found a silver lining that bodes well. "The young kids are getting an opportunity to grow and play in a different situation that I think sped up their maturity process," he said. "They have really taken ownership of this team and all sorts of different guys have stepped into leadership roles. It's nice to see." Last week: 1-2-0
27 Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 28
Ottawa Senators (29-37-10)
Captain Daniel Alfredsson has been sidelined with a lower back injury since Feb. 7, but he returned to practice this week with an eye toward playing again before the season ends. "It was a fairly light practice," he noted, "but it feels good to be out there. If I don't play again [this year], I'll be fine with it, but I'd still like to get in a couple of games." The veteran forward says he still has trouble turning and putting pressure on his right leg when he tries to push off. Last week: 2-0-1
28 Florida Panthers
Last Week: 26
Florida Panthers (29-36-11)
Give them credit for trying. Winger David Booth was back in their lineup just two days after being struck in the throat with a puck. Alas, his return didn't help the club's scoring woes. During an 0-4-1 slump, it endured a stretch of nearly 200 minutes with just one goal. "We've played some strong hockey at times," coach Pete DeBoer said, "but we give one up and we can't seem to be able to get one back." Last week: 0-3-1
29 Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 29
Two straight shootout wins were followed by three more losses. In their last nine defeats this month, they've given up at least four goals in each game. With six of their seven remaining games against playoff teams, they can only hope to play spoiler. "We want to establish something in these games," says Matt Duchene, "because we want them to mean something to us next year." Last week: 1-3-0
30 Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 30
Edmonton Oilers (23-41-11)
They haven't tasted the sweet nectar of victory since they beat woeful Colorado, 5-1, on March 5, a span of nine games. Before their recent 5-4 OT loss to Calgary in which they blew a 4-1 third-period lead, they'd scored just seven goals in eight games. "There's lots to fight for," coach Tom Renney insists despite the tufts of hair he's been yanking out of his noggin this season. "This is about securing your NHL opportunity and working on our identity as a team, about making sure that our opponents have respect for us in terms of how hard we play. That has to translate into winning at some point in time." Maybe next year. Last week: 0-2-1

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