Mark Recchi called it the low point of his career.
He was speaking of Pittsburgh's 5-0 home loss to Minnesota Thursday, a loss in which the Penguins were outshot 17-5 in the first period. It was Pittsburgh's sixth straight defeat.
He could very well have been talking about the condition of teammate Mario Lemieux or the fact that an 18-year-old rookie stepped forward to question the team's effort. There's plenty to be down about in Pittsburgh these days.
Without any dramatic movement atop the rankings, we shift our focus near the cellar, where the Pens have bottomed out and the Sharks have once again become predators in the West. On to the rankings:
(Records and rankings through Thursday, December 8.)
1. Ottawa Senators (21-4-0; Previous: 1) – Brandon Bochenski is the leading candidate to step into Martin Havlat's role now that Havlat is expected to miss the rest of the regular season after shoulder surgery. Bochenski's hat trick highlighted a four-point night Monday, and the 23-year-old is playing with confidence. If he doesn't work out, the Ottawa Sun floated Todd Bertuzzi and Owen Nolan as possible right wing targets for the Sens.
2. New York Rangers (19-8-4; Previous: 2) – How about that Petr Prucha? Just another checking line forward a few weeks ago, the diminutive Czech now finds himself skating with New York's top power-play unit. The results: six goals in four games, including two in Thursday's win at Nashville.
3. Calgary Flames (17-9-4; Previous: 4) – The Flames scored a modest 10 goals on their recent five-game road trip and still came away with seven of a possible 10 points. Jarome Iginla scored twice Wednesday to break a streak of nine straight games without a tally. Who is next for a wakeup call? Chris Simon (2 goals this season)? Jordan Leopold (0 goals)?
4. Dallas Stars (18-7-1; Previous: 8) – Goalie Marty Turco wants to play for Team Canada in the 2006 Olympics. Anyone want to tell him he doesn't belong? Turco has won 11 of 13 starts and he took home player of the month honors for November. The upcoming road trip through Ottawa, Buffalo and Toronto will be a great measuring stick for the Stars and their goalie.
5. Carolina Hurricanes (18-8-2; Previous: 9) – Those two losses to Atlanta sure stick out like a sore thumb. Take away those two games and another stumble against the Islanders and the only teams to beat Carolina in regulation are the Senators and Rangers, both division leaders, along with Phoenix and Tampa Bay.
6. Nashville Predators (18-5-3; Previous: 3) – The Predators are anxiously awaiting results of Tomas Vokoun's MRI. He left Thursday's game with what was called a sprained knee. Nashville has won 11 games by a single goal, a trend that will be hard to maintain without Vokoun, one of the NHL's hottest goalies.
7. Detroit Red Wings (19-8-2; Previous: 6) – Will captain Steve Yzerman make it through his 23rd NHL season? The center recently withdrew his name from consideration for the 2006 Olympic team. Now rumors are swirling that he may call it quits before the season is done.
8. Buffalo Sabres (18-10-1; Previous: 11) – Co-captain and second leading scorer Daniel Briere is due back Sunday after missing seven games with an abdominal injury. Goalie Ryan Miller, out since Oct. 28, may return any day. Can the Sabres, winners of nine of 11, actually get better?
9. Philadelphia Flyers (16-7-4; Previous: 5) – NHL goals leader Simon Gagne has been held without a point in five of six games since linemate Peter Forsberg injured his groin. The injury troubles just start there. Defenseman Joni Pitkanen and Eric Desjardins will both miss considerable time due to recent injuries. Goalie Robert Esche (groin) and captain Keith Primeau (concussion) are also missed.
10. Tampa Bay Lightning (16-10-3); Previous 12) – Goalie John Grahame won his eighth consecutive start Thursday, tying a club record previously held by Nikolai Khabibulin. Tampa Bay beat St. Louis with three goals in the third period. Late-game domination was a hallmark of the Lightning's Stanley Cup run, but entering play Thursday the team had been outscored in third-period play.
11. Vancouver Canucks (17-9-2; Previous: 10) – Vancouver is an NHL-best 12-1 at home, losing only to Colorado. The Canucks finish the year out with seven of 10 at home.
12. Edmonton Oilers (16-11-2; Previous: 13) – The hottest team nobody is talking about, Edmonton has won seven of 10, including quality wins over Detroit, Colorado, Calgary, Vancouver and Philadelphia. Goalie Ty Conklin is ready to return. Is that a good thing?
13. Los Angeles Kings (17-12-1; Previous: 7) – Jason LaBarbera has lost four straight starts, averaging 4.5 goals allowed in those games. Mathieu Garon has been better, but not great. The team may rank third in the Western Conference in scoring, but it will continue to fall if these guys don't return to form.
14. Phoenix Coyotes (15-12-2; Previous: 17) – Their current streak of four wins in five games includes convincing victories over Dallas (4-1) and Carolina (8-4).
15. Colorado Avalanche (15-10-3; Previous: 15) – Colorado's long-dormant top line of Alex Tanguay, Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk has accounted for 24 points in five games. The callup of goalie Vitaly Kolesnik will either serve as a wake-up call for David Aebischer, or the beginning of his downfall.
16. San Jose Sharks (12-12-4; Previous: 25) – San Jose scored more than three goals in a game once in November, and that was in a 7-6 loss to Detroit. Since the Joe Thornton trade the Sharks have scored at least five goals in four straight, all wins.
17. Toronto Maple Leafs (15-11-3; Previous: 14) – Eric Lindros has just one goal in nine games. Mats Sundin is mired in a nearly identical scoring slump. Coach Pat Quinn has thus far resisted pressure to pair the two on the same line.
18. New York Islanders (14-12-2; Previous: 19) – Two-time 20-goal scorer Mike York is finally beginning to justify the trade that brought him to New York from Edmonton in exchange for Michael Peca. After scoring three goals in 25 games, York has four in the Isles' last three. Peca, by the way, has yet to be heard from in Edmonton.
19. Montreal Canadiens (15-7-5; Previous: 16) – Maybe a week off was just what the Canadiens needed. Losers of four of five, Montreal is without Alexei Kovalev until at least Christmas. Radek Bonk is also sidelined indefinitely and captain Saku Koivu missed the final two games before the break in the schedule with a groin injury. It's back to work Saturday, however.
20. New Jersey Devils (13-12-2; Previous: 18) – Goalie Martin Brodeur was booed by the home crowd Wednesday after allowing three goals to Calgary on the first four shots he faced. Team Canada executive director Wayne Gretzky was in attendance.
21. Chicago Blackhawks (11-14-2; Previous: 21) – Nikolai Khabibulin had maybe his best game as a Blackhawk Wednesday, stopping 30 of 31 shots in a 2-1 win over the Rangers.
24. Boston Bruins (10-15-5; Previous: 24) – After beating Ottawa and Edmonton in the wake of the Joe Thornton trade, the Bruins have fallen right back into a funk. Compounding problems is the loss of defenseman Nick Boyton, who will be sidelined 4-6 weeks by a fractured kneecap.
25. Atlanta Thrashers (10-16-3; Previous: 23) – Center Mark Savard has one goal and three points during the team's current five-game losing streak. Ilya Kovalchuk has no goals and two points. With Peter Bondra lost for a month, those guys need to step up.
26. Washington Capitals (9-16-2; Previous: 28) – The Caps hunkered down for some closed-door film sessions to address their power-play woes. Only Columbus ranks worse than Washington, which is currently converting 12.2 percent of its chances.
27. Columbus Blue Jackets (8-19-0; Previous: 30) – It looks like Columbus has Dec. 15 circled as a possible return date for Rick Nash. This begs a couple of questions. Can he revive his Team Canada Olympic hopes? Can he and Segei Fedorov team to get Columbus out of the NHL's scoring cellar? The Blue Jackets have scored 52 goals, 17 less than a St. Louis team that has played two fewer games.
28. Florida Panthers (9-17-4; Previous: 27) – Thursday's 6-2 loss to San Jose was Florida's 11th straight setback on the road. A winner of six of his first 10 starts this season, goalie Roberto Luongo is now considered possible trade bait.
30. Pittsburgh Penguins (7-15-6; Previous: 26) – The Penguins have scored only nine goals during their current six-game losing streak. Offseason additions Sergei Gonchar, Mark Recchi, John LeClair and Ziggy Palffy combined for just two of them.