Posted: Wednesday December 15, 2010 5:52PM ; Updated: Thursday December 16, 2010 2:55PM
Brian Cazeneuve
Brian Cazeneuve>NHL POWER RANKINGS

Penguins hang on to top perch

Story Highlights

The gritty Predators had a perfect week, thanks to their backup goalie

The stumbling Capitals fell out of the top 10 as the heat rose on their coach

A flashy young Oiler took some flak, but his team is easy to cheer for

NOTE: All stats are through games of Monday, December 13.

NHL Power Rankings
1Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 1
The Pens have been soaring since Nov. 2, the last time Marc-Andre Fleury lost a regulation contest (he's 13-0-1 since) and the night Sidney Crosby started a point streak that has reached 18 games. "The good part about a streak like this," said coach Dan Bylsma, "is that we keep setting higher standards for ourselves." Asked if he could name a bad part, Bylsma added. "Glad to say you stumped me." Last week: 2-0-0
 
2Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 5
They took five of six points for the week, and inflicted another heartbreak on Boston. Captain Mike Richards beat Bruins netminder Tim Thomas with three seconds left in overtime to stun the team that Philly dramatically rallied to beat last spring. "I don't think we have their number," Richards said. "If it's in their heads and we face them [in the playoffs again], that's fine with me." Last week: 2-0-1
 
3Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 2
When visiting Montreal fans began chanting Carey Price's name in Detroit's home building, Jimmy Howard couldn't help himself. "It really fired me up," he said after weathering a third-period storm in which the Habs outshot his Wings, 19-3. Howard's 36 saves on the night propelled Detroit to a 4-2 win and reminded the league that even when they're not at their best, the Wings can still find ways to win. Last week: 2-2-0
 
4Nashville Predators
Last Week: 13
Since spelling injured No. 1 goalie Pekka Rinne, Anders Lindback has gone 4-0-1 and the Preds have increased their run to 6-0-2. Last week, Lindback made 50 saves over two games in shutouts against the Panthers and Islanders. Not the stiffest competition, but there was much to like in the Preds' efforts. "The guys are doing a really great job in front of me," Lindback said. "I only take the first shot, and if there are any rebounds that get through, they get them out for me." Last week: 3-0-0
 
5Boston Bruins
Last Week: 7
Boston Bruins (16-8-4)
Ageless wonder Mark Recchi, 42, did it again, beating Buffalo's Ryan Miller with a deflection goal in overtime to start the week. Then Milan Lucic, 22, scored twice in a 5-2 win against the Islanders, giving him 15 goals for the season, six more than he had all of last season. "I have a secret this time," Lucic says. "I'm closing my eyes when I shoot." Last week: 2-1-0
 
6Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 9
During a week when they retired Markus Naslund's No. 19 and played three one-goal games while extending their recent run to six wins in their last eight matches, Daniel and Henrik Sedin showed once again why their numbers will one day reside with Naslund's. After the twins played a superb two-way game in a 2-1 win in Edmonton, coach Alain Vigneault gushed, "They were outstanding. That's probably the best game they've played this year. It's the type of game we need them to play and expect them to play." Last week: 2-0-1
 
7Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 4
Carey Price continued his torrid pace -- one goal-against for the fifth time in six games -- in a win over Ottawa. "I'm just in there filling space because we've been playing so well," he said. "I've just been taking up oxygen." But the Habs then scuffled in losses to Detroit and Toronto later in the week, proving that you can never really breathe easy in this league. Last week: 1-2-0
 
8Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 12
They've turned things around after that nasty 1-7 slide in November, going 4-1 with some stout goaltending, including Jonathan Quick's 51-save (26 in the second period), 5-0 whitewash of Detroit that may have been the league's best performance of the year in net. "Quicker was unbelievable," said defenseman Drew Doughty. "I don't think I've ever been in a game where the goalie stood on his head like that." Last week: 2-0-1
 
9Dallas Stars
Last Week: 6
Dallas Stars (18-10-2)
A lot of red lights flashing during a busy week, and unfortunately the lit lamps were mostly in their own end. They gave up five goals in losses to Chicago and Phoenix and seven to Colorado before settling down with a 3-2 win against San Jose. "That's more like it," sighed goalie Andrew Raycroft, who played his fourth straight game in place of the injured Kari Lehtonen. "We didn't give them much of anything. And that's what we need to be successful." Last week: 2-3-0
 
10Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 19
In their most successful week yet, they won on consecutive nights in Atlanta and Washington to complete a five-game road trip. Paul Stastny picked up three points and Craig Anderson stopped 40 shots to pace this hobbled, undermanned squad against the skidding Capitals. "We had some excuses tonight and we didn't use them," said coach Joe Sacco. "We can really build on this." Last week: 3-0-1
 
11Atlanta Thrashers
Last Week: 8
They needed a rally from 2-0 down to beat the woeful Isles and a pair of goals from Bryan Little to hold off the Habs, but they still won twice without playing their best hockey. "We hold each other accountable every night," Little said. "I think that's the main thing that's different from last year. It's fun coming to the rink every day." Last week: 2-1-0
 
12Washington Capitals
Last Week: 3
The heat lamps were on high after they suffered their sixth straight defeat. And losing by a touchdown to the Rangers was their fourth shutout loss in their last 13 games. So frustrated was the slumping Alex Ovechkin that he hip-checked Dan Girardi and started a fight with Brandon Dubinsky. "I don't have an answer right now," said coach Bruce Boudreau, whose seat is noticeably warmer these days. "It is unfamiliar territory and I think we have a lot of people feeling sorry for themselves." Last week: 0-3-0
 
13New York Rangers
Last Week: 16
In their best game of the season, they blanked the Caps, 7-0, with seven different scorers recording at least two points apiece and Henrik Lundqvist bagging his league-high fifth shutout. These resilient Rangers are now 8-0-0 in the second of back-to-back games. "We want to be the team that somebody else is talking about," said forward Brandon Dubinsky. "We don't have the firepower other teams do, but we're willing to outwork anybody." Last week: 2-1-0
 
14Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 11
When Shane Doan scored twice in the first period against Dallas, he seemed primed for the first hat trick of his 1,065-game NHL career, especially with Richard Bachman (Stephen King's pen name) making his NHL debut in the Stars' net. But in a dark Kingsian twist, Doan hit the left post late in the third period, played extended shifts and still had to settle for his 35th career two-goal game, the most among active players who have yet to score a hat trick. "It wouldn't be as good a story if I get it now," he later joked. Last week: 1-1-0
 
15Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 10
Their 5-4 OT win over the Canucks broke Steven Stamkos's six-game goalless drought (after amassing 21 in his first 22 games, he scored twice, including a power-play goal 34 seconds into OT) and the Bolts' 0-8-2-1 schneid in Vancouver, a place where they had never won. Goaltending remains a concern as they crawl along at a win-one/lose-one pace this month while surrendering an average of five goals per night. Last week: 1-1-1
 
16Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 20
Anaheim Ducks (16-13-4)
Their top line showed how good it can be while the Ducks grabbed seven points out of eight during the week. Against the Wild, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan combined for five goals and 11 points. But the best news came during a win in Vancouver, where Joffrey Lupul scored his first goal in a year since returning from back surgery. Last week: 3-0-1
 
17San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 17
San Jose Sharks (15-10-5)
On a team that has Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau, it was rookie Logan Couture who coach Todd McLellan singled out as the Sharks overcame a 4-1 third-period deficit to beat the formidable Flyers. "He's been arguably our best player," McLellan said. "He might be surprising a lot of people, but he's not surprising anybody on our club. Guys know he's the go-to player right now." Last week: 2-1-1
 
18Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 15
They played one of their most painful games of this challenging season while falling 7-5 to injury-depleted Colorado. After coach Joel Quenneville pulled Marty Turco for allowing four goals on 10 shots, the Hawks rallied for the lead before collapsing in the final 2:24 of their second straight loss. "You feel like you got kicked in the guts," Quenneville groaned. Added relief goalie Corey Crawford, "That was brutal." Last week: 1-1-1
 
19Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 14
After a strong November, coach Dave Tippett has been frustrated with his club. Following a recent 4-1 loss to St. Louis, the team's sixth defeat in seven games, Tippett remarked, "Once it got to 3-1, we decided to play desperate. Why not play desperate in the first five minutes? There might be a different outcome." Can't hurt to give it a try each night before things really do get desperate. Last week: 1-1-1
 
20St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 18
A 4-1 victory over Columbus gave them back-to-back wins after a five-game losing spell, but didn't make up for the loss of forward Andy McDonald, who suffered a concussion and added to the team's growing injury list at a critical time. This is a month of opportunity for the Blues, who are playing a franchise record 10 home games in December. Last week: 1-0-1
 
21Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 22
Minnesota Wild (13-12-4)
Their 3-2 win in Phoenix snapped a five-game losing skid and Andrew Brunette's power-play goal ended a 1-for-31 slump with the man advantage by a team that promised more wide-open hockey this season. However, the Wild showed why wide open may be a bad idea, losing 6-2 in Anaheim in a contest marred by sloppy turnovers. Last week: 2-1-0
 
22Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 24
Buffalo Sabres (12-14-4)
In a 3-2 OT loss to Boston, the longest shutout streak of Ryan Miller's career came to an end at 161 minutes, 35 seconds. The scorching Penguins zapped him for five later in the week. "When it's going well I'm concentrating and moving without thinking," said Miller, whose spells of brilliance may be this team's lone cause for optimism for the rest of the season. Last week: 1-1-1
 
23Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 21
A tough shootout loss to the Stars left the Canes winless (0-9-1) in Dallas since moving to Carolina in 1997. Cam Ward salvaged the week with 38 saves plus three more in a shootout in St. Louis that saw Jussi Jokinen break a personal 0-for-5 slump in the skills competition. But the road remains an unfriendly place, as the 'Canes have only only two of their last nine away from home. Last week: 1-0-1
 
24Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 23
Edmonton Oilers (11-13-5)
Add Linus Omark to the list of young Oilers to watch. His spin-o-rama shootout goal dropped the Lightning and ticked off a few Bolts. "There is a line," warned Tampa's Simon Gagne. "You don't want to cross it." Defenseman Mattias Ohlund called it disrespectful. Countered Omark, "That's my thing. I like to do it for the crowd. Yes, that's good." At last, something to cheer about in Edmonton. This young team has spunk. Last week: 1-1-1
 
25Florida Panthers
Last Week: 27
Before a shutout loss to the Preds, they beat the Avs on Stephen Weiss' OT goal and shut out struggling Washington, thanks to 36 saves by Tomas Vokoun, breaklng a six-game slump against the Caps and earning their first three-game win streak in two years. What's more, the Panthers are 5-1-4 against the East and have only one game left on the schedule outside the Eastern time zone. Last week: 2-1-0
 
26Calgary Flames
Last Week: 28
Calgary Flames (13-15-3)
With coach Brent Sutter under scrutiny, they played four close games, including an OT loss in Anaheim where they have won only once in their last 22 tries. If only Jarome Iginla's teammates could offer more support. The gallant captain scored the OT winner against Columbus and extended his point streak to eight games. Last week: 2-1-1
 
27Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 25
Ottawa Senators (13-16-3)
Alex Kovalev was openly miffed at being demoted to the fourth line, even though he's scoreless in six straight games, because he was absolutely productive compared to Daniel Alfredsson. The Sens' captain finally scored his first goal in 13 games as Ottawa rallied from 3-0 down only to fall to the Thrashers, 4-3 in OT. Last week: 1-2-1
 
28Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 26
It wasn't enough for coach Ron Wilson that his Leafs dropped the gloves in the second period and outshot the hot Penguins, 15-2, in the third of a match they would lose 5-2. "The turning point of the game was when they dropped the opening faceoff," grumbled Wilson. "I wish we had more guys to cover [Sidney Crosby]." Last week: 1-2-0
 
29New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 29
Not even Martin Brodeur's first appearance since Nov. 18 could help them avoid a 3-2 loss to struggling Ottawa. "We hear how we're playing well," said forward David Clarkson, "but obviously not well enough because we're not winning." In their next game, the Devils trailed Detroit, 2-0, after two shots, and subsequently lost their fifth straight game in regulation for the first time since 2000. Changes are on the way... Last week: 0-2-0
 
30New York Islanders
Last Week: 30
It wasn't so much the three losses or the power play that went powerless for 47 chances until Blake Comeau finally scored, or even the 20 losses in their last 21 games, but when busloads of fans from Quebec, land of the once-proud Nordiques, show up and make more noise than your own sleepy partisans, it may be time to worry about your long-term viability as a franchise and not just about the games you can't seem to win. Last week: 0-3-0

 
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