NHL Power Rankings: All-Star break roll call

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NHL Power Rankings: All-Star break roll call

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

The All-Star break is normally a time to take stock of the landscape around the NHL, and its pretty clear how things are breaking down. With slightly more than 30 games remaining for every team, the Eastern Conference is close to locked in while there are still plenty of questions out in the West.

The Carolina Hurricanes look like the only team that can potentially break into the top eight and catch an invite to the Stanley Cup dance with a strong second half and thats been Carolinas calling card for the last few seasons. So dont doubt their ability to do so.

In the West, both the San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks are loitering around the playoff bubble and havent shown any inclination to grab a spot. Its time for those two talented units to provide a finishing kick down the stretch run, or possibly find themselves watching from the outside when things matter most.

Without further ado, here are this weeks power rankings:
1. Philadelphia Flyers (33-12-5, last week: 1) The Flyers have not held the top spot in the NHL standings this late into the season since the 1984-85 campaign. Pretty sure everybody on the team aside from Chris Pronger doesnt remember any of that.

2. Vancouver Canucks (31-10-9, last week: 2) The Canucks went into the All-Star break smoking hot, but theyve also lost top defenseman Alex Edler for the next two months to injury. Hard times could be ahead, and the Canucks will be looking for blueline help.

3. Detroit Red Wings (30-13-6, last week: 4) Here come Pavel Datsyuk, Daniel Cleary and Tomas Holmstrom from injury. Here come the Red Wings right back to the top, even if the Islanders were able to keep Evgeni Nabokov away from them.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins (31-15-4, last week: 6) The Penguins have turned into the NHLs best defensegoaltending team outside of the Bruins, and Sidney Crosby is skating again. Things are looking up for the Pens.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning (31-15-5, last week: 5) Tampa Bay unveiled its new sweaters on Monday, and they make me want to say the word Shazam for some reason. Maybe its because of the Guardian Project.

6. Dallas Stars (30-15-5, last week: 6) Its not you, Dallas. Its me. No matter what I do, I cant take you seriously as an NHL contender. Maybe I should start seeing other teams

7. Boston Bruins (28-15-7, last week: 7) Its time for Tyler Seguin to start stepping up and filling in while Marc Savard is on the sidelines. The training wheels are off at this point.
8. Washington Capitals (27-15-9, last week: 9) There is no good reason for the Capitals to sit 19th in the NHL in power-play effectiveness. Alex Ovechkin and Co. need to wake up for the most important stretch of the season.
9. Nashville Predators (27-14-8, last week: 8) The Predators have 21 of their remaining 32 games in the Music City, and that should put Barry Trotz into the playoffs with his team once again. The Preds truly are a small-market marvel.
10. Montreal Canadiens (27-18-5, last week: 10) The loss of Josh Gorges and Andrei Markov leave the Habs as a marginal playoff team despite plenty of talent at other positions. Where would they be without the deal for James Wisniewski?

11. Anaheim Ducks (28-20-4, last week: 13) Cam Fowler leads all rookie defensemen with 26 points at the All-Star break. Hed look pretty good in a Bruins uniform, wouldnt he?

12. New York Rangers (29-20-3, last week: 14) Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi and Vinny Prospal look like theyll all be making a return to the Rangers fold in short order. Time for the Blueshirts to go on a run.
13. Phoenix Coyotes (25-17-9, last week: 11) The Coyotes have been inconsistent all season, but it bodes well for them that Kyle Turris is finally looking like hes going to be somebody NHL-wise.
14. San Jose Sharks (25-19-6, last week: 15) The Sharks were on a 4-0-1 run headed into the All-Star break and find themselves clinging to the eighth spot in the Western Conference. Put up or shut up time for a bunch of skaters that have been vastly overrated the last few years.

15. Chicago Blackhawks (26-20-4, last week: 12) Fifty games in and the Blackhawks still have no real idea of who they are this season. Its beginning to look like they miss Dustin Byfuglien more than they thought. The lack of Buff appeal will really show up come playoff time.

16. Colorado Avalanche (25-19-6, last week: 16) The Avs are the fourth-best offense in the NHL, but theyre allowing more goals than theyre scoring. Thats a problem.

17. Minnesota Wild (25-19-5, 17) Martin Havlat finally woke up, and the Wild have hopped into the playoff picture. This is not a coincidence.
18. Los Angeles Kings (27-22-1, last week: 21) The Kings play 10 straight games on the road to start their All-Star break, and wont play another home game until Feb. 24. This could be where the dream dies if they cant keep it together.

19. Atlanta Thrashers (24-19-9, last week: 18) Life without Toby Enstrom is going to be really challenging coming out of the All-Star break for the Thrashers.
20. Carolina Hurricanes (25-19-6, last week: 20) The Hurricanes are the most dangerous second half team in the Eastern Conference, and doubly so with a young talent like Jeff Skinner there. My prediction: theyll be one of the eight playoff teams.

21. Calgary Flames (24-21-6, last week: 22) The Flames are 10-3-3 since just before Christmas and appear to have played themselves back into things. Still need a strong stretch run for Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen to become a bona fide success story.
22. Buffalo Sabres (23-21-5, last week: 23) The pending approval of Terry Pegulas ownership bid for the Sabres appears to be a done deal. That should mean very good things for Buffalo, and a legit opponent for the Bruins in the Northeast Division for the future.

23. Columbus Blue Jackets (23-21-5, last week: 24) Looks like things arent working out for Columbus GM Scott Howson. Perhaps he should have made a move or two last summer to improve things?

24. St. Louis Blues (22-20-7, last week: 19) The Blues looked great early on, but it looks like injuries are going to be the ultimate downfall of a talented young team. Too bad.

25. Florida Panthers (22-22-5, last week: 24) All those interested in goaltending, please step to the right to start the bidding for Tomas Vokoun.

26. Toronto Maple Leafs (19-25-5, last week: 26) Loved how Brian Burke came to the defense of Phil Kessel like a parent chastising the bullies in the schoolyard. Pretty sure that just made it worse.

27. New Jersey Devils (16-30-3, last week: 27) Where on earth were these Devils to start the season? Their alarm clocks went off about three months too late

28. Ottawa Senators (17-25-8, last week: 30) The Senators are 9-14-4 at Scotiabank Place and in danger of putting together their worst home record since moving into the building in 1996. A housecleaning is coming.

29. New York Islanders (15-27-7, last week: 29) The Isles resigned Matt Moulson, so theyve got that going for them. Which is nice.

30. Edmonton Oilers (15-26-8, last week: 28) A lot of young, raw talent on the Oil, but they need some other pieces to get things headed in the right direction. Way too raw right now.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Friday, Dec. 2: Toews vs. Matthews

Friday, Dec. 2: Toews vs. Matthews

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading, while everybody in New England is in mourning over the latest Gronk booboo. 

*A pretty neat sharpshooting video with Jonathan Toews and that young whippersnapper Auston Matthews squaring off against each other. 

*Craig Custance looks a little deeper into the situation with the Florida Panthers and how things are stabilizing after the rough firing of Gerard Gallant last week. 

*Now. let’s get to the real important stuff: the San Jose Sharks website has put together their Movember rankings for the player’s mustaches. 

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Bruce Garrioch says that the plans for an outdoor game in Ottawa are again back on the NHL’s agenda. 

*Erik Erlendsson has put together a “Lightning Insider” website where you can find all the latest news about the Tampa Bay franchise. Check it out. 

*As guys such as Anton Khudobin prove when they’re thrust into the starting spot, backup goalies matter in today’s NHL. 

*For something completely different: a mash-up of Kylo Ren and “Girls” from the mad mind of Adam Driver is exactly just that. 

 

Chara ‘feels better’ as he closes in on return, but won’t play in Buffalo

Chara ‘feels better’ as he closes in on return, but won’t play in Buffalo

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Zdeno Chara said he is “feeling better” after going through a full practice with the Bruins, but the captain won’t be making the one game road trip to Buffalo for Saturday afternoon’s matinee game vs. the Sabres. 

Chara was going through line rushes and battle drills with the rest of his teammates while practicing for the second day in a row, but made it clear that his lower body injury hasn’t been cleared for game action yet. 

“It’s day-to-day. It feels better…yeah. But it’s still day-to-day,” said a rather laconic Chara when it came to questions about his injury. “It would feel much better [to play] than it feels [not playing].”

Claude Julien said his 39-year-old defenseman has moved into true “day-to-day” status as he nears a return after missing what will be his sixth game in a row on Saturday afternoon, but that he isn’t quite ready to go just yet.

“[Chara] and [Noel] Acciari won’t be on the trip,” said Julien. “I think [Chara] is getting pretty close. When you see him at practice things are going pretty well for him. I think that the term day-to-day is fitting for him right now. A lot of times when we say day-to-day we don’t know whether it’s going to be two days, three days or even a week. But in his case I would say that day-to-day is really day-to-day now with him.” 

One thing the Bruins can be heartened by is that they’ve managed to survive without Chara: the B’s have gone 2-2-1 and allowed just nine goals in the five games since their No. 1 defenseman went down. They have been able to continue collecting points in sometimes ugly, workmanlike fashion. 

That gives the Bruins the luxury of not rushing their D-man along before he’s ready and gives some of their other defensemen added confidence that they can effectively do the job with or without their 6-foot-9 stopper.