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Surging Senators

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

The Boston Bruins retain top spot in this week's THN.com NHL Power Rankings, but there's a new, unexpected team from the same division entering the playoff picture. That would be the Ottawa Senators, picked by many (including The Hockey News) to finish at or near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. The Sens began December by losing six of their first nine games, but have since won six of eight, including a 3-2 overtime win against New Jersey Monday. With 45 points, they're now sixth in the East, second in the Northeast Division – although third-place Toronto has two games in hand and are four points behind them – and are benefiting from a resurgent Jason Spezza (who is on pace for 81 points, which would be his best total since he had 92 in 2007-08) and the growth of third-year defenseman Erik Karlsson (who is second in the league with 32 assists).

One of Ottawa's biggest problems remains their sub-par road record of 8-7-4. That will be put to the test in January, as the Senators have 10 of their remaining 13 games this month away from home, including showdowns against Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Jose and Boston. Can they continue their hot streak and prove the naysayers wrong, or will their run crumble under the pressure? The answer will be reflected in the next THN.com Power Rankings, which normally appear every Monday afternoon. Be sure to check back and find out.

RK.

TEAM

LW

OVERALL

P10

THE SCOOP

1

1

24-10-1

7-3-0

Bruins' three leading point-getters (Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron) a combined plus-71

2

3

24-11-4

7-3-0

West's best team despite league's fourth-worst penalty kill (78.4 percent), 17th-best goals-against average (2.77)

3

6

24-9-4

7-3-0

After being banished to the American League for a spell last year, Michael Del Zotto is back with a bang; in his first two NHL seasons, he was a combined minus-25, but this year he's a plus-25

4

4

24-13-1

6-4-0

Wings have league's top home record (15-2-1), West's best goals for/against differential (plus-35)

5

2

22-11-4

5-4-1

HBO 24/7 star Ilya Bryzgalov is entertaining away from the rink, but becoming a distraction at it

6

9

20-11-4

5-2-3

Sharks have NHL's third-best 5-on-5 goals for/against ratio (1.47), behind only Detroit (1.76) and Boston (1.83)

7

8

20-12-7

4-4-2

Cats have four games in next 13 days, then four games in six nights, then one game in next nine days

8

11

24-13-3

6-3-1

One way to beat Canucks: force them into a shootout, where they're just 1-3 this year

9

5

21-13-4

5-5-0

Only Sharks (34.6) average more shots on net than Penguins (33.7)

10

10

21-12-5

5-3-2

Kevin Shattenkirk, Alex Pietrangelo shining for underrated Blues defense corps

11

19

19-14-7

6-1-3

Kings lead ultra-tight Pacific Division with 45 points, but have played five more games than second-place Sharks (who have 44)

12

12

21-14-4

7-3-0

Of all teams currently in a playoff position, Preds only one whose leading scorer is a defenseman (Shea Weber, with 29)

13

14

20-15-2

6-3-1

Only two games for Caps between now and Monday, then seven in the following 12 days

14

20

20-15-5

7-2-1

If coach Paul MacLean keeps this up, he'll garner Jack Adams Award attention at season's end

15

18

21-15-2

7-2-1

Some things never change: Devils have NHL's best penalty kill (91.4 percent), fourth-worst power play (13.3 percent)

16

17

19-14-5

6-3-1

Jets now have league's ninth-best 5-on-5 goals for/against ratio (1.05) and most home wins of any Eastern Conference team (14-6-1); if they could replicate that level of play on the road (where they're just 5-8-4), they'd be near top of East's heap

17

7

21-13-6

1-6-3

Wild won first five games last month, then dropped nine of next 10

18

24

22-18-1

8-2-0

10-5-0 record in December still only has Avs on fringe of playoff picture; their next four games are all against teams above them in the West (Hawks, Blues, and a home-and-home series against Preds)

19

13

21-15-1

6-4-0

Sheldon Souray still leading Stars in plus-minus (plus-9), shots (109)

20

16

18-15-5

3-5-2

Leafs' 4-6-3 mark in December has them on outside of playoff bubble looking in for first time all season

21

21

17-17-3

6-3-1

Bolts finished December with three straight wins; they have three road games this week and hope to improve their awful 6-12-3 road record

22

15

17-17-4

2-6-2

Sabres allow an average of 31.3 shots on net; only Leafs, Sens (both 31.4), Wild (31.7) and Stars (32.1) allow more

23

22

19-16-4

4-5-1

Radim Vrbata on pace for a 37-goal season; his previous career best was 27 in 2007-08

24

25

18-17-5

4-3-3

Flames have a decent enough home record (10-5-2), but are abysmal on the road (8-12-3)

25

23

14-18-7

3-7-0

It doesn't matter what language is being used to describe them Ð the Canadiens are falling apart and on the verge of playoff race irrelevance

26

26

16-19-3

3-7-0

GM Steve Tambellini says Oilers' slump is in part due to absence of injured players Ryan Whitney, Andy Sutton, Corey Potter and Cam Barker; that's a hell of a stretch

27

27

13-17-6

4-6-0

Isles just 3-14-3 when trailing after one period; only Jackets (1-15-2) and Ducks (1-16-2) are worse

28

30

13-21-6

4-4-2

No team has surrendered more goals than Canes, who are tied with Ottawa for league's worst goals-against average (3.32)

29

29

10-21-6

2-7-1

Coach Bruce Boudreau's presence can't make up for Ducks' defensive deficiencies

30

28

10-23-5

2-7-1

GM Scott Howson says he's ready to make significant roster moves; no time like the present with this motley crew

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.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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