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Power Rankings: Keeping fingers crossed for a New Year's Eve epic

Ken Campbell
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Power Rankings: Keeping fingers crossed for a New Year's Eve epic

News

Power Rankings: Keeping fingers crossed for a New Year's Eve epic

Ken Campbell
By:

If the two hottest teams in the NHL can take care of business Thursday night, it sets up a doozy of a game between them Saturday.

New Year’s Eve in Minnesota, the Wild against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The biggest game of the season. Who knows, maybe even a preview of the Stanley Cup final. Who would have thought that a couple of months ago?

That could be the case when the two hottest teams in the league meet Saturday night. If the Blue Jackets can take care of business against the Winnipeg Jets Thursday night, they’ll become just the sixth team in NHL history to have a winning streak of at least 14 games. And if the Wild can defeat the New York Islanders at home the same night, they’ll have their own 12-game winning streak going.

So, we’ve probably jinxed everything already. Even if we have, it’s been a wild ride watching the top two teams in thn.com’s Power Rankings over the past month. (Last week’s rankings in parentheses.)

THE CREAM OF THE CROP

1. Columbus Blue Jackets (1)

2. Minnesota Wild (2)

3. Pittsburgh Penguins (3)

4. San Jose Sharks (6)

5. New York Rangers (9)

6. Calgary Flames (13)

7. Washington Capitals (10)

8. Philadelphia Flyers (8)

9. Chicago Blackhawks (5)

10. Carolina Hurricanes (20)

Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella on his team’s 13th straight win: “It was a slop-fest. I lit a match to the tape already. It’s done. It’s burned.”…Bruce Boudreau has now coached Washington, Anaheim and Minnesota to winning streaks of at least 11 games…Lost in the myriad of Pittsburgh’s accomplishments is the fact that defenseman Justin Schultz has 7-10-17 totals in the past 14 games…Tomas Hertl, who has been out since Nov. 17 with a knee sprain, skated for the first time since the injury on Tuesday…With Rick Nash and Mika Zibanejad out, Derek Stepan has picked up his game, scoring 14 points in the past 13 games…Despite scoring three points, Mikael Backlund did not play the third period of Calgary’s win over Colorado Tuesday night after injuring his knee…The Capitals scored three goals and lost for the first time this season Tuesday night against the Islanders…The Flyers have nine prospects playing in the World Junior Championship, more than any other team. The most intriguing is defenseman Philippe Myers of Canada, who was signed as a free agent…The Blackhawks hope Marian Hossa, out with an upper-body injury, will be back in time for the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day…The Hurricanes suffered a huge blow when defenseman Justin Faulk suffered a lower-body injury last Friday. He’s out week-to-week.

THE MUSHY MIDDLE

11. Montreal Canadiens (4)

12. Ottawa Senators (7)

13. St. Louis Blues (12)

14. Edmonton Oilers (11)

15. Anaheim Ducks (19)

16. New York Islanders (22)

17. Dallas Stars (21)

18. Winnipeg Jets (24)

19. Toronto Maple Leafs (25)

20. Los Angeles Kings (18)

The Habs play their next six games on the road, where they’re just 6-6-2 this season…Zack Smith left the Senators’ 4-3 loss to the Rangers Tuesday night in the second period with an upper-body injury…The Blues are the third-best team in the NHL at home, third-worst in the league on the road…The Oilers will be the rest of the season without the emerging Tyler Pitlick after he was diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament…Defenseman Sami Vatanen sat out the Ducks’ 3-2 overtime loss to San Jose Tuesday night with the flu. Coach Randy Carlyle said the Ducks would decide today whether Vatanen will accompany them on their upcoming two-game road trip…Casey Cizikas, who has missed five straight for the Islanders with an upper-body injury, is back skating, but is not close to returning to the lineup…The Stars have won consecutive games for the first time in six weeks…The Jets wouldn’t mind a steady diet of the Blackhawks. Their 3-1 win Tuesday night made them 3-0-0 against Chicago this season…For the first time since October, the Leafs are in the black when it comes to goal differential…The Kings’ 3-2 loss to Dallas Tuesday night was just their first in overtime this season. They’re now 6-1 in OT.

VYING FOR THE PARTICIPATION BADGE

21. Boston Bruins (17)

22. Buffalo Sabres (16)

23. Tampa Bay Lightning (23)

24. Florida Panthers (14)

25. Nashville Predators (15)

26. Detroit Red Wings (26)

27. Colorado Avalanche (30)

28. New Jersey Devils (29)

29. Vancouver Canucks (27)

30. Arizona Coyotes (28)

Bruins defenseman John-Michael Liles skated Tuesday for the first time since getting a concussion that has kept him out of the last 14 games. He hasn’t been cleared to practice and it’s not clear when he could return to the lineup. Torey Krug has five assists in three games and 13 in his past 16…The Sabres, who went into their 4-3 win over Detroit Tuesday night with just 18 first-period goals, scored twice in the first. That also marked the first time in eight games they had scored the first goal of the game…The Lightning are finally getting healthy in time for a five-game home stand that begins tonight against Montreal…The Panthers enter their game tonight against Toronto a very mediocre 4-4-4 in the month of December…Nashville’s overtime loss to Minnesota Tuesday was the fifth straight it was without defenseman P.K. Subban, who is out with an upper-body injury and there appears to be no timetable for his return…Legendary former Wings coach Scotty Bowman said it’s impossible to win in the NHL without good goaltending and a good power play. His former team has received spotty goaltending this season and has the worst power play in the NHL…The Avs’ 6-3 loss to Calgary Tuesday night was their ninth straight at the Pepsi Center…The Devils have watched their playoff hopes evaporate by losing 16 of their past 20 games…Jannik Hansen is expected to be out four-to-six weeks after suffering a knee injury last week…The Coyotes are 3-9-3 and have scored only 27 goals in their past 15 games.

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Power Rankings: Keeping fingers crossed for a New Year's Eve epic