The NHL trade deadline is one week from Wednesday, which has created plenty of excitement and nervous energy across the league.
As the Pittsburgh Penguins have already shown, it's better to make your moves early before the asking prices for rentals and other veteran players skyrocket.
It also helps to acquire players as soon as possible so they can have the maximum amount of time to ease into their new roles, learn new coaching systems and adjust to new teammates. With two-thirds of the season already gone, players who are traded will have only 14 to 16 regular season games to settle in with their new teams and prepare for the playoffs.
Let's look at the winners and losers from a busy and exciting Week of 9 of the 2013 NHL season.
The Pittsburgh Penguins extended their winning streak to 12 games on Sunday night with a comeback victory over the rival Philadelphia Flyers in overtime, but their recent success hasn't stopped general manager Ray Shero from making major trades.
Shero acquired Dallas Stars winger Brenden Morrow and a draft pick on Sunday in exchange for defensive prospect Joe Morrow and a draft pick (via TSN's Pierre LeBrun), then added San Jose Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray to his roster for two second-round picks on Monday.
With these two trades, the Penguins have sent a message to the league that they are going to be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.
Morrow will add grit, toughness, leadership and depth to the Penguins' top-six forward group, and he will be rejuvenated on a Penguins team with a real chance to win the Stanley Cup.
Murray has tremendous size (6'3", 245 pounds) and is one of the smartest defensemen in the league who also excels in his own end. He is the type of shutdown defenseman that the Penguins needed to compete with physical teams like the Boston Bruins in the playoffs.
Shero's team won every game it played last week and got even stronger with two smart trades that he made to give his roster more depth, defensive skill and grit for the playoffs. He did all of this without giving up any players from his NHL roster, which is pretty impressive.
Not too long ago, the Washington Capitals were at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings and their chances of making the playoffs were slim.
But thanks to Alex Ovechkin's recent improvement and great goaltending, the Capitals have won three straight games (including five of their last seven) and are just two points behind the New York Rangers for the eighth and final playoff spot.
Ovechkin scored five goals with three assists in the Capitals' four games last week and now has 16 goals and 15 assists through 31 games this season. He was a huge disappointment through the first half of the year, but like all great players, Ovechkin raised his level of performance when the season was on the line.
Washington has scored an average of 3.8 goals in its last five games, and the team's power play (which ranks first in the league with a 24.8 percent success rate) has scored at least one goal in that span.
If starting goaltender Braden Holtby (4-1 in his last five starts) continues to play well, the Capitals will make the playoffs and give whoever they play in the first round a very tough series.
This is a team playing with a lot more confidence than it did early in the year.
After losing their lead atop the Northwest Division to the Minnesota Wild last week, the Vancouver Canucks regained the top spot over the weekend by going on a four-game winning streak. As of March 26, both teams are tied for the division lead with 40 points.
Strong goaltending from Cory Schneider is the main reason behind the Canucks' recent success. The 26-year-old star struggled to establish himself as the No. 1 goalie through the first half of the season, but he has won his last four games (his longest winning streak of 2013) and is playing with a ton of confidence.
In his current winning streak, Schneider has a 1.25 GAA and a .960 save percentage. Without his impressive play in net, Vancouver might have dropped a couple more points because its offense averaged just 2.25 goals in four games last week.
Schneider's improved performance is a great sign for the Canucks because he will be the team's No. 1 goalie for the foreseeable future, and it looks like he's finally adjusted to the pressure of being the starter.
Nine of the Canucks' next 10 games are against teams who are not in a playoff spot in the Western Conference right now, which means that they have a great opportunity to widen their lead in the Northwest Division over the next three weeks.
The Minnesota Wild have won six straight games (including eight wins in their last 10), and No. 1 goaltender Niklas Backstrom has been fantastic over the last two weeks.
Backstrom has an 8-2 record in his last 10 starts and was 3-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA and a .979 save percentage last week.
His 17 wins rank first in the NHL, and he has now become a legitimate candidate for the Vezina Trophy. Backstrom's strong play is the biggest reason why the Wild rank fourth in goals against and third in penalty killing.
Minnesota has given Backstrom plenty of offensive support during its current winning streak with an average of four goals scored over the last five games, and the team's power play, which now ranks 13th with an 18.5 percent success rate, has scored five goals in its last 11 opportunities.
Going into last week, the Wild were 4-7-1 on the road, but they have now moved to .500 away from the Xcel Energy Center with three straight road wins. Since the Wild are a much better team at home, they have plenty of motivation to win the Northwest Division or finish fourth in the conference to earn a home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Minnesota has an 8-2 record in its last 10 games, and the team is playing its best hockey of the season at the perfect time.
The Carolina Hurricanes' five-game losing streak is the longest in the NHL (Phoenix has also lost five straight), and it has caused the team to drop from the three-seed in the Eastern Conference as Southeast Division leaders to ninth place.
Poor goaltending and terrible special teams are the two reasons why the Hurricanes are struggling right now.
With star goaltender Cam Ward unable to play because of an injury, backup Dan Ellis has played in the majority of the team's games over the last week and a half. He has given up three goals or more in four of his last five starts, and since Ward's last game on March 3, Ellis is 1-4.
In addition to some lackluster goaltending, the Hurricanes have also struggled to find success on the power play and penalty kill. Carolina's power play ranks 28th in the NHL and has scored on three of its last 25 opportunities, while its penalty kill has allowed four goals in its last six opportunities.
No team has a chance to win games on a consistent basis in the NHL with poor goaltending and bad special teams, and unless the Hurricanes quickly improve in these two areas, they will fall further down the standings.
The Phoenix Coyotes are in danger of missing the playoffs just one season after reaching the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.
Phoenix has lost five straight games, and as a result, the team has fallen out of the playoff picture and sits in 12th place.
One of the main reasons for the Coyotes' struggles over the last two weeks is their inability to score goals. They have scored just five goals in their last five games and the power play has converted on one of its last 16 opportunities.
During its current losing streak, Phoenix has not scored a goal in the first period, which is putting way too much pressure on the team's goaltenders to have flawless second- and third-period performances. Playing catch-up hockey is not a good situation to be in for a team that's struggling to score goals.
Unless Coyotes general manager Don Maloney acquires a top-six forward before the trade deadline, it's difficult to see how this club gets into the playoffs because Phoenix doesn't have enough scoring depth to compete with the top teams in the West.
Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Guy Boucher was fired on Sunday following an ugly loss to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night.
His firing was no surprise after Tampa Bay failed to gain ground in the playoff race by going 1-3 in its four games last week, with all of those losses coming against teams that occupy playoff spots in the East.
Boucher is a very good coach, but after the Lightning came within one win of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, they have been one of the most disappointing teams in the league. Tampa Bay missed the playoffs last season and will likely do so again this year.
According to Darren Dreger of TSN, Syracuse Crunch (Tampa's AHL affiliate) head coach Jon Cooper will replace Boucher.
Piling on to the speculation...expect Tampa Bay to announce Jon Cooper as head coach as early as tomorrow. #TSN— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) March 25, 2013
With a 13-18-1 record through 32 games (two-thirds of the season), the Lightning's chances of making the playoffs in the Eastern Conference are slim.
Goaltending has been a huge problem for the Lightning this year, evidenced by the fact that they rank 25th in goals against and have given up an average of four goals in their current three-game losing streak.
Tampa Bay is six points behind the New York Rangers for the final playoff spot in the East, and this team needs to start winning games soon because a few more losses would make reaching the postseason an unrealistic goal.
The Colorado Avalanche have lost two straight games (including a 3-7 record in their last 10) and currently sit at the bottom of the Western Conference standings with 26 points.
The Avalanche have not won a road game since February 14, and their record away from the Pepsi Center is 2-10-3.
Colorado ranks 20th in goals scored, 27th in goals against, 23rd in power-play success and 20th in penalty killing. The Avalanche have also given up three or more goals in seven consecutive games, and their record in that span is 1-6.
The team's lack of success could result in Joe Sacco being the next head coach fired, but in his defense, Colorado has dealt with a lot of injuries and was without top-six center Ryan O'Reilly for the first 19 games of the year.
At this point in the season, the Avalanche would be wise to give their young players plenty of ice time and call up prospects from the AHL to see how they handle the speed and skill found at the NHL level.