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Sympathy for the Devils

The New Jersey Devils sit 12th in the East, eight points out of the last playoff spot. (Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

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The New Jersey Devils sit 12th in the East, eight points out of the last playoff spot. (Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

In one of the biggest comebacks the NHL has seen in the post-lockout era, the New Jersey Devils have rebounded from virtual irrelevance and clawed (a) back within shouting distance of a playoff berth; and (b) further up the THN.com Power Rankings.

After opening the season 10-29-2, the Devils are 20-2-2 in their past 24 games, have lost just once in regulation in their past 13 games and sat eight points behind Buffalo with 17 remaining regular season games. Much of their current success can be attributed to the firing of former coach John MacLean and the return of veteran Jacques Lemaire, but without stellar contributions from star winger Ilya Kovalchuk, goalie Johan Hedberg and others, New Jersey would be languishing at the bottom of the league standings.

The Devils off-loaded veteran center Jason Arnott at the Feb. 28 trade deadline, yet don’t seem to miss him in the least. As well, the schedule-maker appears to have been more than kind to their delicate playoff hopes, at least in the short term: New Jersey has five straight games against non-playoff teams (two games against Ottawa and Atlanta and one against the Islanders) before five straight games against playoff contenders (Washington, Columbus, Boston, Pittsburgh and Buffalo).

Lemaire’s charges will have to take advantage of those first five games to make the next five worth watching.

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

1

Vancouver Canucks

2

42-16-9

6-4-0

Nine Canucks have at least 10 goals this season and two (Jannik Hansen and Jeff Tambellini) have nine apiece

2

Philadelphia Flyers

1

40-19-6

4-5-1

Four consecutive losses have Flyers fans worried, but still lots to like here and enough time to steer ship into better waters

3

Boston Bruins

5

38-19-8

7-2-1

Bruins have NHL’s top 5-on-5 goals for/against average (1.47); next best is Vancouver (1.29)

4

Detroit Red Wings

3

39-19-8

5-3-2

Most potent offense in the league belongs to Wings (3.26 goals per game), but they rank 19th in goals-against per game (2.88)

5

San Jose Sharks

6

38-22-6

8-2-0

Have settled into a groove, winning eight of past nine games, but have tough week against Nashville, Vancouver and the Rangers

6

Washington Capitals

8

36-20-10

7-3-0

Caps edge ahead of Bolts in battle for top spot in Southeast

7

Chicago Blackhawks

9

37-23-6

9-1-0

White-hot Hawks putting fears of missing playoffs far behind them

8

Tampa Bay Lightning

4

37-21-7

4-4-2

Lightning get tough tests in Caps Monday and Hawks Wednesday, then soft touches on weekend (Sens Friday, Panthers Saturday)

9

Pittsburgh Penguins

7

38-21-8

3-3-4

Pens all but assured of playoff spot, but have only won two games in their past eight

10

Montreal Canadiens

12

36-23-7

6-3-1

Habs face Bruins twice before end of regular season; they’re not far enough from ninth place to allow past brawl to be a distraction

11

Los Angeles Kings

10

36-25-4

6-3-1

Nine of Kings’ final 17 regular season games come against Pacific Division rivals - including three games against Stars, two against Sharks

12

Calgary Flames

14

35-24-9

7-2-1

Devils’ miraculous run overshadowing Flames’ longer miraculous run

13

Dallas Stars

13

35-23-7

4-5-1

Jamie Langenbrunner has four goals, 10 points in 22 games since trade from Devils

14

Phoenix Coyotes

11

34-23-10

5-4-1

Five-game losing streak snapped with win over Wings, but with two games apiece against Vancouver and Calgary in next two weeks, is another skid on the horizon?

15

Anaheim Ducks

17

35-26-5

4-5-1

Do-or-die week for Ducks happens March 20-26: four games against Flames, Stars, Preds, Hawks

16

Minnesota Wild

15

34-25-7

4-4-2

Without injured Mikko Koivu, Wild now league’s worst in average shots on net (26.1)

17

Nashville Predators

16

33-24-9

3-5-2

Foundering Preds play in San Jose Tuesday; next stretch includes nine of 10 games at home

18

Buffalo Sabres

20

32-25-8

5-3-2

Brad Boyes averaging a point per game in first four games since coming over from Blues

19

New York Rangers

19

35-29-4

5-5-0

You never know what you’ll get with mediocre Blueshirts

20

Columbus Blue Jackets

18

31-26-7

5-3-2

Home-and-home series against Blues Monday and Wednesday, but after that Jackets have six straight games against playoff contenders until traveling to Colorado March 22

21

Carolina Hurricanes

21

31-26-9

5-4-1

Only six of Canes final 16 games come away from home; that’s good, because their home record (18-10-3) much better than their road record (13-16-6)

22

New Jersey Devils

25

30-31-4

9-1-0

Former sad-sacks now making furious push for playoffs; it may be too late, but if they keep limiting opponents to an NHL-low average of 26.7 shots per game, it may not be

23

Toronto Maple Leafs

23

29-28-9

6-1-3

Despite loss to Hawks, gutsy Leafs still have shot at post-season

24

St. Louis Blues

22

28-28-9

3-7-0

Blues have lost past four games by combined score of 15-4

25

Atlanta Thrashers

24

27-28-11

3-6-1

Little reason to believe Thrashers’ extended tailspin will end now

26

Florida Panthers

26

26-31-9

2-6-2

Next year can’t come quickly enough for wiped-out Cats

27

New York Islanders

28

25-32-10

4-3-3

Sideshows overshadowing decent end to Islanders injury-riddled year

28

Colorado Avalanche

27

26-31-8

1-7-2

Peter Mueller to miss entire year with post-concussion symptoms

29

Edmonton Oilers

30

23-35-8

7-3-0

Oilers will bottom out without Taylor Hall, but with NHL’s worst power play (13.7 percent) and second-worst penalty kill (77.0 percent), how much further is there to fall?

30

Ottawa Senators

29

22-34-9

5-4-1

Jason Spezza, Sens counting seconds ‘til nightmare season concludes

Power Rankings will return March 15.

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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