As Wednesday's trade deadline has grown to be an event for the league, it's a huge distraction for every team and player in the NHL. The prevailing attitude is everyone will be quite relieved to see the day pass.
And that's an important notion to remember because with all the focus on who is going to get traded and where, the fact remains as much of a quarter of the season remains for most teams. This week's power rankings – which appear each Tuesday – takes a look at what is ahead for each team schedule-wise down the stretch.
1. New Jersey Devils (41-19-3, Previous: 5) – It doesn't seem to matter where or who the Devils play these days. They have been equally effective at home (22-10-1) as on the road (19-9-2), and now with Martin Brodeur back it doesn't figure to change. Oddly enough, New Jersey has only four division games remaining. And while chasing Boston for the conference crown, the Devils have 19 left to play – like the Bruins, who they meet in Boston on March 22.
2. Detroit Red Wings (41-14-8, Previous: 2) – The Wings need help to catch the Sharks for first in the conference since they play two fewer games and don't face San Jose again. The Red Wings still have four games remaining against East foes. They also have five back-to-backs still to play, including an intriguing final two games of the regular season against division-rival Chicago.
3. San Jose Sharks (42-10-9, Previous: 1) – Along with Chicago and Minnesota, the Sharks have the most games remaining (21) in the West. And it's all against conference rivals from this point forward. San Jose, 26-2-3, has 10 remaining at home where it has dominated. None of the remaining trips are for more than two games, and the Sharks play outside the Pacific time zone only six more times.
4. Boston Bruins (42-12-9, Previous: 7) – The Briuns, as is often the case this time of the year, don't leave the time zone and don't have grueling travel during the remaining season. Three Western Conference teams (the Coyotes, Blackhawks and Kings) will pay a visit. And Boston has six remaining against the Northeast, a group it has dominated to the tune of 13-3-2 thus far.
5. Washington Capitals (40-19-5, Previous: 4) – The Caps' big challenge appears to be a stretch of eight games between March 10-24 when all but one are on the road. Washington isn't bad on foreign ice (15-12-4), but it certainly has enjoyed more success at home (25-7-1), where just eight of the 18 remaining games will be played.
6. Chicago Blackhawks (35-17-9, Previous: 3) – The Blackhawks have an inviting March schedule that includes 10 of 14 games at the United Center where they are 16-5-6. A good month could lead to a possible late-season run at the division if the Red Wings falter. Chicago has two games in hand and two remaining against Detroit.
7. Calgary Flames (37-19-6, Previous: 6) – The Flames face a long road ahead, and it starts Tuesday night with the first of seven straight all in the Eastern time zone, and all but one against opposite-conference teams. Calgary enjoys the friendly environs of its Saddledome only seven more times. Other remaining long trips include stops in Pittsburgh, Columbus, Dallas, St. Paul and Vancouver in addition to a drive up the road to Edmonton.
8. Philadelphia Flyers (33-18-10, Previous: 8) – The Flyers would like to at least hold on to the fourth seed to earn home ice in the opening round of the playoffs, but with two games in hand and one contest remaining against the Devils, they still have an outside shot at the division crown if New Jersey stumbles. The Flyers still have eight left against Atlantic foes, against whom they are 8-4-4 to date.
9. Vancouver Canucks (32-22-8, Previous: 9) – The Canucks have turned around their recent home fortunes, winning five straight, and host six of their next eight. But after that Vancouver embarks on a six-game trip. The Canucks are the only team in the league with the same record at home and on the road (16-11-4).
10. Montreal Canadiens (34-22-7, Previous: 15) – After completing a three-game trip that starts Wednesday, the Canadiens enjoy home cooking for nine out of 10 between March 10-31. That's where Montreal should cement its playoff berth, especially considering the team is 20-6-4 at home, much better than the 14-16-3 the Habs have fared on the road, where they conclude the season by playing four of their last six.
11. Pittsburgh Penguins (32-26-6, Previous: 19) – The Pens' remaining games can be broken basically into three segments: four of the next five on the road, eight straight at home and four of five away again to finish. Their long homestand between March 14-April 1 will be critical as Pittsburgh needs to improve on its 17-12-2 home-ice record, the fewest number of home wins among the eight East teams currently in possession of a playoff spot.
12. Florida Panthers (32-23-8, Previous: 12) – The Panthers have to like what remains, only eight of their 19 games are on the road. Florida has been good at home (17-8-5) while break-even as visitors (15-15-3). Florida only has one set of back-to-backs remaining, too.
13. Anaheim Ducks (31-28-5, Previous: 16) – The Ducks have the fewest games remaining, which has been the case for a while and is obviously a disadvantage considering the tenuous nature of an eighth-place standing. Anaheim has four sets of back-to-backs and eight games remain against Pacific opponents, who are 7-8-1 vs. the Ducks.
14. Edmonton Oilers (31-26-5, Previous: 18) – The Oilers have 10 games left to play on the road, but nine of them come in their next 13 contests. Edmonton has just four games left against the Central Division, a good thing since the Oilers are only 6-10 against that group.
15. Buffalo Sabres (31-25-7, Previous: 11) – The Sabres have bigger issues down the stretch (Ryan Miller's injury) than the schedule, but they have five back-to-backs to work through and a relatively non-taxing road schedule with the longest trip featuring just three games.
16. Minnesota Wild (30-26-5, Previous: 13) – The good news here is the Wild will have plenty of opportunity to improve on a subpar road record (12-15-0). But the bad news is if they don't produce more positive results when they play 14 of their final 21 away from St. Paul, they won't be sneaking back into a playoff spot.
17. Carolina Hurricanes (32-27-5, Previous: 14) – You'd figure teams would play division rivals more than others down the stretch, but that's just not true in the Hurricanes' case. Carolina is done with its five remaining games against the Southeast by March 23, in fact. The Hurricanes' fate of making or not making the playoffs might hinge on how they perform against Atlantic teams, against which eight of their games remain.
18. Dallas Stars (29-26-7, Previous: 10) – The Stars are going to have to pick up their play on the road if they want to jump back into the conference's top eight. Dallas plays 12 of its remaining 20 games on foreign ice, and the Stars are just 12-14-3 on the road to date. The trips are manageable – three three-gamers, a two-game trek and an out-and-back to St. Louis. But all the travel is fairly distant, something Dallas has gotten used to being in the Lone Star State.
19. Columbus Blue Jackets (31-26-6, Previous: 17) – The Blue Jackets have a balanced schedule the rest of the way, playing nine times on the road and 10 times at home. What's interesting about the remaining trips is the fact they never go out for more than two games. A dozen games remain against Central rivals, however, and Columbus is just 5-6-1 against that group thus far.
20. St. Louis Blues (28-26-8, Previous: 22) – The Blues have some daunting road travel ahead. They start with a two-game trip to Florida this week. Mid-month features a three-gamer to Western Canada and the real doozy is five straight from March 29-April 7 that starts a stretch of six games away in the final seven to be played.
21. Nashville Predators (31-28-4, Previous: 23) – The Preds are pretty much divided between playing at home (nine) and away (10), but the interesting part comes late when Nashville plays on back-to-back dates three times in its final eight games as it tries to hang in the Western Conference playoff chase.
22. New York Rangers (32-24-8, Previous: 21) – The one thing that stands out here is the Rangers and Flyers meet four more times, and both are home-and-home sets, including the last two games of the regular season.
23. Toronto Maple Leafs (25-26-12, Previous: 29) – The Leafs, who play at home for 11 of their remaining 19 games, have a legitimate chance to finish with a winning record this season, and how many would have guessed that? Just the same, Toronto will miss the postseason for the fourth straight spring, a first for the franchise completing its 92nd season.
24. Los Angeles Kings (26-27-9, Previous: 24) – If it seems like the Kings have been on the road a lot lately, well, they have. But it's not about to end. Los Angeles plays at home only seven more times out of 20 games, and the Kings still have to traverse across the country for stops in Boston, Pittsburgh, Chicago, St. Louis and Nashville, not to mention a three-game western Canada swing in early April.
25. Ottawa Senators (23-28-10, Previous: 26) – Reduced to playing the role of spoiler, the Senators will get plenty of opportunity to ruin someone's season since 17 of Ottawa's final 21 games are against teams ahead of the Sens in the standings.
26. Phoenix Coyotes (27-31-5, Previous: 20) – The Coyotes are facing a real make-or-break trip as their longshot playoff hopes hang in the balance: the next five are on the road in the Eastern time zone over a seven-night period. If they survive that, the Coyotes finish with nine of 14 at home.
27. Atlanta Thrashers (23-34-6, Previous: 28) – The Thrashers have 19 games remaining and none of them are against the Islanders, so that means on every night Atlanta is facing a team that is currently ahead in the overall standings.
28. Tampa Bay Lightning (21-30-12, Previous: 27) – The Lightning haven't given the home folk a lot to cheer about, but a winning record on home ice is within reach. Tampa Bay, 11-12-8 as hosts, have 10 games remaining at home and seven of those are against teams presently in eighth place or lower in either of the conference standings.
29. New York Islanders (20-36-7, Previous: 30) – It's going to be difficult to avoid the overall basement – and really, if they've come this far why would the Isles want to miss out now? – what with a daunting six-game road trip from March 10-21 remaining.
30. Colorado Avalanche (28-35-1, Previous: 25) – With a winning record at home (17-14-0) and a losing mark on the road (11-21-1), the Avs have to be happy about the fact they play only eight of their final 18 on foreign ice. However, all but one of Colorado's remaining games is against teams from the West, and the Avs have a losing record against each of the three divisions.