Cat calls

The Pittsburgh Penguins retain top spot in this week’s Power Rankings – and making a big jump are the rebuilt Florida Panthers, who go from 16th last week to 11th. In an early outcome few predicted, the Cats are leading the Southeast Division on the strength of their solid road record (9-6-0) and in spite of a sub-par home mark (5-2-4). With 16 assists and 28 points, well-traveled winger Kris Versteeg leads all Panthers point producers and is on pace for 38 goals and 89 points, which would smash his previous career highs (22 goals, 53 points). Florida also is receiving solid contributions from goalie Jose Theodore (2.28 goals-against average, .924 save percentage) and blueliner Brian Campbell (on pace to match his career best of 62 points).

The Panthers play eight of their remaining 13 games this month at home, giving them a good chance to atone for earlier poor home performances and pad their division lead. Will they be able to climb into the top 10 next week? Check back Monday afternoon, and every Monday, to find out.

Pittsburgh Penguins 1 16-7-4 6-3-1 Weird. Despite Penguins’ success, D-man Paul Martin a minus-8
Boston Bruins 3 16-7-1 9-0-1 Soaring Bruins now a league-best plus-34 in goal differential
San Jose Sharks 2 14-8-1 6-4-0 Only Wings (34.7) put more shots on net than Sharks (34.1)
Detroit Red Wings 5 16-8-1 7-3-0 Nicklas Lidstrom (plus-8) amazing once again, but surprisingly, Ian White leads team in plus-minus (plus-13)
Philadelphia Flyers 4 15-7-3 7-3-0 Claude Giroux on pace for 49 goals, 104 points; behold the league’s newest addition to the “top superstar” debate
New York Rangers 7 15-5-3 8-2-0 Ryan McDonagh tied for 12th in plus-minus (plus-12), second on Blueshirts in ice time (25:16 per game)
Chicago Blackhawks 6 16-8-3 6-4-0 Hawks have West’s most potent offense (3.22 goals per game), but the conference’s third-worst defense (3.04 goals against)
Minnesota Wild 8 17-7-3 8-2-0 Mike Yeo for coach of the year? If the season ended today, absolutely
Los Angeles Kings 9 13-9-4 6-3-1 Hard to believe given their talent, but Kings tied with Ducks for league’s second-worst goals-for average (2.27)
Vancouver Canucks 11 15-10-1 7-3-0 Alex Burrows on pace for 79-game, 42-point season; last year, he had 48 in 72 games
Florida Panthers 16 14-8-4 6-3-1 Southeast-leading Panthers facing nothing but playoff-caliber teams (Washington, Boston, Buffalo and the Rangers) this week
Washington Capitals 12 13-11-1 3-7-0 There is no way Brooks Laich should be leading the Caps in power play goals, but he is in a tie with Mike Green with three
Toronto Maple Leafs 10 14-10-2 4-5-1 Leafs have second-best power play (22.4 percent), fourth-worst penalty kill (77.6 percent)
St. Louis Blues 13 14-9-3 6-2-2 Only Hawks (8-2-2), Rangers (7-1-1) and Penguins (8-1-2) have lost fewer home regulation games than Blues (8-3-1), who play next four against Wings, Ducks, Sharks, Rangers
Buffalo Sabres 14 14-11-1 4-5-1 Look for exasperated Sabres to bring King Kong Korab back if Jordin Tootoo isn’t suspended for running Ryan Miller
Dallas Stars 18 15-10-1 4-5-1 Resilient Stars kick off five-game road trip Thursday on which they’ll visit Sharks, Kings, Rangers, Isles and Devils
Nashville Predators 19 12-10-4 4-5-1 Rookie Craig Smith leading Preds in goals (eight), assists (13), points (21) and power play goals (four); if it wasn’t for Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Smith would be considered the Calder frontrunner
Tampa Bay Lightning 15 11-12-2 3-7-0 Bolts are 2-5-0 in their past seven games and this week have four games in six nights on the road, where they continue to stink (4-8-2)
Phoenix Coyotes 17 13-9-3 5-5-0 At 11.1 percent, Coyotes’ power play second-worst in the league
Montreal Canadiens 22 11-11-5 4-4-2 In his past nine games, Brian Gionta has three goals, four points; on course to finish with 40-something points for third straight season
Ottawa Senators 23 12-11-3 5-3-2 Plucky Sens have league’s worst goals-against average (3.38)
Colorado Avalanche 25 13-13-1 5-5-0 Up and down Avs much better on the road (6-4-1) than at home (7-9-0)
Winnipeg Jets 24 11-11-4 6-3-1 In his past nine games, Evander Kane has nine goals and 12 points
Edmonton Oilers 20 13-11-3 4-5-1 Have now lost four of five, but get good chance at turning things around this week against subpar Canes, Avs and Flames
New York Islanders 28 8-11-5 4-4-2 Four of next five are at home, including showdowns with Hawks and Pens
New Jersey Devils 21 12-12-1 4-6-0 Outscored 14-5 in three losses last week
Calgary Flames 27 11-13-2 4-5-1 If collapse against Jackets doesn’t show management this team needs to be rebuilt, nothing will
Carolina Hurricanes 26 8-16-4 2-7-1 The Tomas Kaberle bandwagon has been abandoned, stripped of all recyclable materials and can be bought on eBay for best offer
Anaheim Ducks 30 7-14-5 1-7-2 Lubomir Visnovsky due back soon from broken finger
Columbus Blue Jackets 29 7-16-3 4-4-2 Four-game Canadian road trip ends Tuesday in Montreal; face Preds Thursday in kickoff of five-game home stint that also includes Bruins, Canucks, Kings and Bolts, which could put more nails in the coffin of their playoff hopes
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The Hockey News ranks the teams 1-30 each Monday based on a combination of last week’s play and a squad’s overall outlook.

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