Matt Cullen (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
Talk about the rich getting richer. Already blessed with the top-scoring defense corps in the league, the Predators went out and got Cody Franson from the Toronto Maple Leafs as a rental for the stretch drive and the playoffs. The Preds are clearly in it to win it in 2015.
Just what the Nashville Predators needed – another scoring defenseman. Even before Predators GM Davie Poile swung a deal to acquire Cody Franson from Toronto, he had the highest-scoring defense corps in the NHL.
Franson, who now gives the Predators three of the top-20 scoring defensemen in the league, will add to that dimension. Now if the Predators can just avoid having to play the defending Stanley Cup champs in the first round of the playoffs, they’ll be just fine.
For now though, the Predators are the top team in the league in thn.com’s weekly Power Rankings. (Last week’s ranking in parentheses.)
1. NASHVILLE (2): Who would have thought the weather in Nashville would hold up a deal. It’s unlikely the newly acquired Franson and Mike Santorelli will be able to suit up tonight because the FedEx of their work documents is being delayed by icy roads in Music City. Coming up: Home to San Jose tonight, then three on the road against the Eastern Conference.
2. ST. LOUIS (8): Blues coach Ken Hitchcock may reunite the STL line of Jori Lehtera between Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko for tonight’s game against Dallas. That would move Paul Stastny back to the third line. Coming up: A four-game homestand starts tonight, with the next three against Eastern Conference opponents.
3. N.Y. RANGERS (15): If there are hockey gods out there, they will find a way to have the Rangers and Islanders finish second and third in the Metropolitan Division, thereby guaranteeing a first-round playoff matchup. Coming up: After playing five of six on the road, the Rangers open a four-game homestand Thursday night.
4. MONTREAL (3): With his 30th career shutout Monday night, Carey Price tied Patrick Roy for fifth on the all-time franchise list and further added to his Vezina and Hart Trophy credentials for this season. Coming up: Three winnable games this week – in Ottawa Wednesday, then home to Florida and Columbus.
5. LOS ANGELES (21): Nice to see the Kings and Anze Kopitar awaken from their season-long slumbers. The Kings have ripped off five straight wins and outscoring their opponents 19-11, and Kopitar has 28 points in his past 24 games. Coming up: In Colorado Wednesday, then off to Santa Clara for the outdoor game against the Sharks Saturday.
6. CHICAGO (7): The Blackhawks have picked up points in each of their past six games. Marian Hossa was named first star of the week after posting 5-1-6 totals in four games. Coming up: A four-game homestand, kicked off with a rivalry game against Detroit Wednesday night.
7. ANAHEIM (6): The Ducks have lost four of their past five games and have suddenly become porous. In their four losses, the Ducks have given up 18 goals. Before the all-star break, they had given up five goals once. Since then, they’ve done it four times. Coming up: Home to Tampa Bay Wednesday, then two on the road in western Canada.
8. CALGARY (10): Monday night’s overtime win over Boston marked the 10th time this season the Flames had won a game in which they trailed in the third period. They hadn’t done it that many in the three previous seasons combined. Coming up: Two at home, then the next seven on the road against Eastern Conference teams.
9. N.Y. ISLANDERS (9): Visions of a five-game win streak evaporated when the Islanders blew three two-goal leads in a soul-crushing 6-5 loss to the Rangers on home ice Monday night. Coming up: Road games in Carolina and Washington with a home date against Nashville wedged in between.
10. TAMPA BAY (5): The Lightning may or may not be championship material, but it got a good lesson in how a champion plays in a 3-2 loss to Los Angeles Monday night. Coming up: A tough five-game road trip through the west concludes with games in Anaheim, Arizona and Colorado.
11. MINNESOTA (4): A 3-2 loss to Vancouver Monday night was the first regulation-time loss for the Wild in almost a month, yet they’re still three points from putting the Wild in wild card. Coming up: The three-game Canadian western road trip continues Wednesday night in what is now an important game in Calgary.
12. WINNIPEG (18): The Jets big trade with the Sabres has paid immediate dividends for them. Tyler Myers has three points in as many games and Drew Stafford scored a goal and registered the shootout winner in a victory over Detroit on Saturday. Coming up: One the road in Washington and Toronto.
13. WASHINGTON (11): After scoring four points against Anaheim (and former coach Bruce Boudreau) on Sunday, Alex Ovechkin was called out by Ryan Getzlaf for “diving all over the (expletive) place.” Coming up: Ovechkin vs. Crosby is always an intriguing game and will take place tonight in Pittsburgh.
14. PITTSBURGH (13): How does a power play that can feature Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin manage to go 0-for-February? With consecutive shootout losses, the Penguins know they’re leaving valuable points on the table. Coming up: Home to Washington and Columbus before a trip to St. Louis.
15. DETROIT (1): With both Jimmy Howard and Jonas Gustavsson healthy, Petr Mrazek was rewarded for his fine play in their absences by being sent to the minors. Coming up: A murderous six-game road trip through the Western Conference, which includes three in California.
16. VANCOUVER (12): Already without Kevin Bieksa and Frank Corrado, the Canucks blueline took another hit when Alex Edler and Chris Tanev hit the injury list. Edler is out with a shoulder injury, while Tanev is day-to-day with a hand injury. Both out are out day-to-day. Coming up: A five-game road swing through the eastern United States.
17. COLORADO (24): After a loss on home ice to the Rangers last week, the Avs challenged themselves to take 40 points in their final 27 games, then went out and won the next two games. Coming up: Three tough games this week, at home to Los Angeles and Tampa Bay and on the road in Chicago.
18. BOSTON (14): The Bruins western road trip has been a disaster so far, with a 5-2 loss to Vancouver and a 4-3 overtime setback to Calgary in which they led 3-0 in the second period. Coming up: Malcolm Subban is expected to get the start Wednesday night in Edmonton, then it’s off to St. Louis and Chicago.
19. SAN JOSE (17): We thought this might be a good time to mention that the Sharks are now two points (two points!) away from being out of the playoff picture. Carry on. Coming up: Road games in Nashville and Dallas, then hosting the Kings in the outdoor game at Levi’s Stadium Saturday.
20. FLORIDA (20): The Panthers have picked a rather inopportune time to go cold with three straight losses in which they’ve scored a total of two goals in regulation time. Coming up: A make-or-break five game road trip through the Eastern Conference starts tonight in Toronto.
21. PHILADELPHIA (16): Veteran defenseman Kimmo Timonen took part in his first full practice with the Flyers in 10 months and hopes to be in the lineup within the next seven to 10 days. Coming up: Four games at home, starting with tonight against Columbus.
22. CAROLINA (23): A bright spot in another dismal season for the Hurricanes has been the recent play of Andrej Nestrasil, a Detroit refugee who has four points in his past two games and eight in 15 overall with Carolina. Coming up: Home to the Islanders and Toronto before Saturday night in New Jersey. Two of those three teams are “competing” with the Hurricanes for a lottery spot.
23. DALLAS (22): In their first game after losing Tyler Seguin for about a month with a sprained knee, the Stars had a three-game winning streak stopped in a loss to Colorado. Coming up: Tonight in St. Louis, then games at home against San Jose and Detroit. Not a light touch in the bunch.
24. OTTAWA (29): In one goalmouth crash Monday night, the Senators lost both Clarke MacArthur and goalie Robin Lehner to injury. With Craig Anderson injured, that leaves the Sens with a goaltending tandem of Andrew Hammond and Chris Driedger. Coming up: Two at home, then a five-game trip through the Western Conference.
25. COLUMBUS (19): Why are we not surprised that Nick Foligno is out of the lineup with a lower-body injury? Because he’s only missed two games this season and it was his turn to have a piano fall on him. Coming up: In Philadelphia tonight, then three on the road in tough buildings against tough opponents.
26. EDMONTON (27): There is talk that Malcolm Subban’s potential start against the Oilers Wednesday night could be an audition for the Bruins prospect if the two teams can become trading partners. Coming up: Three games at home against Boston, Minnesota and Anaheim, which isn’t as imposing as it looks.
27. TORONTO (26): The Leafs picked up an ill-advised point against Montreal over the weekend, which may affect Connor McDavid’s inevitable landing in the Center of the Hockey Universe™. Coming up: Tonight against Florida and Friday against Carolina, two games the Leafs desperately have to lose.
28. NEW JERSEY (25): Jaromir Jagr went from not wanting to be dealt to saying he wouldn’t ask to be traded to, “What’s the reason to keep me? I’m not important to this team.” Coming up: A six-game homestand begins tonight against Buffalo in what could be a huge loss for both teams.
29. BUFFALO (30): With just 98 regulation-time goals in 55 games this season, the Sabres are on pace to have the fourth-fewest goals per game in NHL history since the advent of the forward pass in 1929-30. Coming up: Two games on the road in New Jersey and Philadelphia.
30. ARIZONA (28): The Coyotes were down by two goals just over three minutes into their 5-1 loss in Colorado Monday night, which was their fifth consecutive defeat. But on the bright side, how about that Mark Arcobello pickup? Coming up: Five days off, which means five days in which they cannot possibly lose unless they play an intrasquad game.