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How are they doing? Kukla knows

Tuesday, 01.13.2009 / 10:19 AM / Columns

By Paul Kukla - NHL.com Correspondent

Two weeks ago, I gave you a snapshot view of 15 teams nearing the halfway point in the NHL season.  I was down with the flu last week, so I present to you today the remaining 15 teams.

Montreal Canadiens -- Power Play, Power Play, Power Play.  If the Habs can get that aspect of their game rolling, they will become a team to fear in the playoffs. Also, their goaltending needs to be more consistent and will be questioned even during a long postseason run.

Nashville Predators -- The return of Steve Sullivan is a pleasant surprise and if he finds his game, the Predators' power play and penalty killing will improve. Can Shea Webber continue to impress is a question yet to be answered.

The Predators will fight for a playoff spot and continue to impress with their work ethic mentality.

New Jersey Devils -- Here's hoping Martin Brodeur makes a healthy return and is on his game when he returns. The fate of the Devils still is controlled by how well Marty plays when he returns.

These Devils are no longer the defensive team of the past, but will rely on their defensive game in order to succeed.  Look for Brendan Shanahan to be a nice addition on the Devils' power play.

New York Islanders -- A team building for the future, it is key that the Isles make a few moves at the trade deadline that will improve their roster for the coming years. The health of Rick DiPietro is a question mark right now and Rick needs to be 100 percent healthy in order for the Islanders to have a positive outlook going forward.

New York Rangers -- Can this team make a long playoff run?  It all depends on their elite players. Scott Gomez and Chris Drury must play to their potential and Henrik Lundqvist must get on a serious roll. Also look for the Rangers to add to their depth as the trade deadline approaches.

Ottawa Senators -- Time for the Senators to close themselves out from the world. They need to take an "us against the world" attitude. Dig deep, take a good look in the mirror and start playing now!  If they continue to sputter, look for major changes and yes, I mean major changes.  Moving a third or fourth liner won't help, they need a new core if the winning doesn't begin soon.

Philadelphia Flyers -- The Flyers can score, they can play any style they wish, but can their goaltending carry them? They are cruising right now, but their goaltending must not suffer any letdown games.

Phoenix Coyotes -- The Coyotes will be fighting for a playoff spot in April. As the season progresses, will their youngsters gain confidence or will they hit a wall and play like youngsters sometimes do? The answer will determine the season for the Coyotes.

Pittsburgh Penguins -- Right now, not so good.  Two weeks from now, who knows? But they have too much talent to continue to slide in the standings. It is not the time to panic, with this team, a quick turnaround can happen and I think it will.

The Penguins must play a shift at a time and play it like it is a Game 7.  Taking that mentality will stop the slump.

San Jose Sharks -- Rolling, keep rolling Sharks! No letdowns, keep the pedal to the metal, don't stop and force your regular season play to carry you into the playoffs on a roll.

Not playing their game can be disastrous for a team like the Sharks. Doubts will start popping up and the Sharks don't want any reference to their past season playoff performances. There is only one way to prove their worth, keep rolling.

St. Louis Blues -- They get a pass from me due to their significant injuries. On most nights the Blues play all out and should be commended. Do they have enough to gain a playoff is a question that cannot be answered until their team health improves. Right now, the Blues may be a seller at the trade deadline and that is understandable. Making the right moves at that time is key for the Blues and their future.

Tampa Bay Lightning -- The Lightning are actually playing a much improved game these days. Questions surrounding their key players cannot weigh on their minds right now, they need to go out and play and let the player movement talk go where it may go.  Just play Tampa Bay, keep all of the non-game talk out of your mind.

Toronto Maple Leafs -- The future of the Leafs depends on the trades and signings GM Brian Burke can make. There are many holes that need to be filled and Burke must build this team back up again. The NHL needs the Leafs and I for one would welcome a Toronto team that could compete for the Stanley Cup.

Enough of the bad Leafs, it is time for them to rise again and it all rests on the hockey mind of Brian Burke.

Vancouver Canucks – It appears goaltender Roberto Luongo is once again 100 percent healthy. Good for the Canucks, bad for the rest of the League. Expect the Canucks to rise in the standings and do remember, they still have cap room which will allow them to make a move or two at the trade deadline to improve even more. By that time, Mats Sundin will be in game shape and preparing himself for a long playoff run.

Washington Capitals -- Probably the most exciting team to watch in the NHL, the Caps can score often, over and over again.  Alexander Ovechkin continues to bring me out of my seat and is truly a superstar.

Now the question is and as it always will be, can the Washington goaltending carry them into the playoffs?  If the answer is yes, this team just may be playing in June and the sporting world will be watching.

As always, any questions, comments or just want to talk hockey, feel free to email me at pk@kuklaskorner.com


Quote of the Day

I feel that responsibility, I've felt it for the last two years. We core guys get a lot of minutes, we get a lot of opportunity out there. Our teammates, the organization and fans look to us to be the guys to put the puck in the net and to create momentum out there.

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