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Winning winds

Eric Staal and Cam Ward have the Hurricanes looking like a playoff threat in the East. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Eric Staal and Cam Ward have the Hurricanes looking like a playoff threat in the East. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

About a month ago, Pittsburgh was the team everybody talked about as a tough draw for one of the East’s high seeds in the first round of the playoffs.

While it looks like the Pens will finish a little higher than originally expected, the Carolina Hurricanes have taken the mantle as the club any Eastern Conference contender wouldn’t be crazy about facing in Round 1.

The Canes are really cooking these days, sparked by the return of Erik Cole from Edmonton. Their defense gets it done by committee and, as I mentioned a couple of weeks back, when Cam Ward is on, he provides this team with top-notch goaltending.

He’s struggled with consistency since winning the Conn Smythe in 2006, but if Ward keeps up his current level of play, Carolina may well have a lot to say about how the East shakes out.

THE HOCKEY NEWS POWER RANKINGS
RK.
TEAM
LW
OVERALL
L10
THE SCOOP
1
Detroit Red Wings
2
48-15-9
7-2-1
Captain Nicklas Lidstrom kicks it up with one goal and five points in his past five games
2
New Jersey Devils
1
47-22-3
7-3-0
Look at the names on their blueline and look where they are in the standings – it boggles the mind how much mileage they get out of that patchwork crew
3
San Jose Sharks
4
48-14-10
6-3-1
Patrick Marleau looks like a lock for his first 40-goal season
4
Vancouver Canucks
3
38-24-9
7-2-1
Have become unbeatable at home, where they've won 11 straight
5
Carolina Hurricanes
13
39-28-7
7-1-2
Have at least one point in eight of nine games since Erik Cole returned after the trade deadline
6
Columbus Blue Jackets
7
38-28-6
7-3-0
The first word that comes to mind when contemplating Columbus is 'sturdy'
7
Pittsburgh Penguins
6
39-27-8
7-1-2
Sid has a 13-game point streak going
8
New York Rangers
12
38-27-8
7-3-0
What a job young Marc Staal is doing on the back end
9
Washington Capitals
5
45-23-6
5-4-1
Office chatter at THN recently revolved around the notion Alexander Semin may have the best wrist shot in hockey
10
Boston Bruins
8
46-17-10
4-5-1
Northeast is clinched, but Bruins need to get better if they're to hold onto East's No. 1 seed
11
Philadelphia Flyers
11
39-22-10
6-4-0
Flyers sure boast a balanced offense as six forwards have hit the 20-goal barrier this season – and don’t forget about Daniel Briere
12
Calgary Flames
9
41-24-6
4-6-0
Olli Jokinen has been great since coming to Calgary, but the Flames, strangely, have not
13
Nashville Predators
14
35-30-7
5-2-3
Productive trip out west saw Preds nab six of a possible eight points
14
St. Louis Blues
10
33-30-9
5-4-1
David Backes' breakout season continues with 11 points over his past nine contests
15
Chicago Blackhawks
15
38-22-11
3-5-2
Good thing they banked so many points early
16
Ottawa Senators
23
32-30-10
9-1-0
Hard to know what to make of this surge given how far out of things Ottawa is. Still, it speaks well of Cory Clouston's coaching
17
Anaheim Ducks
22
35-31-6
5-4-1
Looks like they won't miss the playoffs without a fight
18
Florida Panthers
16
35-27-10
4-4-2
Late-game collapse against Columbus really stings
19
Edmonton Oilers
21
35-28-9
4-2-4
In an odd year for goalies, Dwayne Roloson should merit Vezina consideration if he can get the Oilers in the playoffs. He's been absolutely awesome
20
Minnesota Wild
24
34-30-8
4-3-3
Wild finally get Marian Gaborik back and have to watch Mikko Koivu leave the same game early with a knee injury
21
Atlanta Thrashers
17
30-37-6
7-3-0
There's a good chance Todd White will post 50 assists as part of his career year
22
Toronto Maple Leafs
25
30-30-13
5-4-1
Had to enjoy embarrassing their old rivals in Montreal on the weekend
23
Buffalo Sabres
19
34-30-8
3-6-1
Ryan Miller can't come back fast enough
24
Dallas Stars
18
33-31-8
4-5-1
Brenden Morrow could get green light to resume skating as early as this week; let's hope his comeback goes better than the snake-bitten Brad Richards
25
Los Angeles Kings
28
30-32-10
4-5-1
Have gone 11 road games without a regulation victory; that's not how you get in the playoffs
26
Montreal Canadiens
20
36-27-9
3-5-2
Good news for the Habs is with all the free agents they have this summer, they actually can fire the team
27
New York Islanders
26
24-40-8
5-4-1
Defenseman Mark Streit could end up leading this team in scoring by 20 points
28
Tampa Bay Lightning
27
23-33-16
3-3-4
Where will Martin St-Louis end up this summer? Sure looks like he can still play
29
Phoenix Coyotes
30
30-36-7
3-5-2
It's all about experience for the young guys now
30
Colorado Avalanche
29
31-40-2
3-6-1
I wonder if Adam Foote wishes he hung in with the Jackets a little longer

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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