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Rangers still No. 1, but here come the Blues

by Dave Lozo
There's little doubt the Rangers and Red Wings deserve the top two spots in the Super 16. But there are four teams -- two on the rise, two looking shaky -- that are making the most noise.

On the positive side of things, the St. Louis Blues and Phoenix Coyotes are surging during the dog days of the calendar. The Blues have won four straight and five of six, beating upper-echelon teams the Devils and Sharks this week. The Coyotes were thought to be potential sellers at the trade deadline, but they have won five straight to move into eighth place in the Western Conference standings, the ones that matter.

On the flip side, the Blackhawks and Flyers are in the midst of rough patches. The Blackhawks are 0-7-1 in their last eight games and have two tough road games against the Predators and Rangers this week. The Flyers have survived -- heck, flourished -- despite their defensive shortcomings this season caused largely by the loss of Chris Pronger, but they have foundered of late.

How does the rest of the Super 16 look this week? Let's have a gander:

1 N.Y. Rangers (36-13-5) 1 Since 2009-10, the Rangers are 28-9-3 in the second game of back-to-backs, with a 14-3-1 mark at home. They have posted a record of 14-1-3 combined in back-to-back games this season.
2 Detroit (38-17-2) 2 Since Jimmy Howard went down with a broken finger, the Red Wings are 3-1-1. Joey MacDonald has a .926 save percentage in five games -- four starts -- so does that make him the reliable backup GM Ken Holland can count on?
3 St. Louis (34-14-7) 8
David Perron had 4 goals in 26 games in a return from a 13-month absence from a concussion. In his last four games, he has 6 goals. It takes a while for players to find themselves after a concussion, so perhaps he's finally back.
4 Vancouver (34-15-6) 4 Seven of the Canucks' last nine games have gone beyond regulation. They're not dominating like they did last season, but wins are wins and points are points. They are 6-0-3 in those games.
5 Nashville (32-18-6) 3 It's a tough week to grade. They lost in Ottawa in regulation and loss twice in shootouts to Boston and Vancouver. A bounce here or there and they're 3-0 last week. Still, losses are losses.
6 Pittsburgh (32-19-5)
Evgeni Malkin has to be the MVP favorite. He leads the NHL with 69 points despite playing in at least three fewer games than everyone chasing him. He's made the loss of Sidney Crosby almost bearable.
7 Boston (34-17-2) 5
They rebounded nicely from their thrashing at the hands of the Sabres by winning in a shootout over the Preds, but the Bruins are nowhere near the dominant force they were in November-December.
8 San Jose (30-17-6) 7
There was a time this year when the Sharks' couldn't buy a power-play goal with a fist full of 100s and a gold brick. They are now 7-of-20 in their last five games with the extra man.
9 New Jersey (31-20-4) 9 The Devils' loss to Florida on Saturday afternoon was their first regulation setback since Jan. 21. Adam Henrique is now tied with the injured Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for the League lead in points among rookies with 45.
10 Phoenix (27-21-8) NR The Coyotes have won five straight without a layup among them -- San Jose, Detroit, Calgary, Chicago and Dallas. Contenders hoping they Coyotes would be sellers at the deadline are disappointed.
11 Philadelphia (31-17-7) 10 The Flyers have allowed 23 goals in their last 6 games, and are 1-4-1 in that stretch. The glaring weakness on the club is defense, but what can they do improve with the trade deadline two weeks away?
12 Los Angeles (27-19-11) 11 In the Kings' 4-2 victory against the Stars on Sunday, two players -- Dwight King and Jordan Nolan -- scored their first NHL goals. Goals are welcome from all places for the League's 30th-ranked offensive team.
13 Florida (27-17-11) 16
Everyone is waiting for the Panthers to fold, but they now hold a four-point lead in the Southeast and are getting healthier by the day. They aren't going anywhere in that division.
14 Chicago (29-20-7) 11 The Blackhawks have dropped eight straight, seven in regulation. It won't get easier this week, as they pay a visit to the Predators and Rangers. They need something to good to happen to them in the worst way.
15 Washington (28-22-5) 15
Following a home tilt with the Sharks, the Caps embark on a four-game road swing with stops in Florida and Ottawa. They need to win those games to stay in the playoff chase.
16 Ottawa (28-22-8) NR It feels like they are hanging on by a thread. Every team chasing the Senators has at least a game in hand. In the East, they can be a playoff team, but they need to turn it around sooner than later.
If you have any problems, questions, anger or praise for this list, you can let me know on Twitter: @davelozo

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