By Ross McKeon, Yahoo Sports
December 18, 2007
Power rankings are updated every Tuesday.
1. Detroit Red Wings (24-6-3, Previous: 1) – Points in 10 straight games, all but one a victory, and no fewer than 30 shots on goal since the streak started on Nov. 27. Oh, and 6-for-14 on the power play in the last three. After Wednesday's visit by the Kings, maybe season-high stretch of five straight away from home will be a challenge.
2. Ottawa Senators (21-7-3, Previous: 2) – Offense comes alive during five-game winning streak. Of the 26 goals scored, 21 came at even-strength. Team is starting fast – 10 goals in the first period – and finishing fast, too – 12 in third periods.
3. San Jose Sharks (18-10-4, Previous: 3) – All three games before Tuesday's matchup against Anaheim have been decided in the shootout, and Sharks continue to sport league's best road record.
4. Dallas Stars (18-11-4, Previous: 4) – Antti Miettinen has been a pleasant surprise as a fit on the top line alongside Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro since the group lost winger Jere Lehtinen to injury. Miettinen has four goals and eight points since his promotion. "He does do many things so well, he just doesn't finish," coach Dave Tippett said. "If we can get him more opportunities to finish, then that might be the catalyst he needs."
5. New Jersey Devils (18-12-3, Previous: 6) – It's a new building, but hosts continue to own the Flyers when Philadelphia comes calling. Sunday's victory was Devils' 10th straight at home over Philly, which has not won in New Jersey since March of 2004.
6. Montreal Canadiens (16-11-5, Previous: 10) – So much has been made of their struggles to win on home ice – Saturday's regulation victory over Toronto was their first there in eight games (Nov. 17) – that they should be thrilled to start a six-game road trip on Thursday.
7. Boston Bruins (18-11-3, Previous: 8) – Complete a stretch of playing 11 of 13 games on the road from Nov. 17-Dec. 12 with an 8-4-1 record and continue to get stellar goaltending from newcomer Alex Auld. "Guys are true believers now in the system, in this team's identity and in each other," said defenseman Aaron Ward. "You could make excuses: We've got a new goalie coming in, we've got injuries. But we've just maintained a high level of performance."
8. Colorado Avalanche (19-13-1, Previous: 16) – Winners of three straight and four of five, Avs are showing discipline in their play. Opponents have earned as many as five power plays in a game just once in the last nine games.
9. Philadelphia Flyers (16-12-3, Previous: 7) – Do you think the Flyers have forgotten about losing all eight games last season to the Penguins, who did so by a combined score of 42-21? Well, Philly is 3-0 so far against Pittsburgh, and by a combined score of 16-5 along with plenty of barbs being traded back and forth in print.
10. Minnesota Wild (18-12-2, Previous: 12) – Tying a season-high with five goals in Anaheim against the defending Stanley Cup champs of all people, Wild finally snaps goal drought that featured only 18 scored in the previous 10 games and two or fewer in 10 of the last 14.
11. St. Louis Blues (16-12-2, Previous: 14) – Goalie Manny Legace catches management off guard by saying he'll need offseason knee surgery. He continues to play, but it's something to watch the rest of the way.
12. New York Rangers (16-13-3, Previous: 15) – Losing five of six happens to every team, but the fact the last three setbacks have been against Atlanta, Washington and Phoenix is troubling. The Blueshirts would like to think they're superior to these teams, but perhaps this once again points to the across-the-board parity in the league.
13. Carolina Hurricanes (17-14-3, Previous: 13) – With 109 goals allowed in 34 games and only killing off three of every four opponent power plays, it's surprising the 'Canes are a first-place team, and with a fairly comfortable lead no less.
14. Vancouver Canucks (17-12-4, Previous: 5) – Power play needs to wake from its December slumber. It has converted in only two of month's first eight games, and in those which it has failed the unit is a combined 0-for-18.
15. Buffalo Sabres (16-14-1, Previous: 23) – A 3-0 week is coupled with the rather amazing comeback attempt being made by 39-year-old defenseman Teppo Numminen, who had open-heart surgery in the offseason as a second procedure to try and repair a faulty valve. He practiced with the team last week and is awaiting medical clearance to return to action, if that's what he decides he really wants to do.
16. Calgary Flames (16-13-5, Previous: 25) – Start six-game road trip with four straight wins, including a 9-6 triumph in Tampa Bay. That's their first visit since losing Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals when goals were tougher to come by, 2-1. "One of the toughest memories I've had in hockey," captain Jarome Iginla said.
17. Anaheim Ducks (15-15-5, Previous: 11) – Pushed into a corner by having to trade, GM Brian Burke comes out swinging with a deal that not only allows Scott Niedermayer to return, but adds an All-Star forward in Doug Weight to the mix, too. That should help build a needed second scoring line and may boost the power play, too.
18. Pittsburgh Penguins (16-14-2, Previous: 9) – With top goalie Marc-Andre Fleury out for 6-8 weeks with a high-ankle sprain, all eyes will be on journeyman Dany Sabourin to see if he can provide a netminding band-aid.
19. Chicago Blackhawks (15-15-2, Previous: 17) – Team slips back to .500 for the first time since early November, but most encouraging stat is the fact that they're getting approximately 2,200 walk-up customers a night for home games.
20. New York Islanders (15-14-2, Previous: 18) – Team has gone more than a quarter of a season since last scoring four goals in a game. The last time was Nov. 1 during a 4-0 victory at home against Tampa Bay. It's been 22 games, and counting, with three or less.
21. Columbus Blue Jackets (14-12-6, Previous: 20) – Tremendous goaltending – the product of sticking to a defensive system – was taking a lot of attention away from other areas early, but now it's apparent just how much this team depends on Rick Nash and he's hurting a bit. Coach Ken Hitchcock has to be careful how much he pushes his young star forward.
22. Edmonton Oilers (16-16-2, Previous: 27) – They reach .500 with a 3-0 week, but bigger news in Edmonton is that Rexall drug store chain owner Daryl Katz is making a run at purchasing the team. Katz wants a new downtown stadium and is apparently willing to throw $100 million of his own money into the pot. The Oilers sell out regularly, but their capacity of 16,839 is second smallest in the league.
23. Phoenix Coyotes (15-16, Previous: 26) – Not as heralded as Sidney Crosby completing his first tour of the league, Wayne Gretzky has enjoyed wins during his first visit as a coach at New Jersey and inside Madison Square Garden, where he played his last game.
24. Toronto Maple Leafs (14-13-6, Previous: 21) – Be careful what you wish for: Leaf fans were booing Bryan McCabe out of town early on. Now the workhorse defenseman, who has averaged 30 minutes a game the last eight, will be lost for two months after undergoing surgery on his hand to repair three broken bones.
25. Tampa Bay Lightning (14-16-3, Previous: 19) – Porous penalty kill has yielded at least one opponent power-play goal in five straight games, and in all but one of the last 11 matches.
26. Nashville Predators (14-14-2, Previous: 22) – Losers of three straight and five of six, Preds are wondering where the offense has gone – just 10 goals in those six games. Top-liners Martin Erat, Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont produced just two points in those six and now Erat is hurting.
27. Florida Panthers (15-16-2, Previous: 29) – One of the few teams in the Eastern Conference enjoying some success against teams in the West, the Panthers are 3-2-1 during interconference play with victories at Columbus, St. Louis and Chicago, all teams goalie Tomas Vokoun knows pretty well.
28. Washington Capitals (13-18-3, Previous: 28) – Coaching change seems to be having a positive effect. Team has points in all but four of 13 games (7-4-2) since Glen Hanlon got axed in favor of Bruce Boudreau.
29. Atlanta Thrashers (14-17-1, Previous: 24) – Back on the skids with a four-game losing streak as they embark on a three-game homestand. All multi-goal defeats feature the Thrashers getting outshot, and the margin gets wider as the streak grows. Odd, too, since special teams have actually been good during the losing streak: 4-for-16 on the power play and 14-for-15 on the PK.
30. Los Angeles Kings (12-20-2, Previous: 30) – Four losses in a row cap a stretch of 18 in which team is 4-12-2. Where do you go now? Stay the course with the coach? The GM is in only his second year. Point fingers or point to the future and hope it gets better?
Ross McKeon is an NHL editor for Yahoo! Sports. Send Ross a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Tuesday, Dec 18, 2007 3:01 am, EST
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