|SAN JOSE SHARKS|
| VIDEO: Heatley hat trick
Record: 14-5-4, 32 points (1st in Pacific Division, 1st in Western Conference)
The skinny: The Sharks got off to a slow and inconsistent start, but they righted themselves and are now sitting exactly where everyone thought they would be -- first in the division and first in the conference. Heatley has found his niche in San Jose and has fit in seamlessly. Nobody is talking about Marleau losing the captaincy anymore. The talk is about him putting up big numbers and perhaps being on the Canadian Olympic team. You can say the same thing about Thornton and Dan Boyle, who leads all NHL defensemen with 20 points. The Sharks traded Christian Ehrhoff to Vancouver, but rookie defenseman Jason Demers has picked up right where Ehrhoff left off. He has 12 points and a plus-4 rating. He's getting power-play time, too, because captain Rob Blake has been hurt. They are an even more dangerous team now that Joe Pavelski has worked his way back into the lineup after sitting out most of October with injury. Goalie Evgeni Nabokov is in the Vezina hunt.
The next 20: They've already played 25 games and have nine of their next 15 at home. They played their 16th road game of the season Saturday in Anaheim.
| LOS ANGELES KINGS
| VIDEO: Doughty on improving his game
Record: 13-8-2, 28 points (2nd in Pacific, 4th in West)
Leading scorers: Anze Kopitar 14-18-32, Ryan Smyth 9-14-23, Jarret Stoll 7-11-18, Dustin Brown 6-12-18, Drew Doughty 5-13-18.
Justin Williams on the other flank, they have formed one of the League's best No. 1 lines. It's on defense where the Kings are still a work in progress. Drew Doughty has continued to develop at a rapid pace and the Kings have liked what they have seen from fellow blue-liner Davis Drewiske, but Jack Johnson is a minus-10 and goalie Jonathan Quick is has had his ups and downs. It's all part of the process when a team is learning how to win in this League.
The next 20: They played their 24th game Saturday and second without Smyth. The Kings play three of their next four on the road in Edmonton, Vancouver and Anaheim before playing five of their next six at Staples Center. However, that's followed by a four-game road trip to Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Phoenix..
| PHOENIX COYOTES
| VIDEO: Gary Bettman interviews Dave Strader
Record: 12-9-1, 25 points (3rd in Pacific, 7th in West)
The skinny: Despite all the distractions surrounding the bankruptcy case, the Coyotes have put together a solid start to the season thanks in large part to the play in net of Ilya Bryzgalov, who is making a push to make the Russian Olympic team. Entering Saturday, Bryzgalov is 11-6 with a 2.09 goals-against average and .920 save percentage. He has needed to be great because it's not as if the Coyotes are lighting it up offensively. They are in the bottom third in the League in goals for. But they are helping out Bryzgalov and backup Jason Labarbera by limiting the shots to 27 per game, which is third in the NHL. Their special teams have been OK, but nothing too dynamic. You have to appreciate the work veterans such as Doan, Jovanovski (now injured), Lang, Aucoin, Vrbata, Scottie Upshall, Keith Yandle and Vernon Fiddler have done. This is no longer a team relying on youth. The young players, such as Peter Mueller, Martin Hanzal, Kyle Turris, Mikkel Boedker and Kevin Porter, are either playing marginal roles or are in the AHL.
The next 20: It's a mixed bag. Phoenix plays three of its next four on the road in Edmonton, Calgary and Anaheim before returning to Jobing.com Arena for four of five against the Flames, Senators, Wild and Sharks. After that, it plays four on the road in Detroit, Toronto, Columbus and Anaheim before another three at home.
| DALLAS STARS
| VIDEO: Nieuwendyk at the GM's meetings
Record: 9-6-6, 24 points (4th in Pacific, 8th in West)
Leading scorers: Brad Richards 6-16-22, James Neal 11-11-22, Loui Eriksson 9-9-18.
Marty Turco has had a fine season. The Stars, though, have lacked something. Maybe it's killer instinct. Maybe it's a finishing touch. Maybe it's resiliency. Entering Saturday, the Stars had not won a game in which they trailed after the first period (0-2-3). When they score the first goal they are 8-2-1, but they are just 1-3-5 when they give it up. They are 1-4 in the shootout.
The next 20: With two games of their second-quarter schedule already in the books, the Stars have 18 left before New Year's Day. Ten of them are at home, but it's broken up by a five-game road trip that takes them to Anaheim, San Jose, Los Angeles, Carolina and Atlanta. They finish 2009 with five of six games at home.
| ANAHEIM DUCKS
| VIDEO: Corey Perry on fire
Record: 7-10-3, 17 points (5th in Pacific, 14th in West)
The skinny: So, what exactly has happened? The only piece missing from last year's squad that scared the bejesus out of the Red Wings in the playoffs is Chris Pronger. But, the Ducks picked up Saku Koivu, who while not a defenseman is still a pretty good two-way center. They still have Perry, Getzlaf, Ryan, Scott Niedermayer, Teemu Selanne, Ryan Whitney, James Wisniewski, Todd Marchant, Jonas Hiller and Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Well, neither goaltender has been particularly good as both have GAA's of more than 3.00. The defense hasn't done much to help them out as the Ducks are giving up nearly three and a half goals per game and more than 33 shots per game. The PK is among the worst in the League. The Perry-Getzlaf-Ryan line has been great, but Koivu's groin injury has hurt the second line, which also includes Selanne and Joffrey Lupul. The rest of the forwards have combined for a paltry 16 points.
The next 20: If the Ducks are going to make up any ground, now would be the time to do it. They started a seven-game homestand Thursday. They have only five home dates in December.