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East-West divide

Chris Pronger and the Flyers haven't lived up to expectations this season. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Chris Pronger and the Flyers haven't lived up to expectations this season. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

A disparity in conference competence is nothing new to the NHL, but the East is taking it to the extreme this year.

As of Monday morning, the New York Islanders sat tied for the eighth seed with the Montreal Canadiens with 50 points, but had played two less games for a total of 48.

By our quick math, there’s a chance roughly 84 points will be good enough to punch a ticket to the post-season in the Eastern Conference this spring.  Last year it took 93 points and the eighth seed hasn’t been held by anybody with less than 92 points since play resumed after the lockout.

The West, which has housed better teams top to bottom seemingly forever now, could see a team as good as Detroit miss out on playoff action, as the Kings currently sit one spot ahead of the Wings in eighth place and are on pace for about 97 points.

Typically, the dramatic drop in the East starts after the sixth seed, but with Boston and Philadelphia both performing below expectations this season, it’s really only the top-four clubs of New Jersey, Washington, Buffalo and Pittsburgh who look poised to do any damage.

Especially since they’ll each be getting a first round bye this year.

THE HOCKEY NEWS POWER RANKINGS
RK.
TEAM
LW
OVERALL
L10
THE SCOOP
1
Chicago Blackhawks
1
34-11-4
8-1-1
Hawks are 2-0 to start an eight-game road trip that takes them to both coasts
2
Washington Capitals
2
30-12-6
6-4-0
If Canada doesn't win gold in February, you have to think point-per-game blueliner Mike Green's name will come up in some angry conversations
3
Nashville Predators
10
29-16-3
7-3-0
Sophomore Patric Hornqvist has been hot for a month, with 13 goals and 19 points over his last 16 games
4
Buffalo Sabres
3
29-11-6
7-0-3
The Sabres haven't lost a game in regulation since Dec. 23, going 7-0-3 in their past 10
5
San Jose Sharks
4
31-10-8
7-2-1
Will send a league-high eight players to the Games in Vancouver
6
Colorado Avalanche
11
27-15-6
6-4-0
First the Czechs pass on Milan Hejduk for the Olympics, now he will miss two-to-four weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery
7
Pittsburgh Penguins
7
30-19-1
4-6-0
Sounds like Marc-Andre Fleury's finger injury will keep him out about a week, at most
8
New Jersey Devils
5
32-13-1
6-4-0
25 straight starts and counting for Martin Brodeur
9
Phoenix Coyotes
12
28-16-5
4-3-3
Ilya Bryzgalov hasn't started 2010 as the same high-end goalie who shone through the season's first three months
10
Vancouver Canucks
6
28-18-2
6-2-2
Alex Burrows is making enemies of refs and goalies; the guy has 11 goals and 13 points over an eight-game point streak
11
Los Angeles Kings
13
27-18-3
5-5-0
After hitting quite a rough patch, Anze Kopitar is producing again, going at a point-per-game pace over his past seven games
12
Detroit Red Wings
9
24-16-8
5-2-3
If you haven't seen Pavel Datsyuk's shootout goal versus Antti Niemi, you need to
13
Calgary Flames
8
26-17-6
4-5-1
Just one win in their past seven and captain Jarome Iginla has but a single point in that stretch
14
Anaheim Ducks
17
22-20-7
6-4-0
More is expected from defenseman Ryan Whitney, who is struggling at both ends of the ice, going pointless and minus-8 in his past 11 games
15
New York Islanders
22
21-19-8
7-2-1
Great to see this team improving, but we can't fight the feeling they could really use one more high-end pick to truly turn the corner
16
Ottawa Senators
21
24-21-4
4-6-0
Terrific three-point night Saturday followed by a Monday hat trick in return from a shoulder injury for captain Daniel Alfredsson
17
Philadelphia Flyers
14
23-21-3
6-3-1
Less-than-terrific return from abdominal surgery for Ray Emery, who allowed five goals (granted it was against the Caps) in his first action since Dec. 5
18
Boston Bruins
16
23-16-8
4-5-1
Injuries are slowing the Bruins, but Blake Wheeler is benefiting from increased ice time, registering nine points in his past seven games
19
New York Rangers
15
23-19-7
5-2-3
Busted out for six goals against the Habs Sunday after tallying just one in three games previous to that
20
Minnesota Wild
23
24-22-3
4-6-0
Martin Havlat and Guillaume Latendresse have found serious chemistry, scoring a combined 16 points over their past five games
21
Montreal Canadiens
18
23-23-4
4-5-1
Montreal needs to be much better than 11-11-3 at home if it wants a playoff spot
22
St. Louis Blues
28
21-19-7
4-4-2
Four wins in a row surely have Blues fans fondly recalling last season's crazy second-half run
23
Florida Panthers
25
20-20-8
4-5-1
In 48 games, Nathan Horton has already matched last season's point total of 45
24
Tampa Bay Lightning
19
18-19-10
5-4-1
Tampa has to hope Mike Smith returns soon from what the team calls a "strained neck because he was playing well before going down
25
Dallas Stars
20
20-17-11
4-6-0
More bad news for the struggling Stars, as both Brenden Morrow and Jere Lehtinen left Saturday's game with injuries
26
Atlanta Thrashers
29
21-19-7
3-4-3
Trade rumors are not slowing down Ilya Kovalchuk, who has six points in his past three games
27
Carolina Hurricanes
24
14-26-7
5-4-1
Joni Pitkanen leads the league in ice time with 27 minutes per game and is a big reason for the Canes' improved play
28
Toronto Maple Leafs
26
16-24-9
3-7-0
Are 0-1 on a five-game road trip that could officially bury them
29
Columbus Blue Jackets
27
18-23-9
3-5-2
One spot of good news: Antoine Vermette could hit 60 points for the first time in his NHL career
30
Edmonton Oilers
30
16-26-5
1-8-1
To borrow a line from Kramer after his skin had been exposed to excessive cigar smoke: "Look away, I'm hideous."

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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