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Predators on the prowl

Nashville is once again in the playoff hunt despite a low budget. (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Nashville is once again in the playoff hunt despite a low budget. (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The top three teams from last week's THN.com NHL power rankings – the Rangers, Bruins and Sharks – have retained their spots, but the Nashville Predators are making noise this week. Winners of four straight and seven of their past eight games, the Preds are getting just enough offense (averaging 2.70 goals-per-game, while giving up an average of 2.68 goals-against) to keep them in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.

Surprisingly, the Preds have the league's third-best power play (21.6 percent) – a marked improvement from last season, when they were 26th overall at 15.2 percent. Their leading scorer is defenseman and captain Shea Weber (32 points), but they're spreading around the offense, with nine players amassing at least 20 points. This week features three road games for the Preds, tilts with the Isles, Rangers and Jackets, before an important divisional showdown against Chicago on Saturday. Will they continue to say nay to the naysayers and move on up the charts? Check THN.com next Monday and every Monday to find out.

THE HOCKEY NEWS POWER RANKINGS
RK.
TEAM
LW
OVERALL
L10
THE SCOOP
1
New York Rangers
1
28-11-4
7-3-0
Blueshirts a league-best 20-1-1 when scoring first
2
Boston Bruins
2
28-12-1
7-3-0
Bruins leading the NHL in goals per game (3.58) and goals allowed per game (1.95) and have five games in hand on Northeast's second-place Sens
3
San Jose Sharks
3
25-12-5
6-2-2
Patrick Marleau leading Sharks with five game-winning goals; he had a career-best 10 in 2008-09
4
Detroit Red Wings
5
28-15-1
7-3-0
Valtteri Filppula on track for 41-assist, 69-point year; his career highs are 28 assists and 40 points (both set in 2008-09)
5
St. Louis Blues
7
26-12-6
6-2-2
Blues lost four games in regulation time in December, but have 11 of a possible 12 points so far in January
6
Vancouver Canucks
4
28-15-3
6-3-1
Canucks have league's third-best goal differential (plus-35), trailing only Detroit (plus-38) and far-and-away leaders in Boston (plus-69)
7
Philadelphia Flyers
6
26-13-4
5-5-0
Scott Hartnell playing best hockey of his 11-year NHL career (including a team-best plus-17)
8
Chicago Blackhawks
8
27-13-6
4-4-2
Patrick Kane has just one goal in past 13 games
9
Nashville Predators
13
25-15-4
7-3-0
Only Ducks, Wild and Oilers get fewer shots on net than Preds (27.5)
10
Ottawa Senators
11
25-15-6
8-1-1
Filip Kuba a team-best plus-15; last year, he was a minus-26
11
Washington Capitals
12
24-17-2
7-3-0
Alex Ovechkin has eight goals, 13 points in past 12 games
12
Los Angeles Kings
9
22-15-9
5-1-4
Since blowout 8-2 loss to Detroit Dec. 17, Kings have just one regulation-time loss in 14 games
13
New Jersey Devils
14
25-17-2
6-3-1
Improving Devils don't play on the road again until Feb. 4
14
Florida Panthers
10
21-14-8
3-5-2
Cats leading scorer Kris Versteeg on pace for 32-goal, 74-point season; his previous career bests are 22 goals and 53 points in 2008-09
15
Pittsburgh Penguins
15
23-17-4
4-6-0
With 51 points, Evgeni Malkin is second in league scoring despite playing nine fewer games than Henrik Sedin (52 points)
16
Dallas Stars
18
24-18-1
5-5-0
Leading scorer Jamie Benn out of lineup for at least a week after appendectomy; gut check time for his teammates
17
Colorado Avalanche
17
24-20-2
6-3-1
Rookie Gabriel Landeskog is a team-best plus-11; next closest is Ryan Wilson (plus-4)
18
Toronto Maple Leafs
16
22-17-5
5-4-1
Dion Phaneuf on pace for 39-assist, 52-point season; both numbers would represent his best since 2007-08
19
Winnipeg Jets
19
20-19-5
4-6-0
Chris Thorburn a team-worst minus-10 while averaging just 10:06; Blake Wheeler a team-best plus-10 while averaging 17:14
20
Minnesota Wild
20
22-16-7
2-6-2
Loss of Mikko Koivu for as long as a month could snuff out Wild's fading post-season hopes
21
Phoenix Coyotes
21
20-18-7
2-4-4
Coyotes tied with Habs for league's least-effective power play (12.8 percent)
22
Calgary Flames
23
21-20-5
4-5-1
Only five games in next 16 days for Flames, but two come against Sharks, one vs. Wings
23
Buffalo Sabres
22
19-20-5
3-5-2
Tough week ahead for slumping Sabres, with four games in six nights (against Red Wings, Blackhawks, Jets and Blues)
24
Montreal Canadiens
24
17-20-8
4-5-1
Canadiens have just one shootout win in seven attempts
25
New York Islanders
26
16-20-6
5-5-0
Victories over Wings, Sabres a good time, but it'll be tough to build on it with games this week against Preds, Caps and Flyers
26
Anaheim Ducks
29
15-22-7
6-3-1
Three wins in four games equaled a good week for Ducks, but it's far too late to be talking playoffs
27
Carolina Hurricanes
27
16-24-7
4-5-1
Tuomo Ruutu, Tim Gleason head the list of Canes bound to be traded
28
Edmonton Oilers
28
17-23-4
2-7-1
At 21.8 percent efficiency (second best in league), Oilers' power play one of few remaining highlights of their increasingly awful season
29
Tampa Bay Lightning
25
17-23-4
3-6-1
Bolts bottoming out, heading for another high lottery pick; sooner or later, they'll need to swap some young talent to bulk up blueline
30
Columbus Blue Jackets
30
12-27-5
3-6-1
Jackets now eight points out of 29th place in what for many reasons is the franchise's worst year

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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