Power Rankings: Blues making things interesting in Central Division

Not long ago, it was thought that the Dallas Stars would win the Central Division going away. But something interesting has happened and the St. Louis Blues are right in the middle of it these days.

Well, things are getting a little interesting in the Central Division these days, aren’t they? First, it’s home to the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 teams in the NHL, with the St. Louis Blues making a late-season charge and giving the Dallas Stars and Chicago Blackhawks reason to sweat.

The Blues 2-1 overtime victory over the Stars Tuesday night moved them to within five points of the division leaders and four of the Blackhawks. The Blues have picked up points in each of their past five games and have knocked off Florida, Tampa Bay and Dallas in their past three.

For that reason, they also find themselves atop’s Power Rankings for this week. Last week’s rankings are in parentheses.

1. St. Louis Blues (11)
2. Dallas Stars (8)
3. Washington Capitals (1)
4. Anaheim Ducks (9)
5. San Jose Sharks (10)
6. Florida Panthers (2)
7. New York Rangers (4)
8. Pittsburgh Penguins (3)
9. Chicago Blackhawks (7)
10. Boston Bruins (17)

Since Jake Allen went down with an injury, Brian Elliott has made a career-high 15 straight starts and is 10-3-2 with a 1.67 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage…The Stars have played seven games against Central Division opponents in February and are 5-1-1 in those games…After missing 40 games with an injury, defenseman Brooks Orpik returned to the lineup and contributed an assist in the Caps 2-1 win over Los Angeles Tuesday night…Since breaking up the tandem of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry in January, the Ducks are 10-1-1. And don’t look now, but they’re just three points behind Los Angeles in the Pacific Division…It should come as no surprise the Sharks opened their five-game road trip with a win over Tampa Bay Tuesday night. They’re 19-8-2 on the road this season…The Panthers are proving to be just a wee bit streaky. Twelve wins, followed by four losses, followed by five wins, followed by four losses in six games…Ryan McDonagh is due back in the lineup tonight after missing four games with a concussion. Still no sign of Rick Nash, though…Since Mike Sullivan replaced Mike Johnston as Penguins head coach, defenseman Kris Letang has eight goals and 26 points in 20 games…Richard Panik was given the opportunity to replace Marian Hossa on the Blackhawks top line in their 7-2 loss over Toronto Monday night, but coach Joel Quenneville was not terribly impressed…Luckily for the Bruins, Patrice Bergeron’s undisclosed injury was not serious. He missed only two games.

11. New York Islanders (6)
12. New Jersey Devils (15)
13. Detroit Red Wings (5)
14. Los Angeles Kings (12)
15. Carolina Hurricanes (21)
16. Tampa Bay Lightning (16)
17. Nashville Predators (20)
18. Columbus Blue Jackets (23)
19. Philadelphia Flyers (26)
20. Colorado Avalanche (25)

Since returning from a back injury in early January, Jaroslav Halak has an 3.12 goals-against average and .896 save percentage…Judging by his embellishment Tuesday night, Devils rookie Joseph Blandisi must have played a lot of soccer as a kid…Pavel Datsyuk’s goal in a 4-1 loss to the Islanders Monday moved him ahead of Brendan Shanahan into seventh place on the all-time franchise goals list with 310. The day before, he became the sixth player in franchise history to hit 900 points…The Kings finish up a seven-game road trip with games in St. Louis Thursday and Nashville Saturday. They’re 2-3-0 on the trip…If the Hurricanes decide to sell, and they should, they’ll be one of the most interesting teams to watch leading up to the trade deadline…Lightning coach Jon Cooper on the inconsistent play of his team of late: “We’re on the wrong side of the puck, thinking we should win games 6-5.”…Pekka Rinne has had a bad season, no doubt about it. But can the Predators really rely on Carter Hutton to get them into the playoffs? Maybe…The Blue Jackets are 6-3-1 in their past 10 and are starting to play the way everyone envisioned they would when the season began…It has been a case of feast or famine for the Flyers of late. In their four wins in February, they’ve scored 21 goals. In their five losses, they’ve scored seven…Matt Duchene, a natural center who has played right wing the past two months, moves back to his natural spot for tonight’s game in Montreal.

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21. Arizona Coyotes (24)
22. Minnesota Wild (27)
23. Ottawa Senators (14)
24. Montreal Canadiens (13)
25. Calgary Flames (19)
26. Winnipeg Jets (18)
27. Vancouver Canucks (22)
28. Buffalo Sabres (29)
29. Edmonton Oilers (30)
30. Toronto Maple Leafs (28)

The schedule maker did the Coyotes no favors as they chase a playoff spot. They close February with five straight on the road and face Dallas, St. Louis and Washington in their next three games. And both their starting goalies are out long-term…New Wild coach John Torchetti made it clear he wants, “no more stick checks,” a.k.a. lazy plays…The Senators have a two percent chance of making the playoffs and used up their Andrew Hammond miracle last season…The Canadiens will be without David Desharnais for their game tonight in Denver after he was injured blocking a shot…Johnny Gaudreau said he has never been on a team that did not have a winning record or did not make the playoffs. Not looking good on either front…Jets defenseman Mark Stuart is out for six weeks with a broken hand after blocking a shot Saturday night in Edmonton…With their chances at 12.5 percent, the Canucks represent Canada’s greatest hope of having a team in the post-season…It’s clear Evander Kane still has a lot of growing up to do. A lot…Taylor Hall’s goal in a 5-3 loss to Anaheim Tuesday night was his first point in six games and his first goal in 11…When you include Nathan Horton, the Maple Leafs are currently have forwards making a combined $23.8 million on the injured list. The ones who are playing make a combined $24.7 million.