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Power Rankings: Penguins pick perfect time to get scorching hot

Ken Campbell
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Pittsburgh Penguins (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

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Power Rankings: Penguins pick perfect time to get scorching hot

Ken Campbell
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The Pittsburgh Penguins, bottom feeders in THN's weekly Power Rankings at the beginning of the season, are the hottest team in the NHL entering the playoffs, despite missing a couple of very key players from their lineup.

If you subscribe to the theory that late-season momentum leads to playoff success, you might want to throw a few dollars down on the Pittsburgh Penguins. The walking birds have won seven games in a row and 13 of their past 14. In their past 20 games, their record is 17-3-0.

Even when they lose a Hart Trophy-caliber player in Evgeni Malkin and their No. 1 goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury, they don’t miss a beat. The Penguins are 12-1-0 since Malkin went down with an upper-body injury and goaltending understudy Matt Murray was named the third star of the week after Fleury sustained a concussion.

All of that has earned the Penguins, who were bottom feeders on this list early in the season, the No. 1 ranking in the last regular-season installment of thn.com’s weekly Power Rankings. (Last week’s rankings in parentheses.)

CREAM OF THE CROP
1. Pittsburgh Penguins (5)
2. St. Louis Blues (1)
3. Florida Panthers (11)
4. Chicago Blackhawks (13)
5. Washington Capitals (3)
6. Anaheim Ducks (6)
7. New York Islanders (10)
8. San Jose Sharks (8)
9. Dallas Stars (2)
10. New York Rangers (7)

The Penguins we all know and love have returned, scoring at least five goals in each of the past five games and in six of their past seven…The injury parade for the resilient Blues continues with Jake Allen and David Backes missing the rest of the regular season…Defenseman Erik Gudbranson was sent home after taking a headshot in Florida’s 4-3 win over Toronto Monday night…Artemi Panarin is the first rookie since Teemu Selanne in 1992-93 to record three straight three-point games…In what could be a preview of the Stanley Cup final, the Capitals will host Anaheim Sunday night to make up for their postponed game in January… Ryan Kesler, who is in the Selke Trophy conversation, scored his 20th goal of the season Sunday night, giving him 20 goals in eight straight non-lockout seasons…With nine points in his past five games and 11 points in his past eight, John Tavares could not have chosen a better time to pick up his game…The Sharks’ 3-0 win over Minnesota Tuesday night was their 28th road win of the season to establish a new franchise record…The Stars have given up a league-high 15 shorthanded goals, including two in a 3-1 loss to Anaheim Sunday night…Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh will miss the rest of the regular season, and likely a couple of playoff games, with a small fracture in his right hand.

THE MUSHY MIDDLE
11. Los Angeles Kings (9)
12. Detroit Red Wings (17)
13. Nashville Predators (15)
14. Philadelphia Flyers (14)
15. Buffalo Sabres (24)
16. Vancouver Canucks (30)
17. Winnipeg Jets (27)
18. Tampa Bay Lightning (12)
19. Boston Bruins (16)
20. Minnesota Wild (4)

The Kings’ 5-4 overtime win over Calgary Tuesday night was their franchise-record 47th of the season. They’ve posted 46 victories four times in their history…The Red Wings hold their playoff destiny in their hands with games tonight at home against Philadelphia and Thursday night in Boston. They’re looking to extend their playoff appearance streak to 25…Filip Forsberg has 18 goals since the all-star break, which is second in the league only to Alex Ovechkin. With 32 this season, he’s just one away from tying the franchise record…Flyers goaltender Michal Neuvirth is a longshot to return before the playoffs…Loser points have taken the luster off the accomplishment to be sure, but the Sabres could actually finish this season as a .500 team. They're 7-2-2 in their past 11…Goaltending prospect Thatcher Demko is expected to sign with the Canucks sometime after he plays in the Frozen Four with Boston College this weekend…Blake Wheeler scored to give the Jets a 2-1 overtime victory over Anaheim Tuesday night, giving him a nine-game point streak in which he’s posted 6-6-12 totals…Jonathan Drouin is expected back in the Syracuse Crunch lineup by the weekend, heightening expectation he’ll be called up by the Lightning…With only two games remaining and losses in three of their past four, the Bruins are the favorite to be on the outside of the playoffs looking in when the dust settles…The Wild, losers of four in a row, backed into a playoff spot when Nashville beat Colorado Tuesday night.

VYING FOR THE PARTICIPATION BADGE
21. Carolina Hurricanes (22)
22. Colorado Avalanche (19)
23. Ottawa Senators (23)
24. Montreal Canadiens (20)
25. New Jersey Devils (18)
26. Calgary Flames (25)
27. Arizona Coyotes (21)
28. Columbus Blue Jackets (28)
29. Toronto Maple Leafs (26)
30. Edmonton Oilers (29)

Hurricanes coach Bill Peters will not see his season end this weekend. He was named head coach of Canada’s team for the World Championship…Matt Duchene and coach Patrick Roy claimed they cleared the air concerning Roy criticizing Duchene for celebrating his 30th goal of the season in a 5-1 loss to St. Louis Sunday…Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson scored his 100th career goal in Ottawa’s 5-3 loss to Pittsburgh Tuesday night. The goal also gave him 80 points on the season, making him the first defenseman to hit that mark in 19 seasons…Brendan Gallagher returned to the Canadiens lineup, but it’s still unclear whether Carey Price will play in one of the two final games of the season…Patrik Elias played for the first time since having knee surgery in December in the Devils’ 3-1 loss to Buffalo Tuesday night…The early reviews on Hunter Shinkaruk, the 2013 first-rounder acquired at the trade deadline for Markus Granlund, have been positive. He has three points in five games…Coyotes coach Dave Tippett was blunt about his team’s performance in a 6-2 loss to Chicago Tuesday night: “That was a combination of really poor execution by our team and really below-average goaltending. That’s what you get.”…Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella will hear no talk of tanking going into tonight’s game against the Maple Leafs. So if the Blue Jackets lose, it’s because they’re just really bad…Speaking of tanking, Frederik Gauthier, who has six goals in the American League this season, centered the top line in the Maple Leafs’ 4-3 loss to Florida Monday night…Given the way they’ve played the last decade, will tonight’s last game at Rexall Place be a fond farewell for today’s Oilers or a case of ‘Good riddance’?

 

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Power Rankings: Penguins pick perfect time to get scorching hot