14-5-4, 32 points (1st in Pacific Division, 1st in Western Conference)
Leading scorers: Joe Thornton
6-20-26, Patrick Marleau
13-12-25, Dany Heatley
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.
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
GM Dean Lombardi's grand plan is in its fourth phase: Learning how to win. First, he had to skin the Kings down to the bone. Then, he had to string together some solid drafts complete with high picks. The third phase was developing the young players while integrating the right veterans (and, Lombardi stressed the word 'right') into the lineup. Now we are starting to see the results in the form of victories. Kopitar is in the running for the Hart Trophy and Smyth, before he was lost for what could be a month with an upper-body injury, was having a resurgent season at the age of 33. With 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..
12-9-1, 25 points (3rd in Pacific, 7th in West)
Leading scorers: Shane Doan
5-9-14, Ed Jovanovski
5-8-13, Radim Vrbata
7-5-12, Robert Lang
5-6-11, Adrian Aucoin
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.
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
The Stars just can't seem to get any momentum going. They've been for the most part a win-one, lose-one team, but at least some of these losses are the one-point variety. That's what is keeping them afloat. No team in the West has as many as six one-point losses. It's not about production, because they are getting that by scoring more than three goals a game. The defense hasn't been terrible and 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.
7-10-3, 17 points (5th in Pacific, 14th in West)
Leading scorers: Corey Perry
13-13-26, Ryan Getzlaf
3-22-25, Teemu Selanne
11-4-15, Bobby Ryan
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.