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Ready to fly

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have a combined 54 goals and 176 points for the Penguins. (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have a combined 54 goals and 176 points for the Penguins. (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)

A couple of weeks ago, people were talking about Pittsburgh’s potential to do some damage in the first round of the playoffs.

Maybe it’s time to shorten that statement to ‘Pittsburgh’s potential to do damage in the playoffs.’

It has been a trying year for the defending Eastern Conference champions, but rhyming off six straight wins is a good indication you’re back on the scene. The way things are unfolding, the Pens have a great chance to open the post-season on home ice.

Sergei Gonchar is back running the power play, Bill Guerin was a great addition and Marc-Andre Fleury has been a much better goalie in the season’s second half.

It’s funny how previously troubled areas of a team become rectified when you recall some basic good facts about a club. In the Penguins’ case it’s that they have a deadly center who’s leading the league in scoring. And Sidney Crosby.

Evgeni Malkin and Crosby can’t do it alone, but with the support squad rounding into form, the Pens are ready to roll. 

THE HOCKEY NEWS POWER RANKINGS
RK.
TEAM
LW
OVERALL
L10
THE SCOOP
1
New Jersey Devils
1
42-20-3
7-3-0
Have been outscored 11-3 in their last two trips to Long Island. Go figure.
2
Vancouver Canucks
4
34-22-8
8-2-0
Look out league, Roberto Luongo is getting hot
3
Pittsburgh Penguins
15
35-26-6
8-1-1
Sergei Gonchar has eight points in 10 games since returning from a shoulder injury
4
San Jose Sharks
3
42-12-10
5-4-1
Have lost four straight, but Evgeni Nabokov will return from his lower-body injury soon
5
Detroit Red Wings
5
43-15-8
6-3-1
Gave up eight goals on consecutive Saturdays, the most recent being an 8-2 home loss to Columbus
6
Calgary Flames
6
39-21-6
6-3-1
Iggy has 16 points in his past seven games, even though Flames got spanked twice
7
Carolina Hurricanes
18
35-27-5
7-3-0
Erik Cole has sparked the offense since returning to Carolina and playing alongside old buddy Eric Staal and Tuomo Ruutu
8
Washington Capitals
7
40-21-6
4-5-1
Probably just hitting a little lull before getting fired up for the playoffs
9
Nashville Predators
13
33-29-4
6-3-1
Goalie Pekka Rinne is quietly having one heck of a rookie year
10
Chicago Blackhawks
8
36-19-9
5-4-1
Blueliner Cam Barker, picked third overall in '04, continues his breakout year with five points in past five games
11
Boston Bruins
2
43-15-9
4-5-1
Manny Fernandez looked plain lost in Saturday's loss to the Rangers
12
Philadelphia Flyers
9
35-19-10
6-3-1
Daniel Carcillo and the city of Philadelphia were meant for each other
13
Columbus Blue Jackets
10
33-27-6
5-4-1
Will finish the year with at least a .500 record versus Detroit for the first time ever
14
New York Rangers
16
34-24-8
4-4-2
Power play dynamic changed a lot when Sean Avery and Nik Antropov came aboard
15
Florida Panthers
11
34-24-8
6-4-0
So Jay Bouwmeester stays; now he just has to go out and get this team in the playoffs
16
Montreal Canadiens
12
35-24-7
5-4-1
Better lock down a playoff spot in the next three weeks while playing nine of 10 games at home
17
Edmonton Oilers
17
32-27-6
4-4-2
Can't help but be a little excited by the upside acquired in Patrick O'Sullivan and Ales Kotalik
18
Buffalo Sabres
21
33-26-7
4-5-1
Picking up Mikael Tellqvist was a shrewd move that will help down the stretch
19
St. Louis Blues
14
29-28-8
6-3-1
Not dealing Keith Tkachuk shows St. Louis believes it can make the playoffs now
20
Minnesota Wild
20
32-28-5
4-4-2
Kurtis Foster makes it all the way back from his broken leg, then gets forced out after one game with a groin issue
21
Anaheim Ducks
19
31-30-6
3-6-1
Really admire the approach GM Bob Murray took at the deadline
22
Dallas Stars
25
31-27-8
3-6-1
Just seem to be sucking fumes these days
23
Los Angeles Kings
23
28-28-9
4-6-0
Anze Kopitar has goals in four straight games, meaning he's coming to life when the Kings need him most
24
Toronto Maple Leafs
22
26-27-13
5-2-3
John Mitchell has become a bonafide NHLer this year
25
Atlanta Thrashers
27
25-35-6
6-3-1
In truth, the Thrashers have been playing respectable hockey for more than a month and Ilya Kovalchuk is on fire with 26 points in his past 13 contests
26
Ottawa Senators
24
25-29-10
4-4-2
Not sure Pascal Leclaire is going to be the No. 1 rock Ottawa envisions
27
New York Islanders
29
22-37-7
5-4-1
Might just play themselves out of the first overall pick
28
Tampa Bay Lightning
28
21-32-13
2-6-2
Who knows what you'll get from this team on any given night
29
Colorado Avalanche
30
29-36-1
4-6-0
Road back to respectability has to start with a solid goalie
30
Phoenix Coyotes
26
28-33-5
3-7-0
Did a nice job of turning things over on deadline day, though I don't think Matthew Lombardi will bust out the way some hope

The Hockey News ranks the teams 1-30 each Monday based on a combination of last week’s play and a squad’s overall outlook.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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