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Where the Wild are

Martin Havlat started painfully slow for Minnesota, but has seven points in his past five contests. (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Martin Havlat started painfully slow for Minnesota, but has seven points in his past five contests. (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

Even if Gary Bettman was spinning the stats, there’s no way to put a shine on the fact Martin Havlat has just four goals this year.

But we’ll take a half-full approach here and point out Havlat does have five points over his past two games, doubling his goal output in that time and bringing his point total to 16 in 26 games.

More importantly, the state of hockey is finally improving in the State of Hockey after a rough start for the new coach-GM tandem of Todd Richards and Chuck Fletcher.

The Wild have points in nine of its past 11 games, clawing to within five points of a playoff spot. The team can always count on top-notch goaltending from Niklas Backstrom, while the top line of Mikko Koivu between Antti Miettinen and Andrew Brunette has been terrific.

When asked whether they would look into getting Brunette a Finnish passport so he could join them at the Olympics, Miettinen and Koivu responded in the funny style we’ve come to expect from the witty Finns.

“No chance,” Koivu said. “First he has to come to Finland.”

“Yeah, it’s tough to be a Finn; we don’t just take anybody,” added Miettinen.

I guess they really don’t allow Brunettes in Scandinavia.

THE HOCKEY NEWS POWER RANKINGS
RK.
TEAM
LW
OVERALL
L10
THE SCOOP
1
New Jersey Devils
2
22-8-1
8-2-0
Niclas Bergfors has 11 goals; John Tavares is the only rookie with more
2
Washington Capitals
1
20-7-6
7-2-1
Mike Green is on pace to top the 73 points he had last year, but is in line for about half as many goals
3
Los Angeles Kings
9
21-10-3
8-1-1
Four of their past seven wins have come in extra time
4
Pittsburgh Penguins
5
22-10-1
7-2-1
Sidney Crosby has 20 goals this season, but no other Pen has 10
5
San Jose Sharks
2
19-8-7
4-3-3
Five guys in the league have 20 or more goals and the Sharks, with Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley, have two of them
6
Buffalo Sabres
8
19-9-2
7-3-0
Tyler Myers might just be the top Calder candidate right now
7
Chicago Blackhawks
4
20-8-3
6-3-1
Three of Antti Niemi's six wins this year have come via the shutout
8
Colorado Avalanche
15
19-10-6
5-3-2
Some strong play from backup Peter Budaj bodes well for the Avs
9
Calgary Flames
6
19-9-4
6-3-1
Coughed up the division lead to Colorado thanks to a head-to-head loss against the Avs that concluded a 1-2-1 week
10
Phoenix Coyotes
12
19-11-2
7-3-0
If Ryan Miller wasn't playing the way he is, people might be calling Ilya Bryzgalov the best stopper in the league right now
11
Boston Bruins
7
16-9-6
7-1-2
Tuukka Rask is making a serious case for the starting job with a .932 save percentage and a 1.97 goals-against average
12
Nashville Predators
10
18-11-3
5-3-2
Nashville has the 26th-ranked power play in the league and the club, always in need of an extra goal, is 13-1-1 when it gets a man-advantage marker
13
Dallas Stars
14
14-8-10
4-2-4
Dallas has lost more extra-time games (10) than any other team
14
Detroit Red Wings
17
16-11-5
5-4-1
Todd Bertuzzi doubled his season output from four to eight goals with consecutive two-goal efforts his last two times out. He also scored the OT-winner in both contests
15
Vancouver Canucks
13
18-14-0
6-4-0
Both the coach and GM have called this team out recently; let's see how the players respond
16
Ottawa Senators
18
16-11-4
4-5-1
Milan Michalek could hit 40 goals this year
17
Atlanta Thrashers
11
16-11-3
6-4-0
Went 1-3-0 last week, all against Canadian teams. Just a hot string of goalies or are the Thrashers coming back down to earth?
18
Minnesota Wild
20
15-14-3
7-2-1
Brent Burns is struggling with a concussion right now, but the Wild is 8-2-1 since he left the lineup
19
Toronto Maple Leafs
24
11-14-7
7-3-0
Their 34.1 shots-per-game average is tops in the league and their 2.91 goals-per-game is ninth
20
Edmonton Oilers
28
15-13-4
6-3-1
Won five straight on the same road trip for the first time in team history – and it's quite a history
21
Montreal Canadiens
25
15-15-3
4-4-2
Should see Brian Gionta back soon and Andrei Markov, initially expected out until almost February, is ahead of schedule and could return in the next couple weeks
22
New York Islanders
22
12-13-7
4-6-0
Played 20 of their first 32 games on the road, but are home for seven of 10 through the rest of December
23
St. Louis Blues
16
13-12-5
5-4-1
Erik Johnson is great, but the fact he leads this team in scoring is not a good thing
24
Anaheim Ducks
29
12-13-7
4-2-4
Showing some signs of life with at least a point in their past five games
25
Florida Panthers
26
12-14-7
2-5-3
Steven Reinprecht is on pace for a career-high 61 points
26
Columbus Blue Jackets
27
14-12-6
2-5-3
Steve Mason has his first shutout of the year; only nine more to equal last year's total
27
Philadelphia Flyers
23
14-15-1
2-8-0
GM Paul Holmgren already changed coaches, which means the next moves could involve players if things don't turn around
28
New York Rangers
19
14-15-2
3-6-1
This team was 7-1 on Oct. 18; since then they're 7-14-2 with just five regulation wins in 23 games
29
Tampa Bay Lightning
21
11-12-9
2-6-2
Lost four straight, managing just three goals over that span
30
Carolina Hurricanes
30
7-19-6
2-7-1
Jiri Tlusty, 21, scored on his first shift as a Hurricane on Friday, but was still sent back to the American League on Sunday

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.

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