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Burnside's Power Rankings: Who's back on top? Surprise, surprise

The Lightning and Preds just keep rolling along -- and steamrolling their competition

by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB / DallasStars.com

National Hockey League teams will hit the 70-game mark in the coming week, which means the finish line that is the regular season and the starting line that is the NHL playoffs is in sight.

Let's start with an epic battle between the two top teams in the NHL, locked also in an epic battle at the top of the Terrific 10.

 

1. Tampa Bay Lightning

Last week: No. 3

Tampa Bay and Nashville start the week with identical 9-0-1 records in their last 10, but the Bolts retake the top spot in the rankings, thanks to a five-game winning streak. Ryan McDonagh has joined the lineup for the first time since the trade deadline.

 

2. Nashville Predators

Last week: No. 1

The Predators remain the crème de la crème of the Western Conference, having lost for the first time in 11 games to New Jersey on Saturday -- but they still got a point, tying the game late (of course they did ... it's what they do) before losing in a shootout.

 

3. Florida Panthers

Last week: No. 2

The Panthers are 8-1-1 in their last 10, and 11-2-1 in their last 14, and still don't own a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. What they do own is a bunch of games in hand. Now, all they have to do is win those games.

 

4. Boston Bruins

Last week: No. 4

The Bruins split a weekend home-and-home with Chicago as Rick Nash continues to prove he might be the early leader in "trade deadline MVP" race with his seamless transition to life as a Bruin.

 

5. Minnesota Wild

Last week: NR

Minnesota is just cruising along, collecting points and building a nice little playoff cushion as the third-place team in the Central Division. Eric Staal, fourth in the NHL with 37 goals, is shouldering his way into Hart Trophy discussion.

 

6. Winnipeg Jets

Last week: NR

The Jets dodge a bullet as Mark Scheifele is not out of lineup long-term after an upper-body injury. Meanwhile, Patrik Laine has his sights set on Alexander Ovechkin and a Rocket Richard Trophy as he's tied with Ovechkin for the goal-scoring lead with 40. The two face off Monday night in D.C.

 
7. Pittsburgh Penguins

Last week: NR

The Penguins rebounded nicely from a disappointing loss in Toronto on Saturday to defeat Dallas, 3-1, and now have won four of five to reclaim the Metropolitan Division lead. Evgeni Malkin is on fire and garnering lots of late-season Hart Trophy buzz.

 

8. Columbus Blue Jackets

Last week: NR

One reason the Panthers can't get any traction in the Eastern Conference playoff race is that Columbus has emerged from a second-half swoon. They have now won four in a row and are closing the gap on New Jersey for the top wild-card spot and the rest of the Metropolitan Division.

 

9. Colorado Avalanche

Last week: NR

If your glass is half-full, then the Avs have not lost in regulation in their last seven games. If you're a glass-is-half-empty sort, you'll point out that three times in that stretch (4-0-3) they've lost in overtime. Losing right, whether you like it or not, has moved the Avs into a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Will it keep them there?

 

10. Anaheim Ducks

Last week: No. 5

The Ducks have dropped two in a row, but they remain one of those teams that you don't want to tangle with come playoff time. They begin a four-game homestand Tuesday against St. Louis.

 

Frigid Five


 

27. St. Louis Blues

Last week: No. 30

The Blues broke out of their funk in a big way Saturday, crushing Los Angeles 7-2 to keep themselves in the hunt in the Western Conference. But no Jay Bouwmeester for the rest of the season, Scottie Upshall is out long-term and Paul Stastny is lighting it up in Winnipeg. It looks grim for Blues, who are 2-6-2 over their last 10 games and must dislodge three teams to get to a postseason berth.

 

28. Carolina Hurricanes

Last week: NR

The Hurricanes are rapidly running out of real estate in their bid to a break a playoff drought that began in 2010. New owner Thomas Dundon is already making waves as he takes the hockey powers from Hall of Famer Ron Francis and begins the search for a new general manager in Raleigh.

 

29. New York Islanders

Last week: NR

Help, I've fallen and I can't get up! That's the battle cry of the woeful Islanders, who ended an eight-game winless streak by whipping Calgary on Sunday night but also remain seven points out of a postseason berth. Say goodnight, Irene.

 

30. Calgary Flames

Last week: NR

Speaking of the Flames, they can't win at home -- 14-16-4 -- and that's how you miss the playoffs. It was a rough return to action for Mike Smith, who took the loss Sunday.

 

31. Detroit Red Wings

Last week: NR

Are we seeing the final days of Ken Holland's distinguished tenure as GM of the Red Wings? If so, he'll prefer to forget this season as the Wings are going out without a whimper.

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Scott Burnside is a senior digital correspondent for DallasStars.com. You can follow him on Twitter @OvertimeScottB, and listen to his podcast.

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