NHL Power Rankings: Deals on the horizon

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NHL Power Rankings: Deals on the horizon

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

The trades are coming. The trades are coming.

Brian Burke was able to jump out in front of the curve and ship Kris Versteeg to Philadelphia for a pair of valuable draft picks in the first and third rounds, respectively. Versteeg gives the Flyers that one final skilled winger with a contract signed for the next couple of seasons, but a guy that also wasnt quite a good fit for the Leafs during the current Ron Wilson reign of terror.

While Flyers GM Paul Holmgren was able to pluck the former Bruins draft pick off the trade market, there is still plenty of wheeling and dealing to be made and plenty of draft picks and player assets ready to pushed up to the bargaining table.

The Bruins are on record that theyll make a move before the Feb. 28 trade deadline, but theyd better step up the urgency with all kinds of teams looking for the same players to fit their needs. Peter Chiarellis performance at the deadline could be the real make-or-break moment for a franchise that seems headed for bigger and better things.

Without further ado, here are this weeks power rankings:

1. Philadelphia Flyers (36-14-5, last week: 2) The rich get richer with their trade for Kris Versteeg, and look even deeper, more skilled and more ready to battle through the Eastern Conference in the playoffs.

2. Vancouver Canucks (36-12-9, last week: 1) The Canucks have now lost defensemen Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard and Alex Edler to injuries over the last couple of weeks. Theres only so long they can withstand those kinds of blueline issues.

3. Detroit Red Wings (34-16-6, last week: 5) The Wings had been in a mini-funk, but snapped out of it while outscoring the Bruins by a 10-3 margin over the weekend. They look like a team simply waiting for the playoffs.

4. Tampa Bay Lightning (34-17-5, last week: 4) Guess they brushed off that Buffalo disaster just fine. Dont think Ill ever be describing Dwayne Roloson as unflappable after watching that display.

5. Anaheim Ducks (32-21-4, last week: 11) The Ducks have won 14 of their last 18 games, and recovered nicely from a disastrous start to their season. Now they have Ryan Getzlaf back, which only makes things . . . well . . . duckier for Anaheim.

6. Pittsburgh Penguins (35-19-4, last week: 3) Life stinks without Crosby and Malkin, and now even lowly teams like the Isles are thinking that its open season on Pittsburgh.
7. Boston Bruins (31-18-7, last week: 6) The Bs looked like theyd really gotten comfortable with their Big, Bad identity, and then the Red Wings slapped them back into reality.

8. Phoenix Coyotes (30-19-9, last week: 12) The Coyotes have won five in a row and register as the hottest team in the NHL while notching their 500th organization win since moving to Arizona.

9. Dallas Stars (31-19-6, last week: 14) The Stars have dropped seven of their last nine games, and have looked like a beaten team since Boston beat them up in the schoolyard.

10. Montreal Canadiens (31-20-6, last week: 9) Kim Wilde would love Montreal because they just keep on hangin on. The Habs have shown a lot of resiliency, but are way too easy to push around.

11. Washington Capitals (29-18-10, last week: 7) The Caps lost a lifeless game to the Kings last weekend, held a players' only meeting and head out for a five-game road trip. Time for Alex Ovechkin to start carrying this bunch.

12. Nashville Predators (30-19-7, last week: 11) Only in Nashville would the headlines all ready Carrie Underwoods husband traded to the Predators. Good luck with the whole Mr. Underwood thing, Mike.

13. Minnesota Wild (30-20-5, last week: 13) The Wild are tied for the league lead with 13 wins since Jan. 2, and have been one of the NHLs hottest teams as of late. Still not buying the playoffs for them, though.

14. San Jose Sharks (30-21-6, last week: 8) The Sharks have managed to stay with the pack during a seven-game road trip, and thats no small feat. Looks like they're priming the pump for their big stretch run.

15. Los Angeles Kings (31-22-3, last week: 14) The Kings took down the Capitals and Flyers, and havent lost in regulation since Jan. 20. They could climb quickly in the ranks with Jonathan Quick really shouldering the load.

16. New York Rangers (30-24-4, last week: 17) The Rangers beat up on the Penguins last weekend, and have an amazing knack to simply hang around a playoff spot.

17. Calgary Flames (28-22-8, last week: 15) The Flames have cooled off, but have the years signature event in Canada with the Heritage Classic against Montreal on Sunday.

18. Chicago Blackhawks (28-22-6, last week: 18) The Blackhawks went 2-2-2 on a pivotal six-game road trip that just concluded. Not exactly a show of fiery playoff passion, but Chicago can still do some damage in the West if given the chance.

19. Carolina Hurricanes (27-22-8, last week: 19) The 'Canes need to once and for all decide if they want to be a handful in the playoffs, or simply another fringe NHL team stuck in neutral.
20. Columbus Blue Jackets (28-23-5, last week: 24) Rick Nash and Steve Mason have masterminded a furious comeback for the B.J.s in the wake of a sluggish first half.

21. Atlanta Thrashers (25-23-10, last week: 22) The Thrashers look like they might not make it, and thats too bad given the coaching job Craig Ramsay has done with Atlanta this year. Depth and youth are big issues.

22. St. Louis Blues (25-21-9, last week: 23) Jaroslav Halak didnt help the team in a pair of games against the Wild, and has slumped in his first season with St. Louis.
23. Colorado Avalanche (25-25-6, last week: 20) The Avs have lost 9 out of 10 games, and Peter Forsberg pulled the plug on a comeback two games into it. This clearly isnt the peak moment this season for Foppa or the Avalanche.

24. Buffalo Sabres (26-22-6, last week: 24) Ryan Miller has started 31 straight games for the Sabres in their desperate attempt to sneak into the playoffs, and it appears that the fatigue is getting to him.

25. New Jersey Devils (22-30-4, last week: 23) Ilya Kovalchuk is finally doing it all for New Jersey, and has nine goals while the Devils have gone 12-1-2 over the last 15 games.
26. Florida Panthers (24-24-7, last week: 27) Florida is sniffing around the playoffs, but they arent in the litter box plans for the Panthers.

27. Toronto Maple Leafs (23-27-6, last week: 26) GM Brian Burke will maintain that the Leafs are trying for the playoffs, but the mass Toronto exodus via trades would suggest otherwise. Kris Versteeg just wasnt going to ever cut it in Toronto.
28. Ottawa Senators (18-30-8, last week: 28) Jason Spezza is untouchable for the Senators. Everyone else? Very touchable.
29. New York Islanders (20-29-7, last week: 29) Leave it to the Islanders and guys like Mark Martin and Trevor Gillies to sully the leagues image.
30. Edmonton Oilers (15-29-8, last week: 30) The Oilers are young, but really arent doing much to impress anybody as they play out the string and get ready for another high lottery pick.

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

Czarnik 'playing bigger' while looking to secure job with Bruins

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Czarnik 'playing bigger' while looking to secure job with Bruins

It’s not difficult to see why Austin Czarnik might have been a little overlooked headed into this Bruins training camp when forecasting favorites among the forwards to win a roster spot on the big club. After all he’s only 5-foot-9 and 167-pounds coming off just one very solid season at the AHL level for the Providence Bruins, and there are bigger, stronger forwards candidates that maybe rank a bit higher on the prospect list than him.

But the 23-year-old Czarnik put together an excellent training camp last fall before finishing with 20 goals and 61 points for the P-Bruins last season, and now he’s doing the exact same thing again this time around.

“Yeah, I feel more comfortable. I think we could have been a lot better in a lot of areas. Overall I think everyone is just happy to be back on the ice,” said Czarnik, who along with Frank Vatrano was one of the real starts of camp last season. “You know that type of mentality and you know mistakes are going to happen, and you’ve just got to move forward from it so everyone’s happy to be back.”

The former Miami University star is clearly happy to be back, and it’s showing on the ice with each chance he gets to show his tenacity, withering fore-check and his willingness to crash the net despite his smallish stature.

Czarnik was one of the most dangerous forwards on the ice for the Black and Gold in their preseason opener, and collected a key assist on Boston’s first goal of the game when he pushed a puck through the neutral zone before setting up on odd man rush for Jimmy Hayes and Jake DeBrusk.

This time around Czarnik scored the game’s only goal on a nifty rush during four-on-four play through the offensive zone by Ryan Spooner, who drew in the defense and dished to Czarnik for a wide open tap-in chance.

So it’s a couple of big plays in each of the first two preseason games that led to goals, and a genuinely excellent level of play throughout both contests. It’s something the Bruins coaching staff has taken note of along with his skating speed and hardnosed mentality, and now they have to figure if it fits in with their other NHL pieces.

“We were just talking about it. Everybody has that same feeling. He’s playing well. He moves well. He’s on the puck. He competes, and that’s the thing you’re looking for really,” said Bruins assistant coach Joe Sacco. “Like right now, we know there’s going to be mistakes made by a lot of our players, especially the younger ones.

“We’re looking to see who’s got that competitive, you know, that competitive fire. [We’re looking for] who’s going to go out there and who can compete at a high level. I know he’s not big in stature, but he plays bigger than he is. He’s had two pretty good games so far.”

Czarnik had a couple of good games early in B’s camp last year before flat-lining a bit at the end when the NHL jobs were seriously on the line, and the 23-year-old wants that story to change endings this time around. It remains to be seen where he’s going to fit as yet another center among Boston’s group of training camp players this month, but Czarnik might just force the Bruins to make a tough decision if he keeps playing at his current high level.   

Talking Points: Veteran Red Wings torch Bruins

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Talking Points: Veteran Red Wings torch Bruins

GOLD STAR: Take your pick: Steve Ott, Drew Miller and Luke Glendening torched the Bruins with veteran savvy and toughness against a very young defensemen unit trying to survive in the second preseason game. Ott and Glendening each scored a goal and finished with three points, and Miller finished with a goal and two points while all three forwards had a plus-3 rating for the night. All of their goals came off winning battles, crashing the net and taking advantage of defensive miscues. The goals provided a good lesson to the young kids that have a ways to go before they’re NHL ready at this point in their careers. It certainly must have been a kick to the stones to many Bruins fans when “Brave” Steve Ott was named the No. 1 Star of the game after it was all over, but that was certainly appropriate.

BLACK EYE: Adam McQuaid was the most experienced defensemen out on the ice for the Bruins on Wednesday night, and it was a rough night for him with so many young guys around him on the back end. McQuaid finished a minus-2 in 17:41 with a couple of hits and got a little better as the game was going on, but was on ice for two of the first three goals allowed to Detroit in a really lackluster middle section of the game. In general, it was about more than just one player, though. There were blown assignments in the D-zone and some really noticeable lost battles leading to scoring chances for a Red Wings group that aggressively took it to the Bruins. This is a game that will leave the Bruins coaches with plenty of video material moving forward.

TURNING POINT: The real slippage came early in the game when the Bruins failed to score on some good power play chances for Peter Mueller and Matt Beleskey, and then allowed two goals within 19 seconds of each other in the first period. The first goal was a PP one for the Red Wings with Ryan Spooner whistled for a face-off infraction, and the second was simply the Bruins falling asleep at the wheel just seconds after the first goal was scored. Lost battles led to a bang-bang play in front with Steve Ott scoring as Malcolm Subban was turned around looking for the puck, and the B’s were reeling headed into the first intermission. Only a Subban shoulder save kept it from being 3-0 at the end of the first, and that was something the B’s never seemed to rebound from.

HONORABLE MENTION: Austin Czarnik scored the B’s only goal off a nice play from Ryan Spooner driving toward the net, and continues to put together another strong training camp after doing the same thing last season. Czarnik finished with the goal, three shots on net and six shot attempts in 17:38 of ice time, and battled back from a rough start to go 6-for-12 in the face-off circle while centering an extremely young line with Sean Kuraly and Zach Senyshyn. While Czarnik might not have been a big name when talking about an open roster spot with the Bruins a couple of weeks ago, he’s pushed toward making himself a part the conversation with his heart-filled, high effort energetic performances for the Black and Gold.

BY THE NUMBERS: 4-for-16 was the final tally for Ryan Spooner in the face-off circle as he continues to be a work-in-progress on the draw.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Maybe I was a little bit shocked first going out there. The speed of the game is noticeably faster, but I think as time went on I got more comfortable out there. Hopefully I can build off that moving forward.” – Bruins rookie D-man Matt Grzelcyk on his first NHL preseason game being a bit of a big wakeup call.