14-5-1, 29 points (1st in Atlantic Division, 2nd in East)
Leading scorers: Zach Parise
13-13-26, Travis Zajac
6-13-19, Jamie Langenbrunner
It's been the same story with the Devils, who are playing like they used to under Jacques Lemaire
when he was the coach in the mid-to-late 1990s. The defense, led by goalie Martin Brodeur
, has been spectacular, which is a small miracle considering they've spent the last 11 games without top blueliner Paul Martin
. Johnny Oduya
also has missed the last nine games. Andy Greene
has been excellent as the top puck-moving defenseman in their absence. Parise has been great and Zajac, now in his fourth season, has turned into a true No. 1 center. Rookie Niclas Bergfors
has been a nice addition and every team would love a player of David Clarkson
The next 20:
The Devils play 12 home games, including four straight from Nov. 28-Dec. 5 and five in a row from Dec. 9-18. They play twice each against Pittsburgh, Ottawa and Atlanta.
14-8-0, 28 points (2nd in Atlantic, 4th in East)
Leading scorers: Sidney Crosby
10-11-21, Evgeni Malkin
5-13-18, Alex Goligoski
The defending Stanley Cup champions have been beaten and battered and their power play has been dreadful, yet they are standing tall at the quarter-mark of the season thanks in large part to the play of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury
(Thursday's outing in Ottawa not withstanding) and contributions throughout the lineup. They are playing without five of their top six defensemen as Jay McKee
, an under-the-radar summer pickup, was ruled out Tuesday for 2-4 weeks with an infected finger just in time for Sergei Gonchar
to come back into the lineup after a month away due to a wrist injury Mark Eaton
is playing hurt and back spasms made him a game-time decision for Thursday against Ottawa. He played. Kris Letang
, Goligoski, Brooks Orpik
, Malkin, Tyler Kennedy
and Chris Kunitz
all have missed or are still missing time. Talbot made his season debut Thursday. Crosby even went an unheard of five straight games without a point. And yet the Penguins are still second in the division and fourth in the conference. Go figure.
The next 20:
They already started the second quarter with a win over Anaheim before a 6-2 loss in Ottawa on Thursday. They still have 10 home dates left in the second quarter, including games against the Canadiens, Rangers, Avalanche, Blackhawks, Flyers and Devils. Their road games include visits to the Thrashers, Islanders, Rangers, Canadiens, Flyers and Sabres (twice).
12-5-1, 25 points (3rd in Atlantic, 5th in East)
Leading scorers: Jeff Carter
7-12-19, Mike Richards
9-9-18, James van Riemsdyk
6-11-17, Chris Pronger
It's not their fault they play in what so far has been the best division in the NHL. The Flyers, who won't play their 20th game until Saturday, are off to a solid start yet can't seem to make up much ground in the division because the Devils and Penguins have played well ahead of them and also have played more games. They are, however, 2-0 against the Devils and 4-3 against the four teams ahead of them in the conference. The Ray Emery
project so far has yielded outstanding results as the goalie has played in 16 of 18 games and owns a 2.22 GAA and .923 save percentage. Pronger has been perhaps even better than expect (plus-14) and van Riemsdyk is a Calder Trophy candidate who has goals in three straight games. Simon Gagne
's hernia surgery really is the lone blemish.
The next 20:
After playing Friday in San Jose and Saturday in Phoenix to complete their first quarter, the Flyers have 12 more road games before the second quarter is over. They finish it Jan. 1 at Boston's Fenway Park in the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
11-9-1, 23 points (4th in Atlantic, 7th in East)
Leading scorers: Marian Gaborik
15-12-27, Vinny Prospal
5-16-21, Ales Kotalik
A hot start, which featured a seven-game winning streak after an opening night loss in Pittsburgh, has given way to an inconsistent season for the Rangers, who already have played one game of their second-quarter schedule. Since their win streak, the Rangers are just 5-7-1. Gaborik and Prospal have been awesome together, but the Rangers otherwise boast an average offense and an average defense despite solid play from rookies Michael Del Zotto
(October's NHL Rookie of the Month) and Matt Gilroy
. Center was their weakest position heading into the season, and now they are hurting without Chris Drury
(concussion) and Brandon Dubinsky
(broken hand). However, goalie Henrik Lundqvist
is giving them the best chance to win every night and the Rangers are very much in the thick of the playoff race.
The next 20:
Their second quarter started with Tuesday's 4-2 home loss to Washington. The Rangers, though, have a chance to rise up the standings since they play Florida three times and at Carolina twice before New Year's Day. They also play the Islanders three times. That being said, they also play the Sabres, Flyers and Penguins twice each, plus the Red Wings and Blackhawks.
8-6-7, 23 points (5th in Atlantic, 8th in East)
Leading scorers: John Tavares
9-10-19, Matt Moulson
10-8-18, Kyle Okposo
It's very rare to see a last-place team feeling so good about itself, but that's what you have in the Islanders, who have taken advantage of a number of one-point losses. They are growing up before our eyes and the future looks bright. Tavares has been better than people anticipated and is on pace for 75 points. Moulson could be labeled as the surprise of the division, or even the entire conference. We're talking about a player who barely could sniff the NHL while in the Kings' organization the last two seasons. Dwayne Roloson
and Martin Biron
have been a solid pair in net, but now there is word Rick DiPietro
is on the mend. Their defense, though, could get better and the season-ending injury to Radek Martinek
The next 20:
If they can make it through their next 10 games, which includes eight on the road, the Isles will be sitting in a good spot. They follow that stretch with eight of their next 10 at home, and the only two road games are against the Rangers in Madison Square Garden. The players will spend most of December in their own beds.