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East-West divide

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

A disparity in conference competence is nothing new to the NHL, but the East is taking it to the extreme this year.

As of Monday morning, the New York Islanders sat tied for the eighth seed with the Montreal Canadiens with 50 points, but had played two less games for a total of 48.

By our quick math, there’s a chance roughly 84 points will be good enough to punch a ticket to the post-season in the Eastern Conference this spring. Last year it took 93 points and the eighth seed hasn’t been held by anybody with less than 92 points since play resumed after the lockout.

The West, which has housed better teams top to bottom seemingly forever now, could see a team as good as Detroit miss out on playoff action, as the Kings currently sit one spot ahead of the Wings in eighth place and are on pace for about 97 points.

Typically, the dramatic drop in the East starts after the sixth seed, but with Boston and Philadelphia both performing below expectations this season, it’s really only the top-four clubs of New Jersey, Washington, Buffalo and Pittsburgh who look poised to do any damage.

Especially since they’ll each be getting a first round bye this year.

RK.

TEAM

LW

OVERALL

L10

THE SCOOP

1

1

34-11-4

8-1-1

Hawks are 2-0 to start an eight-game road trip that takes them to both coasts

2

2

30-12-6

6-4-0

If Canada doesn't win gold in February, you have to think point-per-game blueliner Mike Green's name will come up in some angry conversations

3

10

29-16-3

7-3-0

Sophomore Patric Hornqvist has been hot for a month, with 13 goals and 19 points over his last 16 games

4

3

29-11-6

7-0-3

The Sabres haven't lost a game in regulation since Dec. 23, going 7-0-3 in their past 10

5

4

31-10-8

7-2-1

Will send a league-high eight players to the Games in Vancouver

6

11

27-15-6

6-4-0

First the Czechs pass on Milan Hejduk for the Olympics, now he will miss two-to-four weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery

7

7

30-19-1

4-6-0

Sounds like Marc-Andre Fleury's finger injury will keep him out about a week, at most

8

5

32-13-1

6-4-0

25 straight starts and counting for Martin Brodeur

9

12

28-16-5

4-3-3

Ilya Bryzgalov hasn't started 2010 as the same high-end goalie who shone through the season's first three months

10

6

28-18-2

6-2-2

Alex Burrows is making enemies of refs and goalies; the guy has 11 goals and 13 points over an eight-game point streak

11

13

27-18-3

5-5-0

After hitting quite a rough patch, Anze Kopitar is producing again, going at a point-per-game pace over his past seven games

12

9

24-16-8

5-2-3

If you haven't seen Pavel Datsyuk's shootout goal versus Antti Niemi, you need to

13

8

26-17-6

4-5-1

Just one win in their past seven and captain Jarome Iginla has but a single point in that stretch

14

17

22-20-7

6-4-0

More is expected from defenseman Ryan Whitney, who is struggling at both ends of the ice, going pointless and minus-8 in his past 11 games

15

22

21-19-8

7-2-1

Great to see this team improving, but we can't fight the feeling they could really use one more high-end pick to truly turn the corner

16

21

24-21-4

4-6-0

Terrific three-point night Saturday followed by a Monday hat trick in return from a shoulder injury for captain Daniel Alfredsson

17

14

23-21-3

6-3-1

Less-than-terrific return from abdominal surgery for Ray Emery, who allowed five goals (granted it was against the Caps) in his first action since Dec. 5

18

16

23-16-8

4-5-1

Injuries are slowing the Bruins, but Blake Wheeler is benefiting from increased ice time, registering nine points in his past seven games

19

15

23-19-7

5-2-3

Busted out for six goals against the Habs Sunday after tallying just one in three games previous to that

20

23

24-22-3

4-6-0

Martin Havlat and Guillaume Latendresse have found serious chemistry, scoring a combined 16 points over their past five games

21

18

23-23-4

4-5-1

Montreal needs to be much better than 11-11-3 at home if it wants a playoff spot

22

28

21-19-7

4-4-2

Four wins in a row surely have Blues fans fondly recalling last season's crazy second-half run

23

25

20-20-8

4-5-1

In 48 games, Nathan Horton has already matched last season's point total of 45

24

19

18-19-10

5-4-1

Tampa has to hope Mike Smith returns soon from what the team calls a "strained neck because he was playing well before going down

25

20

20-17-11

4-6-0

More bad news for the struggling Stars, as both Brenden Morrow and Jere Lehtinen left Saturday's game with injuries

26

29

21-19-7

3-4-3

Trade rumors are not slowing down Ilya Kovalchuk, who has six points in his past three games

27

24

14-26-7

5-4-1

Joni Pitkanen leads the league in ice time with 27 minutes per game and is a big reason for the Canes' improved play

28

26

16-24-9

3-7-0

Are 0-1 on a five-game road trip that could officially bury them

29

27

18-23-9

3-5-2

One spot of good news: Antoine Vermette could hit 60 points for the first time in his NHL career

30

30

16-26-5

1-8-1

To borrow a line from Kramer after his skin had been exposed to excessive cigar smoke: "Look away, I'm hideous."

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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