The rankings picked a bad time to go dark.
Since our last update, Calgary ripped off eight wins in nine games to remind us that it forced a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup finals back in 2004. Dallas' Marty Turco also remembered that he's a premier goalie, and the Stars benefited with an 8-2 run.
Heading the other direction? How about Boston – in hibernation since Brian Leetch's injury. San Jose also plummeted, which will happen when you lose eight straight.
You'll see plenty of movement this week due to the downtime. We'll stay on schedule until the NHL breaks for the Olympics in February.
Otherwise, it's too much work getting caught up.
(Records and rankings through Thursday, Nov. 24.)
1. Ottawa Senators (16-3-0; Previous: 1) – Hey, they can beat Carolina. They are also 15-1 against the rest of the league. A local paper ran a contest to name the Alfredsson-Spezza-Heatley line. The winning entry was the Cash Line. Good thing the on-ice creativity is left up to this dynamic trio.
2. New York Rangers (14-7-3; Previous: 8) – Long a poster child for the perils of frivolous spending, New York is suddenly a model collection of role players and superstars. Still, with cap space comes temptation. The New York Post speculates that the team may pursue Anaheim winger Petr Sykora.
3. Calgary Flames (14-8-2; Previous: 25) – Since joining the Flames midway through the 2003-04 season, goalie Miikka Kiprusoff is 24-7-3 at home. No surprise then that Calgary is 8-1 at the Saddledome this month, with wins over Vancouver, Detroit and Colorado.
4. Los Angeles Kings (15-6-1; Previous: 10) – Startling stat: the Pavol Demitra-Craig Conroy-Alexander Frolov line has combined for 86 points in 22 games. That's not quite Cash Line territory yet, but Demitra is certainly earning every penny of the $13.5 million contract he signed after the lockout.
5. Detroit Red Wings (16-5-2; Previous: 2) – Thanksgiving came a day early for the Red Wings. Forget about their 7-3 win over the Avalanche – though they should be commended for fighting back from a 1-0 deficit under the worst possible circumstances. The true blessing came hours earlier, when the team learned that defenseman Jiri Fischer had been released from the hospital. His collapse during Monday's game won't soon be forgotten, but Detroit has the type of veteran leadership needed to maintain focus.
6. Nashville Predators (14-3-3; Previous: 12) – They're streaky. Nashville started the season with an eight-game winning streak, then lost five straight only to turn things around again with six wins in its last seven. How are they doing it? The Preds are 10-1 at home and 9-3 in one-goal games.
7. Philadelphia Flyers (12-5-3; Previous: 4) – How about this: The Flyers-Penguins rivalry has some teeth again. While the rest of the NHL remains enamored with Sidney Crosby, Philly fans have labeled Sid the Kid as a baby and a diver. Pittsburgh fans, of course, probably didn't raise a glass to the health of Derian Hatcher. It was Hatcher who performed some unscheduled dental work on Crosby Nov. 16, prompting Crosby's plea to officials for a call. Something to be thankful for: five more meetings on the 2005-06 schedule.
8. Montreal Canadiens (14-5-3; Previous: 3) – Montreal has split four games since leading scorer Alexei Kovalev underwent knee surgery. The loss of Kovalev puts even more pressure on goalie Jose Theodore, and the netminder basically stole the team two points Tuesday against Atlanta.
9. Carolina Hurricanes (14-6-1; Previous: 6) – They are the only NHL team to beat Ottawa twice, and are one of a handful to keep both Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin off the scoresheet. Injuries to Rod Brind'Amour, Ray Whitney and Glen Wesley have prompted some creative line management, but so far the shuffling has proven futile during an 0-3 stretch.
10. Vancouver Canucks (14-6-2; Previous: 5) – We know what the top line is capable of, but we are just now seeing how good Anson Carter can be with the Sedin twins on the second line. Carter limped through October with four points in 12 games, but has more than doubled that output already in November.
11. Dallas Stars (14-6-1; Previous: 22) – Earlier this month Marty Turco got a refresher from goalie coach Andy Moog while Johan Hedberg made back-to-back starts. Nice job, Andy. Since the time off Turco is 8-1 with a 1.86 goals-against average.
12. Tampa Bay Lightning (12-9-3); Previous 11) – Welcome home, Tampa Bay. The Lightning played 13 of 19 games on the road during a brutal stretch that ended Wednesday. That stretch ended with three straight road wins, including impressive victories at Carolina and Philadelphia. The reward: a six-game homestand that began Friday.
13. Toronto Maple Leafs (12-8-2; Previous: 14) – The Leafs have won four of five, and have done so with top line center Mats Sundin scoring only two points. He failed to score Wednesday and took only one shot in an embarrassing 5-1 home loss to Boston.
14. Edmonton Oilers (13-10-1; Previous: 18) – Struggling center Michael Peca has been demoted to the team's fourth line – at least for now. He has a lone goal and five assists in 20 games, numbers that hardly justify his $4 million paycheck.
16. Phoenix Coyotes (11-11-2; Previous: 21) – Colin Campbell took it easy on coach Wayne Gretzky and Phoenix captain Shane Doan. Both were subject to possible fines and suspensions after Doan leveled Anaheim's Vitaly Vishnevski moments after Wednesday's game. Having to face Anaheim again Wednesday, Campbell must have reasoned, is penalty enough for Doan.
17. Buffalo Sabres (12-9-1; Previous: 13) – Leading scorer Daniel Briere had his streak of 231 consecutive games snapped Wednesday when a strained abdominal muscle forced him to sit out Buffalo's 4-3 shootout win.
18. New York Islanders (11-10-1; Previous: 24) – Center Shawn Bates scored eight goals in seven games before straining a hamstring, an injury that will sideline him for at least a month. The pressure is on Alexei Yashin's top line to carry the team until Bates returns.
19. Minnesota Wild (10-10-2; Previous: 16) – Reborn in 2003-04 with his first 20-goal season since 1997, Alexandre Daigle has disappeared again. The winger has only one goal in 20 games, and was a healthy scratch Wednesday against St. Louis.
20. New Jersey Devils (10-9-2; Previous: 20) – Defensemen have their hands tied when it comes to clearing bodies from in front of the net. Bigger forwards are better then, right. Don't tell that to Brian Gionta, who at 5-foot-7 is New Jersey's leading scorer with 23 points in 21 games. He has eight more goals than anyone on the team.
21. Pittsburgh Penguins (7-9-6; Previous: 23) – Center Mario Lemieux says he may withdraw his name from Olympic consideration if he doesn't feel he deserves a roster spot. One night after commenting on his Team Canada status, he was a no-factor in the Crosby-Ovechkin showdown Nov. 22. Lemieux out, Crosby in?
22. Boston Bruins (8-11-5; Previous: 15) – Owner Jeremy Jacobs called his team out in a local newspaper. Point taken. Boston rebounded with a 5-1 win, ending the team's longest losing streak since 1997. Center Alexei Zhamnov has looked good on a line with Sergei Samsonov and Brad Boyes. The team should also benefit from the return of Brian Leetch, who hopes to return to the blue line Saturday at Ottawa.
23. Chicago Blackhawks (9-12-0; Previous: 27) – Everything was going wrong for the Blackhawks in October, then they caught a three-game series against Detroit at the worst possible time. They lost all three, but give Chicago credit for rebounding with a 6-3 streak. The Kyle Calder-Mark Bell line has been on fire, and goalie Nikolai Khabibulin is slowly rounding into form.
24. Atlanta Thrashers (8-12-2; Previous: 30) – Remember back in October when coach Bob Hartley reminded us not to forget goalie Kari Lehtonen in the rookie of the year debate? Well, in the Calder Trophy race, Lehtonen is not only off the lead lap, he's at the wrong speedway. But given the team's improved play of late (4-4-2 in last 10), it's not too late to re-enter the playoff chase when the goalie returns in December.
25. San Jose Sharks (8-10-4; Previous: 9) – This team that was supposed to be built for the new NHL has fewer goals than everyone in the conference, save St. Louis and Columbus. It might be time to give Nolan Schaefer (5-1, 1.94 GAA) an extended look in goal.
26. Washington Capitals (8-13-1; Previous: 28) – Sidney Crosby won round one of the Alexander Ovechkin-Crosby showdown, but it wasn't a slam dunk. Ovechkin had his arms in the air once celebrating a goal, only to discover that he'd been robbed by Sebastien Caron.
28. Florida Panthers (6-12-4; Previous: 19) – Take your pick. Florida's special teams have been terrible – scoring only 7 times on 64 chances during its ever-growing losing skid. Blame Roberto Luongo? No, better start with the defense that has exposed Florida's goalie to an average of 36.4 shots in his nine November starts.
29. St. Louis Blues (4-13-3; Previous: 29) – Keith Tkachuk is back. Good news: He didn't have a hand in any of the Blues' 11 straight losses from Oct. 20 through Nov. 12. Bad news: St. Louis was outscored 9-2 in the two games he did play before suffering a rib injury Oct. 15.
30. Columbus Blue Jackets (5-17-0; Previous: 26) – We're now 22 games into the season and still only four Columbus forwards have more than two goals. Can't count Todd Marchant anymore, as he was claimed off waivers by the Mighty Ducks.
- Sidney Crosby
- Marty Turco