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Surging Senators

The Ottawa Senators host Tampa Bay and have a home-and-home with Philadelphia this week. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

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The Ottawa Senators host Tampa Bay and have a home-and-home with Philadelphia this week. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Boston Bruins retain top spot in this week's THN.com NHL Power Rankings, but there's a new, unexpected team from the same division entering the playoff picture. That would be the Ottawa Senators, picked by many (including The Hockey News) to finish at or near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. The Sens began December by losing six of their first nine games, but have since won six of eight, including a 3-2 overtime win against New Jersey Monday. With 45 points, they're now sixth in the East, second in the Northeast Division – although third-place Toronto has two games in hand and are four points behind them – and are benefiting from a resurgent Jason Spezza (who is on pace for 81 points, which would be his best total since he had 92 in 2007-08) and the growth of third-year defenseman Erik Karlsson (who is second in the league with 32 assists).

One of Ottawa's biggest problems remains their sub-par road record of 8-7-4. That will be put to the test in January, as the Senators have 10 of their remaining 13 games this month away from home, including showdowns against Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Jose and Boston. Can they continue their hot streak and prove the naysayers wrong, or will their run crumble under the pressure? The answer will be reflected in the next THN.com Power Rankings, which normally appear every Monday afternoon. Be sure to check back and find out.

THE HOCKEY NEWS POWER RANKINGS
RK.
TEAM
LW
OVERALL
P10
THE SCOOP
1
Boston Bruins
1
24-10-1
7-3-0
Bruins' three leading point-getters (Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron) a combined plus-71
2
Chicago Blackhawks
3
24-11-4
7-3-0
West's best team despite league's fourth-worst penalty kill (78.4 percent), 17th-best goals-against average (2.77)
3
New York Rangers
6
24-9-4
7-3-0
After being banished to the American League for a spell last year, Michael Del Zotto is back with a bang; in his first two NHL seasons, he was a combined minus-25, but this year he's a plus-25
4
Detroit Red Wings
4
24-13-1
6-4-0
Wings have league's top home record (15-2-1), West's best goals for/against differential (plus-35)
5
Philadelphia Flyers
2
22-11-4
5-4-1
HBO 24/7 star Ilya Bryzgalov is entertaining away from the rink, but becoming a distraction at it
6
San Jose Sharks
9
20-11-4
5-2-3
Sharks have NHL's third-best 5-on-5 goals for/against ratio (1.47), behind only Detroit (1.76) and Boston (1.83)
7
Florida Panthers
8
20-12-7
4-4-2
Cats have four games in next 13 days, then four games in six nights, then one game in next nine days
8
Vancouver Canucks
11
24-13-3
6-3-1
One way to beat Canucks: force them into a shootout, where they're just 1-3 this year
9
Pittsburgh Penguins
5
21-13-4
5-5-0
Only Sharks (34.6) average more shots on net than Penguins (33.7)
10
St. Louis Blues
10
21-12-5
5-3-2
Kevin Shattenkirk, Alex Pietrangelo shining for underrated Blues defense corps
11
Los Angeles Kings
19
19-14-7
6-1-3
Kings lead ultra-tight Pacific Division with 45 points, but have played five more games than second-place Sharks (who have 44)
12
Nashville Predators
12
21-14-4
7-3-0
Of all teams currently in a playoff position, Preds only one whose leading scorer is a defenseman (Shea Weber, with 29)
13
Washington Capitals
14
20-15-2
6-3-1
Only two games for Caps between now and Monday, then seven in the following 12 days
14
Ottawa Senators
20
20-15-5
7-2-1
If coach Paul MacLean keeps this up, he'll garner Jack Adams Award attention at season's end
15
New Jersey Devils
18
21-15-2
7-2-1
Some things never change: Devils have NHL's best penalty kill (91.4 percent), fourth-worst power play (13.3 percent)
16
Winnipeg Jets
17
19-14-5
6-3-1
Jets now have league's ninth-best 5-on-5 goals for/against ratio (1.05) and most home wins of any Eastern Conference team (14-6-1); if they could replicate that level of play on the road (where they're just 5-8-4), they'd be near top of East's heap
17
Minnesota Wild
7
21-13-6
1-6-3
Wild won first five games last month, then dropped nine of next 10
18
Colorado Avalanche
24
22-18-1
8-2-0
10-5-0 record in December still only has Avs on fringe of playoff picture; their next four games are all against teams above them in the West (Hawks, Blues, and a home-and-home series against Preds)
19
Dallas Stars
13
21-15-1
6-4-0
Sheldon Souray still leading Stars in plus-minus (plus-9), shots (109)
20
Toronto Maple Leafs
16
18-15-5
3-5-2
Leafs' 4-6-3 mark in December has them on outside of playoff bubble looking in for first time all season
21
Tampa Bay Lightning
21
17-17-3
6-3-1
Bolts finished December with three straight wins; they have three road games this week and hope to improve their awful 6-12-3 road record
22
Buffalo Sabres
15
17-17-4
2-6-2
Sabres allow an average of 31.3 shots on net; only Leafs, Sens (both 31.4), Wild (31.7) and Stars (32.1) allow more
23
Phoenix Coyotes
22
19-16-4
4-5-1
Radim Vrbata on pace for a 37-goal season; his previous career best was 27 in 2007-08
24
Calgary Flames
25
18-17-5
4-3-3
Flames have a decent enough home record (10-5-2), but are abysmal on the road (8-12-3)
25
Montreal Canadiens
23
14-18-7
3-7-0
It doesn't matter what language is being used to describe them Ð the Canadiens are falling apart and on the verge of playoff race irrelevance
26
Edmonton Oilers
26
16-19-3
3-7-0
GM Steve Tambellini says Oilers' slump is in part due to absence of injured players Ryan Whitney, Andy Sutton, Corey Potter and Cam Barker; that's a hell of a stretch
27
New York Islanders
27
13-17-6
4-6-0
Isles just 3-14-3 when trailing after one period; only Jackets (1-15-2) and Ducks (1-16-2) are worse
28
Carolina Hurricanes
30
13-21-6
4-4-2
No team has surrendered more goals than Canes, who are tied with Ottawa for league's worst goals-against average (3.32)
29
Anaheim Ducks
29
10-21-6
2-7-1
Coach Bruce Boudreau's presence can't make up for Ducks' defensive deficiencies
30
Columbus Blue Jackets
28
10-23-5
2-7-1
GM Scott Howson says he's ready to make significant roster moves; no time like the present with this motley crew

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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