NHL Power Rankings : Ranking the Hottest Teams In The Wild Western Conference

John PhenAnalyst IIIFebruary 15, 2011

NHL Power Rankings : Ranking the Hottest Teams In The Wild Western Conference

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The traffic jam that is the Western Conference standings have not cleared up as many had thought they would by the deadline. The trade deadline is quickly approaching and with so many teams still in the hunt, it figures to either be a very interesting trading period or an extremely quiet one.

    With eleven teams separated by a mere 10 points, and just 4 points separating the 3rd seed from 10th the West is wide open.

    Outside of the Detroit Red Wings, and the machine that is the Vancouver Canucks very little can be taken for granted in the West. Predicting what teams will make it to the playoffs and who won't is a lesson in futility.

    Every game in the Western Conference matters, every point and every shift is vital for teams looking to make some noise in the playoffs.

    Here then is a look at who the hottest teams are in the Western Conference.

Slip Sliding Oilers

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Record : 16-32-8

    Last 10 : 2-7-1

    Streak : Lost last 3

    Another Lottery pick seems to be in the cards for the Edmonton Oilers who boast a fine young core, but have struggled with consistency. There figures to be a lot of attention at the deadline for valuable forwards such as Dustin Penner and Ales Hemsky.

    Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and the popular Linus Omark are just some of the youth that has Oilers fans smiling about the future.

    The youth and draft picks will pay off one day for the Oil, but it won't be today. The Oilers would be wise in moving valuable pieces at the deadline that will help stock the cupboard come draft time.

On The Rocks

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Record : 25-26-6

    Last 10 : 1-9-0

    Streak : Lost last 8

     

    The Avalanche just aren’t the same team they were a year ago, something is missing from this locker room. This team is slumping and doesn’t show any signs of life right now. Going 0-7-0 with a -15 goal differential, the Avs are heading the wrong way in the standings.

    Their once potent offense has become stagnant, with a 1.57 goals per game average over their last 10 games and a 0-20 run on the power play.

    While they can still turn the tables around, they don’t have much time in which to do it. Several key contributors from last year are in Joe Sacco’s doghouse, with Brandon Yip, Chris Stewart and Liles being healthy scratches.  

Singing The Blues

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Record : 25-21-9

    Last 10 : 3-4-3

    Streak : Won 1

    Not much has gone right for the St Louis Blues after starting out of the gate bolstered by a strong goaltending performance by Halak. January has not been kind to the Blues, going 2-8-2 dropping them out of the playoff picture.

    The Blues are just 2-4-3 in their last nine games but beat the Canucks to rebound from a bad weekend. Home ice is no advantage lately for the Blues as they have dropped six of their last eight at home.

    Injuries and inconsistency are dogging this team, and they need to rally behind recently returned Andy McDonald. 

Blackhawk Down

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Record : 28-22-6

    Last 10 : 4-4-2

    The Blackhawks return home after closing out a six-game road swing going just 2-3-1 having dropped their latest match against Phoenix. The goaltending for the defending champion Blackhawks has been an issue, as well as the inconsistent and spotty play.

    The talent is still on this roster, despite losing ten players during the offseason. The Blackhawks need to get in gear because time is running out on their season.

Fighting Stars

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Record : 31-19-6

    Last 10 : 3-6-1

    Streak : Lost 1

    The Stars have faltered the last nine games after putting together a marvelous first half of the season. They have been decimated by injuries, with Adam Burish, Krys Barch, Ray Sawada, Jamie Benn and Tom Wandell all injuried recently. The Coyotes have unseated the Stars from their season long hold on the Pacific Division lead.

    They will also have to do without the services of their leader as Richards did not accompany the team on the road trip. He leads the Stars with 39 assists and 63 points, and the Stars will need to overcome to get things back on track.

Fishing For The Playoffs

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    Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

    Record : 30-19-7

    Last 10 : 5-4-1

    Streak : Won 2

    The Predators picked up a huge key in getting over the hump in the playoffs as they acquired Mike Fisher from Ottawa. He's a perfect pickup for a well coached, defensively solid hockey team that is trying to get out from under the sizable Red Wing shadow.

    Nashville has picked up a victory in three of its last four games and is seven points back from first-place Detroit in the Central.

Jackets Game On

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Record : 28-23-5

    Last 10 : 7-3-0

    Streak : Won 2

    The Jackets are on a roll having won five of their last six games and proving many doubters wrong with their recent surge. Mason has been up and down this season, and could use some more help on the penalty kill where the Blue Jackets rank 26th.

    Columbus is an impressive 8-3-2 in their last 13 games, and are meshing as a team with Rick Nash leading the way.

Werewolves Of London

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Record : 30-19-9

    Last 10 : 6-4-0

    Streak : Won 5 straight

    The Coyotes are playing strong behind timely power play goals and some stellar goaltending from Ilya Brzgalov. Big wins versus the Blackhawks and Capitals have the Coyotes riding high, having won five straight games.

    Taking over the Pacific divison lead will help boost the team's confidence heading into some vital games in March.

    Brzgalov would win NHL star of the week honors going 3-0-0 with a 1.29 GAA and a .948 save percentage.

    Currently 3rd in the Western Conference with 69 points, the 'Yotes look good right now. Then again with just three points seperating them from the eight spot, now is no time to rest.

Duck, Duck, Goose?

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Record : 32-21-4

    Last 10 : 8-2-0

    Streak : Won 4

    The Ducks have struggled mightily this season, but are putting together a second half surge that may get them into the playoffs. Jonas Hiller has faltered a tad since the break, and may be battling some fatigue issues.

    The Ducks have won three straight and 14 of their last 17 overall to move into fifth place in the Western Conference. This Duck team is still based on the play of their top line, as they go the Ducks go.

    The Ducks signed Ray Emery in hopes that he could get back into game shape to spell Hiller for the playoffs. Their team defense is still a bit suspect and making the trade for Francois Beauchemin before the deadline got them veteran help they needed.

Big Red Machine

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Record : 34-16-6

    Last 10 : 6-4-0

    Streak : Won 2

    The Red Wings had struggled to score recently, but broke out with a dominant 6-1 triumph against the Boston Bruins. Detroit had been outscored to the tune of 12-4 losing three of four before the onslaught against Boston.

    Detroit still has command in the Central Division where they lead Nashville by five points. Things aren't all rosy for the Red Wings with legitimate concerns about goaltending and the average age of this hockey club moving forward.

    But against the Bruins the Red Wings showed again that they can still be the NHL's best team on any given night.

Fire and Ice

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Record : 29-22-8

    Last 10 : 7-1-2

    Streak : Won 1

    Who the heck are these guys?

    It wasn't so long ago when people were whispering about interim GM Jay Feaster clearing house and trading Iginla. Now the Flames are back in the playoffs having won nine of its last 12 games to shoot back up the Western Conference standings.

    Rebounding after dropping 2 games to Anaheim and Vancouver, the Calgary offense would bury the Avalanche 9-1. Kiprusoff still playing well, but still playing too many games at this stage of the season.

Steady Ready Canucks

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    Rich Lam/Getty Images

    Record : 36-12-9

    Last 10 : 7-2-1

    Streak : Lost 1

    The Canucks just keep rolling along, almost on the brink of being possibly boring. In the Western Conference where teams can fall and rise on a week to week basis, the Canucks have been the standard.

    The Canucks opened the season as one of the NHL's most potent, balanced teams and nothing has changed. They are second in goals scored and third in goals against, and this team gets it done with an almost ho-hum attitude.

    Their defensive corps have taken a severe hit lately, with major injuries along the blueline cause for concern. That still isn't stopping the Canucks from racking up the points with a NHL leading 81 points and a disgusting +51 goal differential.

    No Andrew Alberts? No Alex Edler? No Keith Ballard? Sami Salo still recovering? no problem. The recent loss of Dan Hamhuis will test this team's resolve moving forward. 

    But the Canucks have been one of the best teams in the NHL, and they just don't show any signs of slowing.

Swimming With The Sharks

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Record : 30-21-6

    Last 10 : 7-2-1

    Streak : Lost 2

    The Sharks have had a up and down season, with a whole lot of down during the holidays. The Sharks in December would lose eight of 10 games, matching their worst slide since 1997.

    The San Jose Sharks had finally gotten their game into gear after the break, recording a point in ten consecutive games and going 9-0-1 only to drop two in a row. And as many teams know in the West, any kind of slide can put a serious damper on your playoff positioning.

    The Sharks fell from 5th place into a current tie with Calgary of all teams for the final playoff seed.

    The Sharks fell to 4-2-0 on a seven-game road trip but still boast a 7-2-1 record in their past 10 games. March has them on the road for just 5 contests, problem is the Sharks are better on the road posting a 17-11-3 record.

Wilding Out

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Record : 30-20-5

    Last 10 : 8-2-0

    Streak : Won 3 in a row

    The Minnesota Wild have bounced back after a rough start to their season and are playing consistent defensive hockey. They are aiming to match their longest winning streak of the season, a four game streak that ended on Jan. 8th.

    The Wild have won their fourth straight home game and are 9-2-0 in their last 11 overall to sit in a tie for ninth in the Western Conference and a point back of potential playoff spot.

    Will this team make a move to help get them over the first round hump in the playoffs?

Return Of The Kings

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    Lou Capozzola/Getty Images

    Record : 31-22-3

    Last 10 : 7-1-2

    Streak : Won 2

    After the torrid start to the season, and a holiday fall from grace the young Kings are red hot. After learning to deal with the early season success they are getting back to what made them so good early on.

    They've gone 4-0-2 on a 10 game road trip with a 4-1 smackdown of the Washington Capitals and a 1-0 squeaker against the Philadelphia Flyers.

    With a plus nine goal differential through that period the Kings special teams have carried their play. Their penalty kill has been dominant during the stretch, at a 93.1 percentage while their power play has rebounded to the tune of 17.3 percent.

    The Kings haven't lost in regulation since Jan. 20 and are looking to make a move at the deadline to help bolster the offense. They need to keep it going as they currently sit just 1 point out of the last playoff spot.