Power Rankings: Defending Cup champs separating from pack in West

Ken Campbell
Steven Stamkos (left) and Patrick Kane (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

This is getting downright scary. Will anyone be able to stop Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks this season? As great as the Blackhawks have been over the past half decade, they never won 12 games in a row the way they have this season. As brilliant as Kane has been throughout his career, he has never had a stretch like this one.

The Blackhawks established their franchise high-water mark for straight wins when they dispatched the Nashville Predators Tuesday night. And they’ll have a chance to usurp the Florida Panthers season-high winning streak when they visit the surging Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday night.

Their play of late makes the Blackhawks an easy choice as the top-ranked team in thn.com’s Power Rankings for the second straight week. (Last week’s ranking in parentheses.)

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Rumor Roundup: Blues seeking hockey trade for Shattenkirk

Kevin Shattenkirk (Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

For several weeks, the St. Louis Blues have regularly appeared in the trade rumor mill. There’s talk defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk’s UFA status in 2017 could force GM Doug Armstrong to move the skilled blueliner this season. Among the clubs believed pursuing Tampa Bay Lightning winger Jonathan Drouin, the Blues are said to be the front-runners.

Jeremy P. Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the Blues need an offensive jolt, as they’ve dropped to 21st in scoring. They also began this week with 167 man games lost to injury. However, Armstrong tells Rutherford he doesn’t expect any trade activity until after the upcoming NHL All-Star break, possibly not until closer to the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

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The Lightning have been quiet this season, but Tampa Bay is heating up at the right time

Jared Clinton
Ben Bishop, Steven Stamkos and Valtteri Filppula (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Lost in much of the talk surrounding Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Drouin was the fact that for seven weeks — from Nov. 23 to Jan. 9 — the defending Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning weren’t holding down a post-season position.

Whether or not you want to blame it on the distractions surrounding the club or point to injuries the Lightning have had to deal with, for the better part of the season Tampa Bay has been outside of the playoff picture looking in. No one expected an up-and-coming squad like Tampa Bay to take a step back, but for 48 days the Lightning scratched and clawed their way to getting back into the Atlantic Division race. It was an overtime win over the Vancouver Canucks that finally got the Lightning back into a playoff spot.

That victory was Tampa Bay’s second-straight, and they’ve won their past five games by a combined score of 18-9. Over that time, the Lightning have gone from outside the wild-card race to third place in the Atlantic. They’re nipping at the heels of the second-place Detroit Red Wings while chasing down the first-place Florida Panthers. And while a lot can happen between now and the post-season, the Lightning might be able to sneak into the playoffs and again become a post-season juggernaut. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Oilers still shopping Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Since last fall, Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was suggested as possible trade bait to address their need for a skilled top-four defenseman. On Friday, Sportsnet’s Mark Spector cited multiple sources claiming the Oilers offered up the 22-year-old center to the Nashville Predators for defenseman Seth Jones before he was eventually dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Leon Draisaitl has emerged as a first-line center for the Oilers while promising rookie Connor McDavid is set to return to action following the All-Star break. With that much depth down the middle, it’s not surprising Nugent-Hopkins could be available.

Having failed to land Jones, Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli will likely set his sites elsewhere. Nugent-Hopkins was recently linked to the Minnesota Wild, who are seeking a boost at forward and have plenty of depth on defense. There’s talk Jonas Brodin and his $4.16-million annual cap hit could be available.

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Getting to Know: Former NHLer Jassen Cullimore

Mark Malinowski
Jassen Cullimore. (Getty Images)

Status: Former NHL defenseman from 1992-2012 for Montreal Canadiens, Vancouver Canucks, Chicago Blackhawks, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Ht: 6-5 Wt: 235 pounds

DOB: Dec. 4, 1972 In: Simcoe, Ont.

First Hockey Memory: “Growing up in Canada our front yard used to flood in the winter time and it would freeze over and we would go out there and skate. Right down the road from us a friend of our’s, Rob Blake, who played in the NHL, he would come over with his brothers. We would get out there and play against ’em.”

Hockey Inspirations: “Growing up I didn’t really have one player that I idolized – or one team that I enjoyed watching. My inspiration was more the youth coaches that I had. The one in particular – Fred Bridgewater – who helped me learn how to cross-over because I was very frustrated with it when I first started [smiles].”

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Report: Jonathan Drouin trade talk heating up, deal could come this weekend

Jared Clinton
Jonathan Drouin (Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

The clock is ticking on Jonathan Drouin’s time as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning and he could very well have a new home come Friday night.

According to TVA Sports’ Renaud Lavoie, there’s a possibility that Drouin could be dealt as soon as Friday. Lavoie noted that the St. Louis Blues, who have been hit with a rash of injuries, are thought to be one of the frontrunners for the 20-year-old.

Lavoie took to Twitter Friday morning to clarify his report further, however, saying that any trade involving Drouin “could be part of a deal involving multiple players” depending on which team he heads to. Lavoie also noted that while the Blues are considered up there on the list of teams interested in Drouin, they’re not the only club chasing the winger and Lightning GM Steve Yzerman won’t trade Drouin unless Yzerman is getting back what he believes to be fair value. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Yzerman taking his time with Drouin trade

Lyle Richardson
Jonathan Drouin (Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

Recent reports suggested a trade of Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin could take place perhaps as early as this week. However, that might not be the case. TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports the teams expressing interest in the 20-year-old winger don’t get the sense that he’ll be moved soon. McKenzie said the feeling is GM Steve Yzerman is either taking things slowly to ensure he gets the right deal, or he’s focused on dealing with just one team.

Pierre LeBrun lists the St. Louis Blues, Anaheim Ducks, Montreal Canadiens, Minnesota Wild and Ottawa Senators among the interested clubs. He claims the Lightning and Senators had conversations, guessing the Bolts could target defenseman Cody Ceci. However, the Sens won’t part with him.

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What’s happening to this beautiful game?

Toronto vs. Columbus (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Driving to the game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets Wednesday night, your trusty correspondent had high hopes for an exciting, back-and-forth game. And I mean that in all sincerity.

Here’s why. It was a game that pitted the 27th-best team in the NHL against the 30th-best team in the NHL. For the cup-is-half-empty-crowd, that would be the fourth-worst team in the world’s best league against the absolute worst team. In my experience, those kinds of games are usually the most entertaining because I’ve always believed the worse the players, the better the game is to watch. More mistakes equal more chances. The problem with the NHL today is not that the players are not good enough, it’s that they’re too good.

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