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Star struck

Loui Eriksson celebrates with Steve Ott and Jeff Woywitka. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Loui Eriksson celebrates with Steve Ott and Jeff Woywitka. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

With just two regulation losses in their past 10 games, the Dallas Stars are serving notice that the first half of their season was no accident – and that they’ll remain near the top of the THN Power Rankings for some time to come.

Few pundits believed the Stars would be a playoff contender, let alone a team aiming for a top-four playoff berth in the tough Western Conference, but superb goaltending – by both starter Kari Lehtonen and backup Andrew Raycroft – as well as balanced scoring (Dallas has four players with at least 17 goals) has helped them keep pace.

This isn’t to say coach Marc Crawford doesn’t have issues on which to work: the Stars’ penalty kill is ranked only 21st overall (at 81.0 percent); they average just 27.3 shots on net per game (ranked 28th in the league); and allow an average of 31.0 shots per game on Lehtonen/Raycroft (good for 20th overall).

The Stars have two games prior to the all-star break – a road trip to Vancouver to take on the West-leading Canucks and a home date against the struggling Edmonton Oilers. They’ll need to make the most of their time off, because in their first week back, they take on Vancouver (in Dallas), then travel to Boston and Philadelphia to play the tough Bruins and Flyers.

THE HOCKEY NEWS POWER RANKINGS
RK.
TEAM
LW
OVERALL
P10
THE SCOOP

1

Philadelphia Flyers

2

32-12-5

8-2-0

Pronger’s return makes already-tough Flyers all the more lethal

2

Vancouver Canucks

1

29-10-9

4-2-4

Alex Edler has more goals (5), points (16) on power play than at even strength (three goals, 14 points)

3

Detroit Red Wings

3

29-13-6

5-4-1

Evgeni Nabokov experiment failed, but will Wings try again for another veteran goalie?

4

Dallas Stars

5

29-14-5

7-2-1

Steve Ott is Stars’ best faceoff man (321 for 560, for a 57.3 faceoff-winning percentage)

5

Pittsburgh Penguins

4

30-15-4

5-4-1

After hosting Isles Tuesday, Pens have full week off to pray for return of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin

6

Tampa Bay Lightning

7

30-15-5

6-4-0

With Crosby hurt, Steven Stamkos now NHL leader in points (67), goals (38)

7

Boston Bruins

6

27-14-7

6-3-1

Milan Lucic on pace for 33 goals, 55 points – both career highs

8

Nashville Predators

10

27-15-6

8-2-0

Preds’ top hitter isn’t Shea Weber or Ryan Suter – it’s Francis Bouillon, with 133

9

Washington Capitals

8

27-14-8

5-2-3

Alex Ovechkin may not be producing goals at his usual rate, but he still leads Caps in hits (150)

10

Montreal Canadiens

11

27-17-5

6-1-3

Anybody out there predict Andrei Kostitsyn would be Habs’ top plus/minus player (plus-13)? Didn’t think so

11

New York Rangers

12

28-19-3

6-4-0

Marc Staal hasn’t missed a game since he missed two in his rookie season in 2007-08

12

Phoenix Coyotes

9

24-16-9

6-3-1

Martin Hanzal tied for first on Coyotes with six power play goals; second on team with four game-winners

13

Chicago Blackhawks

14

26-19-4

6-3-1

Hawks are NHL’s second-best at takeaways (509); only team better is Thrashers (528)

14

Anaheim Ducks

17

27-20-4

7-3-0

D-man Toni Lydman is Ducks’ top shot-blocker (123)

15

Colorado Avalanche

13

24-18-6

4-5-1

Loss of Tomas Fleischmann for rest of season won’t help Avs’ playoff plans

16

San Jose Sharks

21

25-19-5

4-6-0

Sharks improving after acquiring Ben Eager, Kyle Wellwood, but not yet out of woods

17

Minnesota Wild

18

24-19-5

6-4-0

Wild only one of two teams – the other is Ottawa – to not win in the shootout this season (0-4)

18

Carolina Hurricanes

15

23-19-6

5-4-1

Joe Corvo leading Canes in average shifts per game (29.3)

19

St. Louis Blues

19

22-18-7

2-6-2

Blues’ top five scorers haven’t missed a game to injury; only three others on team have played every game

20

Atlanta Thrashers

20

23-19-9

3-4-3

Thrashers lead league in blocks (833), but can’t block continued skid in standings

21

Columbus Blue Jackets

23

23-20-5

3-5-2

R.J. Umberger has five power play goals – one more than leading scorer Rick Nash

22

Los Angeles Kings

16

25-22-1

3-7-0

GM Lombardi’s outburst a clear attempt to distract from Kings’ freefall

23

Buffalo Sabres

25

22-21-5

6-3-1

With 862 hits, Sabres are NHL’s least-physical team

24

Calgary Flames

24

22-21-6

4-3-3

Flames’ shots on net miss the mark more times (657) than any team except for Sharks (658)

25

Florida Panthers

22

21-21-5

3-4-3

When Marty Reasoner has as many game-winning goals as David Booth (three), Panthers still have long way to go

26

Toronto Maple Leafs

26

19-23-5

5-4-1

Some nights, Leafs are world-beaters; just as often, they can’t beat an egg

27

Ottawa Senators

27

17-25-7

1-7-2

Sens owner says he has a plan for turning team around, but for Ottawa’s final 33 games, the plan seems to be to lose

28

New York Islanders

28

15-25-7

3-6-1

Nabokov’s refusal to report to Isles another insult to a team that’s been plagued by them

29

Edmonton Oilers

29

14-25-8

2-7-1

Oilers worst in NHL for giveaways (601); by contrast, best team is Columbus (219)

30

New Jersey Devils

30

16-29-3

6-3-1

Hot streak comes way too late for playoffs, but may pull Devils out of basement

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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