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Penguins pull through

Heading into Monday's games, the Pittsburgh Penguins sat atop the NHL with 21 points. (Photo by Noah Graham/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Heading into Monday's games, the Pittsburgh Penguins sat atop the NHL with 21 points. (Photo by Noah Graham/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Pittsburgh Penguins haven’t had Sidney Crosby in their lineup for nearly a full year, but the tribute to the depth and talent on their roster can be seen in their play this season – and in their ranking as the NHL’s top team in this week’s THN.com Power Rankings.

Even without fellow superstar Evgeni Malkin (who missed seven games due to injury), Jordan Staal (sidelined for two games) and defenseman Zbynek Michalek (out indefinitely with a broken finger), the Pens are the Eastern Conference’s top team. That’s in part due to the strong play of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (1.95 goals-against average, .931 save percentage), the coaching of Jack Adams Award winner Dan Bylsma, and the scoring prowess of James Neal (a team-best nine goals and 14 points in 15 games) and blueliner Kris Letang (12 assists and 13 points in 13 games).

The Penguins’ rivals in Washington aren’t far behind them for the conference and league lead: Pittsburgh has 21 points, while the Caps have 18 with three games in hand. But two of Washington’s next three games are a home-and-home series with New Jersey, which begins three days after hosting the surprisingly dominant Dallas Stars. Will one of the two be No. 1 in our next Power Rankings? Check Monday afternoon to find out.

THE HOCKEY NEWS POWER RANKINGS
RK.
TEAM
LW
OVERALL
THE SCOOP
1 Pittsburgh Penguins
2
9-3-3
Five-day break this week before Thursday/Friday tilts against Dallas/Carolina
2 Washington Capitals
1
9-3-0
Nicklas Backstrom tied for league lead in assists (13)
3 San Jose Sharks
3
7-4-1
Joe Pavelski leading team in goals (9), points (15); second behind Douglas Murray (plus-8) in plus-minus (plus-5)
4 Dallas Stars
8
10-3-0
Big tests this week: road games against Capitals, Penguins, Red Wings
5 Buffalo Sabres
5
8-5-0
What's wrong with Ryan Miller (4.84 GAA, .857 save percentage in past four games)? As long as Jhonas Enroth (1.41 GAA, .952 SP) is doing the job, it doesn't matter
6 Philadelphia Flyers
7
8-4-2
Very light week for Flyers - Bolts Wednesday, then off 'til Sunday
7 Los Angeles Kings
4
6-4-3
No gimme games this week for Kings, who face Sharks, Preds, Canucks, Wild over next six days
8 Chicago Blackhawks
10
8-3-3
Patrick Kane on pace for 64-assist season; previous high was 58 in 2009-10
9 Toronto Maple Leafs
9
9-4-1
Goalie carousel making no difference to Leafs
10 Vancouver Canucks
6
7-7-1
Hot-and-cold Nucks finish up six-game road swing with Thursday, Friday games against Ducks, Kings
11 Minnesota Wild
24
7-3-3
In four-game win streak, Wild have allowed just three goals; thank Josh Harding (.965 save percentage) for that
12 Edmonton Oilers
13
8-3-2
Four-game Original Six road trip begins Tuesday in Montreal, takes still-surprising Oilers to Boston, Detroit, Chicago
13 Tampa Bay Lightning
14
7-5-2
Steven Stamkos tied for league scoring lead with 10 goals; Marc-Andre Bergeron tied for assists lead with 13
14 Nashville Predators
15
7-4-2
Pekka Rinne signed, but questions won't stop until futures of Shea Weber, Ryan Suter decided
15 New York Rangers
28
7-3-3
Four straight wins, but three have come against subpar opponents (Ducks, Habs, Jets); more soft touches this week against Sens, Canes
16 Detroit Red Wings
12
6-5-1
Ended slump Saturday, but only against Ducks team slumping harder; home games this week against Avs, Oilers, Stars will be better indication of their current state
17 Colorado Avalanche
11
7-6-1
After starting so strong, Avs have dropped six of their past eight games
18 Phoenix Coyotes
18
7-4-2
Who is David Schlemko and why is he tied for second overall in the NHL with a plus-9?
19 Florida Panthers
16
6-4-3
Tomas Fleischmann leads inconsistent Cats in plus/minus (plus-6), tied for team goal-scoring lead (5)
20 New Jersey Devils
20
6-5-1
Half of Devils' wins have come in the shootout (3-1)
21 Montreal Canadiens
21
5-6-2
P.K. Subban leading team in ice time (23:26), but still looking for first goal
22 Ottawa Senators
17
7-7-1
Host Rangers Wednesday before what could be a season-defining six game road trip
23 New York Islanders
23
4-5-2
John Tavares has four power play goals; rest of Isles have combined for three
24 Boston Bruins
26
5-7-0
Took out Toronto and Ottawa last week, but they're hardly the league's elite
25 St. Louis Blues
22
6-7-0
Firing coach Davis Payne may help, but not if Jaroslav Halak doesn't get back on track
26 Carolina Hurricanes
25
5-6-3
Canes have won just two of their past eight
27 Calgary Flames
27
6-6-1
Wins over Wings, Avs are nice, but losses to Canucks, Sabres show how much work has to be done
28 Anaheim Ducks
19
5-6-3
Dropped six of seven games in just-concluded road trip
29 Winnipeg Jets
29
5-7-2
Loss of Tobias Enstrom will be felt throughout lineup
30 Columbus Blue Jackets
30
2-11-1
Saturday's loss to Philly was almost total surrender; hard to believe ownership hasn't fired anyone yet

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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