NHL Power Rankings: Wide open East

197882.jpg

NHL Power Rankings: Wide open East

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

Injuries continue to wreak havoc with the power rankings.

Sidney Crosby has been out more than a month while the Penguins have treaded water, but now they've lost another of their stars (Evgeni Malkin), and this time for the entire season. The Bruins, too, will be without one of their top players (Marc Savard) for the rest of the year.

One thing is certain, though: With injuries in Pittsburgh and goaltending questions in both Philly and Washington, the East is wide open for the Bruins if they can get their act together.

1. Vancouver Canucks (34-10-9, last week: 2) The Canucks are riding a five-game winning streak, theyre owners of the tightest defense in the Western Conference as Ryan Kesler has taken it to a different level this season. The Canucks are for real.
2. Philadelphia Flyers (35-13-5, last week: 1) The Flyers are setting the pace in the East and enjoy the best depth in the NHL, but it should tell you something that theyre fooling around with signing Ray Emery.

3. Pittsburgh Penguins (34-16-6, last week: 4) Evgeni Malkin is done for the season with a knee injury and word on the street is that Sidney Crosby might not be back until March. Somehow the Pens keep on winning, but they cant go on like this forever without their two big guns.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning (33-16-5, last week: 5) Marc-Andre Bergeron steps into the Tampa lineup as a power-play specialist defenseman and notches two assists in his first game. Its really starting to look like their year, isnt it?
5. Detroit Red Wings (32-15-6, last week: 5) The Wings hit a skid as soon as Pavel Datsyuk returned to the lineup, and you cant make this stuff up. That should be a temporary phase for the Winged Wheels.

6. Boston Bruins (30-16-7, last week: 7) Its going to be difficult without Marc Savard, but the Bruins have found a way without him before. Theyll be able to do it again and have become much more consistent in the last month.
7. Washington Capitals (29-15-10, last week: 7) The Caps did a good job of weathering the storm against the Penguins last weekend, and dodged a bullet when hatchet man Matt Cooke couldnt quite take out Alex Ovechkin with a knee-on-knee hit.

8. San Jose Sharks (28-19-6, last week: 14) The Sharks have gone 7-0-1 in their last eight games and Logan Couture looks like hes Calder Trophy worthy this season. San Jose is finally making its move.
9. Montreal Canadiens (30-19-5, last week: 10) The Habs arent lighting anybodys world on fire, but theyve got a big Northeast Division showdown in Boston on Wednesday.

10. Nashville Predators (28-19-7, last week: 9) The Preds scored a big win over the Red Wings, and Sergei Kostitsyn has posted career highs in goals and points for Nashville. They continue to keep pace as a playoff team.
11. Anaheim Ducks (29-21-4, last week: 11) It looks like Jonas Hiller is hitting a wall as he had to be pulled from a loss to San Jose with fatigue and lightheadedness. Thats not good for the Ducks.

12. Phoenix Coyotes (27-19-9, last week: 13) The Desert Dogs have been stuck in neutral for a bit, but it looks like Ilya Bryzgalov is about to heat up between the pipes.

13. Dallas Stars (30-18-5, last week: 11) It may take the Stars to recover from the epic butt-kicking suffered at the hands of the Bruins that saw both Adam Burish and Krystofer Barch go down with fractured orbital bones in hockey fights.

14. Los Angeles Kings (29-22-2, last week: 18) Kings captain Dustin Brown is donating 50 to Childrens Hospital Los Angeles for every registered hit he records this season. Thats a pretty cool gesture from a pretty gritty forward.

15. Calgary Flames (27-21-7, last week: 21) The Flames have done an amazing job of climbing from 14th in the Western Conference all the way to a playoff position out West. Its amazing what happens when theres a Sutter surgically removed from the organization.

16. New York Rangers (29-23-4, last week: 12) The Rangers problems in a nutshell: Chris Drury is a fourth-line forward and penalty killer and he was a 7 million cap hit.17. Minnesota Wild (27-20-5, 17) I have nothing interesting or pithy to write about the Wild. I take that as a poor reflection on their team.

18. Carolina Hurricanes (26-21-6, last week: 20) If I had a nickel for every time I heard that Jeff Skinner was the NHLs version of Justin Beiber during All-Star weekend, Id be a rich man.

19. Chicago Blackhawks (27-22-4, last week: 15) The Blackhawks are on the outside looking in with 30 games left to go in the season. Time for Chicago to wake up as San Jose has done recently.
20. Colorado Avalanche (25-21-6, last week: 16) Perhaps Peter Forsberg can do something to rescue the Avs from their doldrums, but it appears their defense is the big bugaboo.

21. Atlanta Thrashers (24-22-10, last week: 22) The Thrashers have two wins in their last 10 games, and have dropped out of the Eastern playoff race for now.

22. St. Louis Blues (23-20-8, last week: 23) The Blues are 7-12-5 on the road this season, which makes then the worst road team in the NHL.

23. Buffalo Sabres (24-22-5, last week: 22) Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff are both in trouble with new ownership arriving in Buffalo. A good, old-fashioned housecleaning may be coming for Buff.
24. Columbus Blue Jackets (25-22-5, last week: 23) The B.J.s are 5-2-2 in their last nine games, and are giving GM Scott Howson some food for thought with the trade deadline approaching.

25. New Jersey Devils (19-30-4, last week: 27) The winning streak for the Devils is fools gold, but the Martin Brodeur knee injury certainly wouldnt seem to hurt them very much.

26. Florida Panthers (23-23-6, last week: 25) Tell me again why Dennis Wideman is the only Panthers defenseman with a negative plusminus rating?

27. Toronto Maple Leafs (21-26-5, last week: 27) Claude Julien must be rolling his eyes at all of the Phil Kessel complaints being aired about Ron Wilson these days.

28. Ottawa Senators (17-28-8, last week: 30) The Sens have been horrible, but small consolation is that Jason Spezza is back after missing 15 games.

29. New York Islanders (17-28-7, last week: 29) Rick DiPietro should probably quit trying to be the tough-guy goalie for a while after Brent Johnson broke his face with one punch.
30. Edmonton Oilers (15-29-8, last week: 30) One win in 10 games means the great fade has begun in Edmonton, and the spare parts should be flying fast and furious sooner rather than later.

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

Rask: Last season 'something to rebound from' personally

bruins_tuukka_rask_110315.jpg

Rask: Last season 'something to rebound from' personally

BRIGHTON, Mass. – While David Pastrnak, Tuukka Rask and David Backes are back from competing in the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto, that doesn’t mean you’ll see those players on the ice over the next couple of days. Perhaps the trio will practice on Monday in the fourth on-ice session at main training camp, but Bruins GM Don Sweeney confirmed that none of those returning players will suit up against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the B’s preseason debut at TD Garden on Monday night.

“Yeah…absolutely,” said Sweeney when asked if those three players have been ruled out for Monday night. “They’re going to get through the weekend here. Next week, we’ll evaluate [them] when they get on the ice. But, all those guys will not be on the ice until next week.

“It might be case-by-case for each guy. Those guys have been playing for a while at a high level. It’s unique for David Backes coming into the organization, so he’d like to integrate himself. I talked yesterday with all three of them just to get a read of where they’re at. But, sometime first of next week, they’ll be on [the ice].”

Both Pastrnak and Rask have checked in with the Bruins media over the last couple of days after returning from Toronto, and the Bruins goaltender, in particular, has plenty of motivation coming off a down statistical season. The 2.56 goals against average and .915 save percentage were well below his career numbers, and people like B’s President Cam Neely have pointed to Rask as somebody that needs to have a better season for Boston to rebound back into the playoffs this year.

“There were a couple of years where the standards pretty high, so obviously when they go down there’s something to rebound from. You kind of know where you can be. That’s where I try to be every year and I’m working on being there this year, and taking us to the playoffs and moving forward,” said Rask. “But every year is a new year where you’ve got to work hard, and set your goals to be at your best. More often than not you hope [being at your best] is going to happen, and I hope this year is going to be a great year for us.”

Clearly Rask wasn’t alone in his struggles last season behind a mistake-prone defense that allowed plenty of Grade chances, and that could be a repeating phenomenon again this season for the Bruins unless the defense is substantially upgraded along the way.

As far as the other three B’s players still taking part in the World Cup, it could be a while for Patrice and Brad Marchand as Team Canada has advanced to the final best-of-three series that could also feature Zdeno Chara if Team Europe is victorious. 

Sweeney: 'Helpless feeling' hoping World Cup players return healthy

world-cup-bruins-marchand-091916.jpg

Sweeney: 'Helpless feeling' hoping World Cup players return healthy

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It’s a bit of a helpless feeling for an NHL general manager watching their star players participate in an intense hockey tournament like the World Cup of Hockey that doesn’t directly benefit their respective teams.

Not helpless because of the tournament’s outcome, obviously, but helpless because players could return from Toronto dinged up, or even worse significantly injured.

Aaron Ekblad had to shut it down for Team North American with what many speculated was a concussion, and Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray is out a month, or more, with a broken hand sustained playing for the same young guns team.

So, it certainly must have been an uneasy few moments for Don Sweeney when Brad Marchand was pulled from Team Canada’s last game for the concussion protocol after a nasty-looking collision with Team Europe forward Marian Hossa.

Marchand went through the testing, and ended up returning to the game no worse for the wear. But it could have been a lot worse for a Bruins team that can’t afford to be missing Marchand, Patrice Bergeron or Zdeno Chara, who are still playing for teams alive in the semifinal round of the tourney.

“I would expect all of us to have been in a similar situation. For everybody - any general manager, coaches, staff, you're concerned about [injuries],” said Sweeney, talking about the World Cup and Marchand’s close call. “I mean, especially when you realize the stakes are going to go up as the tournament goes along. The pride involved - it's a risk. There's no question, it's a risk.

“But you also want to see them play their best hockey and they're not going to hold back. Yeah, it's a definite concern. You've got your fingers and toes crossed.”

David Pastrnak and Tuukka Rask have already returned to Boston fully healthy. David Backes should be joining the team anytime now after Team USA’s rude dismissal from the tournament. But Sweeney and the Bruins still have their sensors out for the three B’s players taking part that aren’t quite out of the woods yet before returning to B’s camp in one piece.