That didn't take long.
After briefly slipping a spot in the Power Rankings, a dominant week returns Ottawa to the position it occupied when the puck dropped in October. In fact, 1-2 remains intact from that original list.
The biggest surprise of the first half was Carolina, shooting up to seven from its season-opening placement at No. 20. Disappointment? No surprise there, as Boston turns the calendar at No. 24 after starting the season in the top-5.
(Records and rankings through Thursday, December 29.)
1. Ottawa Senators (26-6-3; Previous: 2) – Didn't take long for the Sens to reassert themselves as the most dominant team in the NHL. Three games, three wins and a 16-6 goal differential – all without top-line center Jason Spezza in the lineup – highlighted the week. Bryan Smolinski has filled in admirably for Spezza, recording five points and a plus-5 rating in three games.
2. Philadelphia Flyers (24-8-5; Previous: 6) – Ken Hitchcock needs to work on his scare tactics. The Flyers' coach has been less than thrilled with the 5-on-5 play of his top line, so he broke the unit up Wednesday. The separation lasted less than three minutes. Simon Gagne, Mike Knuble and Peter Forsberg reunited for a goal at 2:55, and Knuble would later call the lineup change "kind of comical."
3. Buffalo Sabres (25-11-2; Previous: 3) – The Sabres had been on the winning side of their last 10 one-goal decisions before Thursday's shootout loss at Toronto. It was just their second defeat in eight December road games. Buffalo begins a season-long six-game homestand Friday.
4. Detroit Red Wings (25-9-3; Previous: 5) – The Red Wings got an endorsement from their closest pursuers Tuesday. "They're the top team in the Western Conference," Dallas coach Dave Tippett said. They sure are when they visit Texas. Tuesday's 4-1 win was Detroit's 10th in its last 11 games at Dallas.
5. Dallas Stars (24-11-1; Previous: 1) – Call it the Curse of Turin. Since Team Canada rosters were announced Dec. 21, Marty Turco has lost two of three. He's not the only Olympic-bound goalie to suffer. Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo are a combined 3-5 since the announcement, and on the U.S. side Rick DiPietro has allowed 18 goals in four games, Robert Esche is hurt and John Grahame has been demoted.
6. Nashville Predators (24-8-3; Previous: 9) – Nashville still doesn't get much respect, but the Preds own the NHL's best home record at 16-3 and they are just two points from the top of the Western Conference with two fewer games played than Detroit.
7. Carolina Hurricanes (23-10-4; Previous: 4) – Goalie Cam Ward made his first start since Dec. 3 Thursday. He didn't win, but he earned a point for Carolina with 36 saves against the Flyers. Eric Staal hasn't gone three games without a goal since mid-October. He'll take a two-game goalless streak into Saturday's game.
8. Vancouver Canucks (21-11-5; Previous: 7) – Vancouver dropped five straight one-goal games at home before edging Nashville by the same margin Wednesday. The Canucks have been so-so away from home, posting a 7-8-2 record. With 14 of their next 18 on the road, they'll have to improve that play to avoid a January free fall.
9. Calgary Flames (22-11-4; Previous: 11) – Jarome Iginla has only four goals and five assists in his past 18 games, prompting What's wrong with Iginla? headlines in Calgary. He even temporarily lost his post on Calgary's No. 1 power-play unit to Marcus Nilson. Their captain's struggles aside, the Flames have won three of four, including a sweep of the Canucks in a two-game series.
10. Los Angeles Kings (24-14-2; Previous: 12) – The Kings have an NHL-best five hat tricks on the season. Derek Armstrong got the latest Thursday, joining Craig Conroy, Lubomir Visnovsky, Pavol Demitra and Alexander Frolov as Kings to find the net three times in one game. Speaking of scoring in bunches, Michael Cammalleri has eight goals in 10 games.
11. Edmonton Oilers (21-13-4; Previous: 10) – Ty Conklin has started three straight for the Oilers, but he's been very average. Edmonton needs to get better in goal to be considered serious contenders in the West.
12. New York Rangers (22-12-4; Previous: 8) – Center Michael Nylander has five points in two games since his benching on Dec. 22. New York's top line combined for 12 points in Wednesday's dismantling of the Islanders.
13. Toronto Maple Leafs (21-14-3; Previous: 17) – Since our last update, Toronto took down Boston, New Jersey, Pittsburgh and Buffalo. Not bad for a team missing five regulars due to injury.
14. Montreal Canadiens (18-11-6; Previous: 15) – After beating Ottawa, the Canadiens slipped against Washington and Atlanta. Heck, Montreal has been losing to everyone on the road. Wednesday's win at Tampa Bay snapped a nine-game losing skid away from home.
15. Phoenix Coyotes (20-17-2; Previous: 20) – The Coyotes have won four of five, including both games since coach Wayne Gretzky returned to the bench. Shane Doan is riding a hot streak. After a lackluster two months, Doan has five goals and 10 points in his last six games.
16. Atlanta Thrashers (16-16-6; Previous: 21) – Goalie Kari Lehtonen returns to the Atlanta lineup Friday. Nobody is all that confident that he can stay healthy, but nobody is all that worried about it anymore. Michael Garnett has been solid, and the Thrashers have earned points in each of his last nine starts.
17. Tampa Bay Lightning (19-16-3); Previous 14) – Coach John Tortorella now says he regrets pinning all the blame for Wednesday's loss on goalie John Grahame during his post-game tirade. That doesn't change the fact that he's starting Sean Burke Friday.
18. San Jose Sharks (15-16-5; Previous: 13) – San Jose has suffered without two of its top defensemen. First Kyle McLaren had knee surgery, then Tom Preissing was sidelined by the flu. The Sharks have allowed nine goals in two games.
19. Colorado Avalanche (19-16-3; Previous: 16) – Coach Joel Quenneville yanked his goalie for the second straight game – and fifth time this season – in Wednesday's loss. David Aebischer and Peter Budaj are left to compete for the No. 1 job here after Vitaly Kolesnik was returned to the AHL.
20. Minnesota Wild (17-17-4; Previous: 22) – Minnesota continues to lead the NHL in penalty killing with a success rate just shy of 90 percent. It helps that they have taken the second-fewest penalties in the West.
21. New York Islanders (17-14-2; Previous: 18) – Goalie Rick DiPietro has allowed fewer than four goals only once in his last six starts.
22. Anaheim Mighty Ducks (16-15-6; Previous: 19) – The Mighty Ducks could manage only one goal Wednesday. Unfortunately, Teemu Selanne scored it on his own net. The own-goal prevented Anaheim from heading into overtime tied 0-0 for the second time this season.
23. Florida Panthers (14-20-5; Previous: 23) – Newly formed, the Gary Roberts-Chris Gratton-Olli Jokinen line has been sizzling. The trio has combined for eight goals and nine assists in Florida's last three games.
24. Boston Bruins (13-18-6; Previous: 24) – Defenseman Brad Stuart has impressed coach Mike Sullivan. Acquired in the Joe Thornton trade, Stuart matched his career-high with three assists Wednesday. He has two goals and three assists in his last four games.
25. Washington Capitals (12-20-3; Previous: 27) – The right side of the Alexander Ovechkin line hasn't provided much punch. Coach Glen Hanlon is making a change. According to the Washington Post, Chris Clark will join the top line. The Caps are also shuffling their defense pairings.
26. New Jersey Devils (16-17-5; Previous: 25) – After beating Washington, the Devils had a great chance to string together wins for the first time since late November. The result: a crushing 6-2 defeat at the hands of the lowly Penguins. New Jersey's power play has been slightly better since breaking out of a 4-for-100 slump.
27. Columbus Blue Jackets (9-24-1; Previous: 28) – Slowly, the Blue Jackets are getting healthy. Rick Nash has played six straight and defenseman Rostislav Klesla has three points in five games after missing six weeks.
28. St. Louis Blues (9-22-4; Previous: 29) – Despite drawing the fifth-most power play opportunities in the league, the Blues have more power play goals than only five teams.
29. Chicago Blackhawks (13-19-4; Previous: 26) – Not a great week for the Blackhawks, who lost to St. Louis and Columbus in battles of the Power Rankings' worst. Chicago is the most penalized team in the NHL. According to the Chicago Tribune, a fan was overhead screaming "Bring back obstruction!" after yet another Chicago penalty Wednesday.
30. Pittsburgh Penguins (9-19-8; Previous: 30) – Pittsburgh recalled three more players from Wilkes-Barre Thursday, meaning the Penguins' 23-man roster now includes eight players who have spent time in the AHL this season.