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Power Rankings: Panthers ride 'Spacey in Space' to new stratosphere

Ken Campbell
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Reilly Smith (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

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Power Rankings: Panthers ride 'Spacey in Space' to new stratosphere

Ken Campbell
By:

Here we are at the all-star break and the Florida Panthers are soaring. We have no idea what Kevin Spacey has to do with all of this, but if it works for the Panthers they might as well roll with it.

Nobody but the Florida Panthers and actor Kevin Spacey knows exactly what “Spacey in Space” means, but the last time the Panthers had a gimmick like this, they rode it all the way to the Stanley Cup final.

In 1995-96 it was the year of the rat. And if the Panthers keep playing the way they have of late, who knows? They might just be able to ride “Spacey in Space” to boldly go where no Panther has gone before, a Stanley Cup parade. There’s still a long way to go and a lot to prove, but the Panthers are undoubtedly for real. And they also go into the all-star break as the top team in thn.com’s weekly Power Rankings. (Last week’s rankings in parentheses.)

CREAM OF THE CROP
1. Florida Panthers (8)
2. Washington Capitals (2)
3. San Jose Sharks (10)
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (15)
5. Dallas Stars (6)
6. Chicago Blackhawks (1)
7. Los Angeles Kings (4)
8. St. Louis Blues (5)
9. Tampa Bay Lightning (3)
10. Anaheim Ducks (21)

After signing Aleksander Barkov to a six-year deal, GM Dale Tallon said, “In the past, this organization has drafted players and developed them and off they’re gone. It’s a cycle that wasn’t very effective.”…After digging themselves out of a blizzard, the Capitals played Wednesday night in what will have been their only action in a span of almost two weeks… The Sharks are on the rebound, with an 8-2-0 record in their past 10 games. Just as importantly, they’re winning at home and have scored four or more in six of those games…The Predators were 4-0-0 on a road trip through western Canada and gave up only four goals on the trip. That might just have saved their season…After losing their first four games under new coach Mike Sullivan, the Penguins have gone 9-3-4, including wins in three straight games. “We’re making progress. We’re starting to see results,” Sullivan said… The once red-hot Stars have won two of their past three games, which allowed them to salvage a 3-6-2 record for the month of January… Scoring has dried up a little for the Hawks, who have just three goals in their past four games and have been shut out twice in three. Patrick Kane has two assists in four games and All-Star Game no-show Jonathan Toews no points in five… The Kings don’t exactly have the Pacific Division sewn up, but a seven-point lead over San Jose has them sitting in a great position. “You can never be comfortable,” said Kings defenseman Drew Doughty… The Blues have overcome an avalanche of injuries and are looking for goals. They have just three in their past three games…A seven-game winning streak was stopped in a 5-2 loss to their cross-state rivals, but Tampa looks as though it’s found the mojo that vaulted it to the Stanley Cup final…After digging themselves into an enormous hole, the Ducks go into the all-star break with a 10-3-1 record since the Christmas break.

THE MUSHY MIDDLE
11. Nashville Predators (28)
12. Colorado Avalanche (16)
13. New York Rangers (9)
14. Carolina Hurricanes (24)
15. Detroit Red Wings (13)
16. Boston Bruins (7)
17. New York Islanders (14)
18. New Jersey Devils (12)
19. Arizona Coyotes (20)
20. Minnesota Wild (19)

The Predators were 4-0-0 on a road trip through western Canada and gave up only four goals on the trip. That might just have saved their season…Winners of five of their past six games, the Avs had a statement game Wednesday night when they fell down 2-0 to Los Angeles and came back to win the game 4-3…Remember when the Rangers were off to their best start in franchise history at 16-3-2. It might seem like a distant memory because they’re 11-14-3 since then…The Hurricanes are feeling their oats after dismantling the Stanley Cup champions, putting up five goals in each of their past two games and winning three of four. “The toughest part of our schedule is behind us, which was really just this last month,” said defenseman Ron Hainsey. “There’s a lot to be optimistic about here.”…Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek was 7-1-1 with a .952 save percentage for the month of January…Lots of sighs of relief for Bruins backup Jonas Gustavsson, who was released from hospital after having an elevated heart rate during Boston’s 6-2 loss to Anaheim Tuesday night…A streak of points in four straight games was stopped Tuesday night with a loss to Detroit. This has been a very difficult team to figure out this season…The Devils had a four-game win streak stopped before the break, but they’re doing far better than anyone would have ever imagined…The Coyotes posted their 10th win of this season when trailing after the first period when they beat Minnesota 2-1 in a shootout Monday night. Only Los Angeles and St. Louis have more wins under those circumstances…The Wild hobbled into the all-star break losers of 10 of 13 games in January.

VYING FOR THE PARTICIPATION BADGE
21. Philadelphia Flyers (23)
22. Ottawa Senators (11)
23. Winnipeg Jets (26)
24. Columbus Blue Jackets (30)
25. Montreal Canadiens (18)
26. Buffalo Sabres (22)
27. Vancouver Canucks (17)
28. Calgary Flames (25)
29. Edmonton Oilers (29)
30. Toronto Maple Leafs (27)

Jakub Voracek’s overtime winner against Washington Wednesday night gave him 4-6-10 totals in the seven games leading into the all-star break…Veteran defenseman Chris Phillips likely won’t play at all this season and is facing unrestricted free agency this summer…Jets winger Blake Wheeler turned down the opportunity to replace Jonathan Toews in the All-Star Game…One bright spot for the Blue Jackets is the play of rookie Joonas Korpisalo, who is on a 4-1-1 run with a .946 save percentage in his last six starts…The Canadiens started the season with a 9-0-0 record that established a franchise record, but haven’t been as bad as they were in their past 20 games in the past 75 years…Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart are on pace to become the first two rookies to hit the 20-goal mark since Danny Gare and Peter McNab in 1974-75…A healthy scratch in three straight games, Brandon Prust acknowledges he came back too early after missing 11 games with a high ankle sprain in November…Hard to believe Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman will get off completely scot-free after crosschecking a linesman from behind in Calgary’s loss to Nashville Wednesday night…Let the madness begin, again. Connor McDavid is set to rejoin the Oilers next Tuesday when they host Columbus…The Maple Leafs have needed 12:24, 11:43 and 11:25 to record the first shot in each of their past three games.

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Power Rankings: Panthers ride 'Spacey in Space' to new stratosphere