NHL Power Rankings : Sharks and Coyotes Lead The Pack As Hottest Teams in West

John PhenAnalyst IIIFebruary 22, 2011

NHL Power Rankings : Sharks and Coyotes Lead The Pack As Hottest Teams in West

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    CHICAGO - JUNE 11: Jonathan Toews #19 holds up the Stanley Cup trophy during the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup victory parade and rally on June 11, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Hockey Day in America is in the rearview mirror, and many GM's aren't waiting for the deadline with trades still coming in waves. With so many teams in the West with a shot at the big dance, teams have wasted no time tweaking their rosters. 

    Moves figure to keep coming with just seven calender days remaining and not much separating teams from the playoffs and playing golf.

    The Colorado Avalanche, St Louis Blues, San Jose Sharks and Dallas Stars would all make moves to solidify or bolster their postseason chances.

    Among this week's big movers from last week's power poll are the Dallas Stars, Calgary Flames and Los Angeles Kings. 

    The Stars without Brad Richards have faltered of late posting a 2-7-1 record in their past 10, and the Kings have slipped from their perch with two straight losses.

    Here then is the latest look at the hottest teams in the Western Conference.

Snowed Under

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    DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 14:  Goalie Peter Budaj #31 of the Colorado Avalanche looks on during a break in the action after re-entering the game against the Calgary Flames in the second period at the Pepsi Center on February 14, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Record : 25-27-7

    Last 10 : 0-9-1

    Streak : Lost one 

    The Avalanche unseated the Edmonton Oilers from last week's power ranking as the team has struggled mightily since the All-Star Break. Colorado GM Greg Sherman was active this past week, completing trades that brought Brian Elliott, Jay McClement and former first-round draft pick Erik Johnson.

    These moves did nothing to stop the snowslide that threatens to whitewash the Avalanche season. The Avs come out completely flat against the Sharks who would jump to a 3-0 lead in the first period.

    Now 14th in the West and 11 points out of a playoff spot, the Avalanche are in full rebuild mode, again.

    The point they recorded in the OT loss versus Pittsburgh last week was their first point since Jan. 24th. 

    Colorado faces a tough stretch in the next five with four away from home where they own a mediocre 11-12-3 away record.

    Can Matt Duchene's return spark a turnaround? Will the fire sale continue for the Avalanche? Or are the Milan Hedjuk and John-Michael Liles rumors just a lot of hot air? 

Fallen Stars

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    DALLAS, TX - JANUARY 15:  James Neal #18 of the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on January 15, 2011 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Record : 31-22-6

    Last 10 : 2-7-1

    Streak : Lost last four

    Dallas has fallen on some tough times of late and would lose their grip on the Pacific Division lead last week. The Stars got simply manhandled versus the injury-riddled Canucks and had no answer for the Sedin twins.

    Richards, who was injured on a hit by Columbus forward Sami Pahlsson has been suffering from the dreaded "concussion-like symptoms," and his return is not known.

    The Stars would trade away James Neal and Matt Niskanen and bring aboard promising youngster Alex Goligoski. While he's young, he has nine goals and 31 points in 60 games this season, one has to question what Goligoski would bring to the Stars team this year.

    The Stars are streaking in the wrong direction and lost four straight games and is just 1-7-1 this month. After leading the division most of the season, they are now tied with Los Angeles and Anaheim for the eighth seed.

    Doesn't get much easier for the Stars as they welcome two of the hottest teams in the NHL in the Devils and Red Wings in their next two games. Time is quickly running out on the once promising Star season.

    Could Richards be moved at the deadline? With ownership, finances and this season hanging in the balance, it will be interesting to see what they do.

Oil Change?

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    COLUMBUS, OH - FEBRUARY 05:  Taylor Hall #4 of the Edmonton Oilers looks on the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on February 5, 2011 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Record : 19-32-8

    Last 10 : 4-6-0

    Streak : Won 3

    Up two slots from last week's ranking, the Oilers have put together a promising stretch powered by rookie Taylor Hall. Hall's first hat trick would rally the Oilers in the third period against the Atlanta Thrashers and starting to shine for the Oil.

    Nikolai Khabibulin has rebounded from a horrible 14-game losing streak earlier in the year and was solid in net against Dallas. With youngsters Omark, Paajarvi, Eberle and Hall growing together this team just needs to find some consistency.

    Special teams has rebounded for the Oil, after struggling for most of the season. Against the Thrashers, the Oilers killed off all five penalties, while tallying three power-play goals of their own

    The Oilers are still last with just 44 points and have won in back-to-back games for only their third time this season, but the future is bright. 

Slipping through the Quacks

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    MONTREAL, CANADA - JANUARY 22:  Cam Fowler #4 of the Anaheim Ducks celebrates his first period goal with teammates Bobby Ryan #9 and Corey Perry #10 during the NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on January 22, 2011 in Montreal, Que
    Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

    Record : 32-24-4

    Last 10 : 6-4-0

    Streak : Lost 3

    The Ducks hit a rough patch and would slide all the way to a three-way tie for the eighth seed after dropping their last three. After a meteoric rise to fifth place and winning 14 of their last 17, the Ducks have fallen on some hard times.

    Vezina canidate Jonas Hiller is yet another injury in the Western Conference suffering from the dreaded "concussion symptoms". With Hiller out, Curtis McElhinney would allow four goals on just 11 shots against the new-look Blues in a 9-3 embarrassment. 

    Along with absorbing a 5-1 beating at the hands of the Minnesota Wild, the Ducks season could fly away. While they are still plenty dangerous when the top line is clicking, Hiller must return if this club has any hopes of making the playoffs.  

Blue Thunder

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    DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 13:  Right wing Rick Nash #61 of the Columbus Blue Jackets celebrates a goal with Jan Hejda #35 against the Dallas Stars on February 13, 2011 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Record : 29-23-6

    Last 10 : 6-3-1

    Streak : Won 1

    The Blue Jackets are putting together a push for the playoffs and are currently 12th in the West. Just four points out of the final playoff spot, the Jackets are still in striking distance but need to get it going. With a minus-16 goal differential and near the bottom of the league offensively, the Blue Jackets may make a move shortly.

    With five teams at 68 points or below and ahead of Columbus for the eighth playoff spot, time is of the essence.

    Young centre Derick Brassard suffered a left-hand injury after missing the entire season just two years ago. This team will need to step up to replace his minutes as he's slated to return in two to three weeks.

    The Jackets got a much-needed win over the Blackhawks to close the gap and have won six of their last eight games. They enter a crucial stretch with three critical Western Conference opponents, including a home game versus the Pacific Division-leading Coyotes.

    They will take their 15-10-4 road record on a five-game road swing after the Phoenix game and very well could be playing for their season. 

Predators or Prey?

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    NASHVILLE, TN - FEBRUARY 19:  Shane Doan #19 of the Phoenix Coyotes skates against Ryan Suter #20 and Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators on February 19, 2011 at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Imag
    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    Record : 31-20-8

    Last 10 : 4-4-2

    Streak : Lost 1

    The Predators squandered a terrific chance to gain ground on the Central Division-leading Red Wings after dispatching them 4-1 Feb 9th. Instead of capitalizing on the opportunity, the Predators would lose two very winnable games to the Sharks and Coyotes at home.

    Closing out a four-game homestand with a loss to the Coyotes 3-2 has to hurt despite a sparkling 14-5-7 record as the host. The Predators will either eat or be eaten with the next 11 games all against West teams vying for playoff positioning. A tough four-game swing looms ahead, with Vancouver, Calgary and San Jose on the trip.

    Head coach Barry Trotz was sent scrambling to fill a sizable void left when Ryan Suter was injured in the loss versus Phoenix. The Predators need every able skater to play and contribute to simply stay the course in a very tough Western Conference.

    While rumors continue to swirl around Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, it seems unlikely that the Predators will be in the news come the deadline. 

New Look Blues Have Enough?

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    BUFFALO, NY - FEBRUARY 18: TJ Oshie #74 and Andy McDonald #10 of the St. Louis Blues celebrate Oshie's goal in the second period against the Buffalo Sabres at HSBC Arena on February 18, 2011 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Record : 27-22-9

    Last 10 : 5-3-2

    Streak : Lost 1

    The Blues had been on a small tear, winning three games in a row before losing to the Blackhawks at Scotttrade Center.

    Andy McDonald, T.J. Oshie and Chris Stewart each had two goals apiece in the thrashing of the Ducks, but with Jaroslav Halak injured, the Blues need some help. His right-hand injury has him on injured reserve after his shoulder injury that held him out of All-Star participation. 

    Ty Conklin was pulled after allowing three goals on five shots, Ben Bishop would step in and get the win, making 20 saves in a 9-3 shootout.

    On the outside looking in, the Blues will need a mighty push to challenge for a final playoff spot but have been playing much better hockey recently. They are hoping the newcomers will infuse the team with the right level of talent and desire to make this happen.

Walk on the Wild Side

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    CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 16: Jose Theodore #60 of the Minnesota Wild knocks the puck away for a save against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on February 16, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Wild 3-1. (Photo by Jonathan Dani
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Record : 31-22-6

    Last 10 : 6-3-1

    Streak : Lost 1

    The Minnesota Wild have lost their way a bit since our last power rankings and most recently dropped a shootout heartbreaker to the Red Wings. Leading the five-team pack with 68 points and a seventh seed, the Wild must win to hold onto their precarious positioning.

    After sitting pretty at the four seed as recently as a week ago, the Wild have dropped three of their last four games. The Wild will close out their three-game homestand with a matchup versus the young Oilers and Taylor Hall.

    The Wild will also be without the services of team leader Mikko Koivu who has a broken left index finger that might require surgery. 

On the Warpath

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    CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 20: Members of the Chicago Blackhawks including Dave Bolland #36, Brent Seabrook #7, Jonathan Toews #19 and Jake Dowell #28 congratulate teammate Corey Crawford #50 after a win over the Pittsburgh Penguins at the United Center on Fe
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Record : 31-23-6

    Last 10 : 5-3-2

    Streak : Won 2

    After a up-and-down season from the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Blackhawks seem to be hitting their stride of late. Winning three of their last four, including a shootout winner against visiting Pittsburgh, has the Hawks back in the thick of things.

    This talented team needs to keep things moving in the right direction if they want to make any noise in the playoffs. The Blackhawks have gone 3-1 without ailing coach Joel Quenneville who is in the hospital recovering from intestinal bleeding.

    He may make changes to the lineup upon his return to spark the team heading into the playoffs. . 

    They would record an important road win in St. Louis after losing four of their last five road games. Currently part of a five-team mess from the seventh to 11th spots in the West, the Blackhawk stars need to continue their level of play.

    Corey Crawford is playing some very good play in net for the Hawks recently, turning around a huge question mark from earlier in the season. 

Kings Stumble

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    UNIONDALE, NY - FEBRUARY 19:  Goalie Jonathan Quick #32 of the Los Angeles Kings makes a split save on a shot by Blake Comeau #57 of the New York Islanders late in the second period of an NHL hockey game at the Nassau Coliseum on February 19, 2011 in Unio
    Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

    Record : 32-23-4

    Last 10 : 6-1-3

    Streak : Lost 2

    The Kings would lose in regulation for the first game Saturday against the surging New York Islanders since Jan 20th. While attempting to match a franchise record for points in consecutive games, the Kings lost in a 3-0 stinker.

    After dropping two in a row in the state of New York the Kings slid back into the five-team mass stuck at the bottom of the standings.

    The Kings looked flat against the Islanders after a tough matchup against the Rangers, where the Kings would rebound after falling behind twice in the third period.

    LA continues a tough stretch of 10 consecutive road games and have gone 5-1-3 so far on the trip which concludes Wednesday at Anaheim. 

    With a 17-9-1 home record, they open a string of six consecutive home games to try and rise up from the mess in the Western Conference.

    With the trade deadline looming and the Kings connected to many forwards, it'll be interesting to see what comes about. With Wayne Simmonds rumored to be available, Dean Lombardi figures to make the move he thinks will take the Kings deep in the playoffs.

    The real question might be will the Kings be moving?  

Still Ready and Steady

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    VANCOUVER, CANADA - FEBRUARY 12:  Brothers Daniel Sedin #22 and Henrik Sedin #33 of the Vancouver Canucks talk during a break in in NHL action against the Calgary Flames on February 12, 2011 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo
    Rich Lam/Getty Images

    Record : 38-13-9

    Last 10 : 7-3-0

    Streak : Won 1

    What else can you really say about the Canucks at this point? They are as steady as they come in the NHL, leading the way with 85 points and now plus-60 goal differential. After alternating losses and wins in their previous five contests, the Canucks would hand the Stars a 5-2 beatdown.

    The Canucks have swept the season series with the Stars and outscored them to the tune of 16-3. Daniel Sedin would take the scoring lead over and put the Canucks on a winning note to kick off a six-game homestand.

    With a 20-4-5 record at home and having won five of their last six at Rogers Arena, don't be surprised to see them atop next week's rankings.

    With Dan Hamhuis is returning after being knocked unconscious against the Ducks, and they may get Ballard back who has missed the last seven.

    Their transition game is extremely deadly in the regular season; they are hoping it will be in the playoffs.

Detroit Rock City

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    BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 11:  Todd Bertuzzi #44 of the Detroit Red Wings is congratulated by teammate Pavel Datsyuk #13 after Bertuzzi scored in the second period against the Boston Bruins on February 11, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Pho
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Record : 37-16-6

    Last 10 : 7-3-0

    Streak : Won 5

    The Red Wings have been on a roll since dispatching the Bruins 6-1 Feb 3rd, curing a recent dry spell on offense. Todd Bertuzzi would enjoy his 1,000th game and tally the shootout winner for the Wings against the Wild. The win would cap a perfect road swing after blowing out Tampa Bay and eeking a close win out against the Panthers.

    The Wings have won their fifth straight and haven't done so since March of last season. They are starting to get healthy and players that have recently returned are snapping back into form.

    The goaltending which is almost always a hot topic of debate for this team is getting things together. Jimmy Howard made a pair of huge stops in the shootout to collect his NHL-leading 30th victory.

    Chris Osgood is still out having undergone a surgery for a sports hernia Jan. 11 and does not look ready for action. Could the Wings make a move at the deadline to bolster their goaltending depending on Chris Osgood's status?

    The Red Wings host the streaking San Jose Sharks Tuesday in a showdown between two of the hotter Western teams.

    It is a statement game for both teams coming down the stretch, and Detroit will travel to San Jose March 3rd in the rematch. 

Blood in the Water

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    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 17:  Goaltender Antti Niemi #31 of the San Jose Sharks in action during the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena on January 17, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Sharks defeated the Coyotes 4-2.  (Photo by Christia
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Record : 33-21-6

    Last 10 : 8-2-0

    Streak : Won 3

    The Sharks are streaking towards the playoffs with a blowout victory against the Colorado Avalanche. Antti Niemi would record yet another shutout and is looking more and more comfortable in net. Devin Setoguchi would record his first hat trick as the Sharks won their fifth home game in a row. 

    With the trade for Ian White and the recovered power play which had gone through a six-game scoring slump, the team is on a roll. They will need it and everything they can muster for a March which them home for all but four contests but against quality opponents.

    The last 10 games down the stretch figure to be potentially combustible, with eight of their final nine games against the Ducks, Kings, Coyotes and Flames.

    While the injury to Marc-Edouard Vlasic still remains an issue to the defensive corps, the Sharks may look to make another trade before the deadline. They may also pickup another goaltender as Antero Niittymaki continues to nurse a groin and AHL youngster Alex Stalock out for the season.

    Niemi was named first star for posting a 3-0-0 record with a stingy 0.98 goals-against average and .963 save percentage for the week. And since Jan. 15th, posted a 1.92 goals-against, .940 save percentage with four shutouts.

Flames in the Cold

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    CALGARY, AB - FEBRUARY 20:  Alex Tanguay #40 of the Calgary Flames celebrates his goal at 10:53 of the third period during the 2011 NHL Heritage Classic Game at McMahon Stadium on February 20, 2011 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Flames defeated the Cana
    Andre Ringuette/Getty Images

    Record : 31-22-8

    Last 10 : 7-1-2

    Streak : Won 3

    The Flames just keep on winning, and it just goes to show you that you just can't count a team out. Back in November, this team looked completely lost, and the rebuilding was all but set to commence. Outside of dropping an OT thriller against the Ducks and losing to the Canucks, this Calgary team has been perfect in their last seven games.

    Calgary is 18-4-5 since December 23 and have squashed the doubt that many had about this roster.

    The Heritage Classic may be wearing thin for hockey fans, but the Calgary Flames probably don't mind. Of course, the Flames did not have to endure a grueling two-minute march to their locker rooms for the outdoor event either. Talk about ridiculous.

    Alex Tanguay is reviving his career in his second tour with Calgary, and Rene Bourque notched his 100th goal. They along with the New Jersey Devils are two of the hottest surprise teams in the NHL, only the Flames just may make the playoffs.

    Currently sitting at the sixth seed, the Flames may look for added scoring depth or a backup to Kiprusoff who is still playing almost every game. . 

Leaders of the Pack

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    NASHVILLE, TN - FEBRUARY 19:  Shane Doan #19 and Keith Yandle #3 of the Phoenix Coyotes celebrate a goal against the Nashville Predators on February 19, 2011 at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    The Southwest is on fire with the Phoenix Coyotes leading the pack in the Western Conference as the hottest team. After winning their seventh straight game the Coyotes are looking ahead to a five-game road swing with a strong 18-9-4 record away from Jobing arena.

    They currently lead the surging Sharks by a point and are now five points ahead of the Dallas Stars. Their scoring by the committee forward group continues to shine by scoring at the right time, and Yandle is quietly putting himself in Norris contention. 

    The Coyotes will be without veteran Ed Jovanovski, who was placed on injured reserve Friday with a serious orbital bone injury. Like the Canucks, the Coyotes have been winning despite injuries on the blue line where David Schlemko and Adrian Aucoin would miss time as well.  

    They are in familiar territory matching a season-high seven-game winning streak through Nov. 10-23. Ugly or pretty, the Coyotes are winning and know how to do it and must face off against the Eastern Conference leading Flyers Tuesday.

    Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov figures to get his 19th consecutive start and look for his 26th win of the season.