1. Washington Capitals (48-14-10), LW: 1 Alexander Ovechkin returned from suspension by scoring the game-winner in Tampa Bay; the Caps didn’t seem to miss him, though. 2. Phoenix Coyotes (46-22-5), LW: 4 Pinch yourself, Coyotes fans… this is really happening! The Desert Dogs are leading the division and are tied with Chicago for the top spot in the West. 3. Vancouver Canucks (44-24-4), LW: 3 The Canucks had an up-and-down week, but have still been one of the more dangerous teams since the break. Henrik Sedin is again challenging Ovechkin for the Art Ross. 4. Nashville Predators (42-26-5), LW: 8 You want to know an interesting stat? Since their 3rd period meltdown in San Jose, the Preds haven’t lost and the Sharks haven’t won. This team’s resiliency is unreal. 5. Chicago Blackhawks (45-19-7), LW: 5 Chicago has some cause for concern. They’ve lost 4 of 5, and they blew 3rd period leads in 3 of those losses. However, they are still on track to claim the top seed in the conference. 6. Pittsburgh Penguins (42-24-6), LW: 6 Dan Bylsma and company have a big statement week coming up, with games in Detroit and Washington. It’s time for them to get in playoff-mode and win the division. 7. Buffalo Sabres (39-22-10), LW: 13 The Sabres really kicked their game up a notch in their trek through the Southeast Division. If they keep this up, they could surpass Pittsburgh for the 2nd seed. 8. San Jose Sharks (43-19-10), LW: 2 Evgeni Nabokov has been extremely shaky in his last five games, posting a 4.32 goals against. It’s not time to hit the panic button in San Jose – yet! 9. Detroit Red Wings (35-23-13), LW: 12 Brian Rafalski and Henrik Zetterberg both netted buzzer beaters to steal a couple points, and separated themselves a bit from Calgary in the standings. 10. Los Angeles Kings (41-24-5), LW: 10 Terry Murray’s club has been very average since the break, and has struggled to score goals in the last 5 games. They need a good week here to gather momentum. 11. Colorado Avalanche (40-25-6), LW: 7 The young Avs also have a big week ahead of them after a pair of disappointing losses. This home-and-home with the Kings will go a long way in playoff positioning. 12. Montreal Canadiens (36-29-7), LW: 9 Buffalo’s recent win streak means a late-season rally to win the division is unlikely for the Canadiens. But that doesn’t mean they won’t keep up their winning ways. 13. New Jersey Devils (42-24-4), LW: 11 Through 16 games, the ‘Ilya Kovalchuk Experience’ hasn’t panned out yet. The team is 7-7-2, and Kovy’s production has been rather disappointing. 14. Atlanta Thrashers (32-29-11), LW: 28 Wow… what a difference a week makes! I had this team buried just last week, but all of that has changed after four impressive wins over playoff teams. 15. Calgary Flames (36-27-9), LW: 15 The Flames are behind the eight ball a bit, and will have to play lights-out the rest of the way. Their trip to the east coast will be crucial to say the least. 16. Boston Bruins (32-17-2), LW: 17 The B’s responded well to the Pittsburgh loss by shutting down the Rangers yesterday. Tuukka Rask may have to carry them down the stretch. 17. Philadelphia Flyers (37-30-5), LW: 14 The loss of Michael Leighton could prove to be very costly. He was good enough to hold the fort… but I have my doubts about Brian Boucher shouldering the load. 18. Carolina Hurricanes (30-34-8), LW: 21 Remarkably, these Hurricanes fail to go away! They picked up overtime wins over the Capitals and Penguins – the cream of the crop in the East. 19. Anaheim Ducks (34-29-8), LW: 24 After the break, Anaheim couldn’t buy a win. Now they refuse to lose! The Ducks have inched back into the picture with a trio of home wins. 20. Minnesota Wild (34-31-6), LW: 18 The Wild have been solid at home, but wildly inconsistent elsewhere. To have any chance at making a serious run at that final spot, they must pick up points in Philly and Detroit. 21. Ottawa Senators (37-30-5), LW; 16 Ottawa has won just once in their last 9 games, killing their chances of winning the division. Now they have to worry about just making the playoffs! 22. St. Louis Blues (34-29-9), LW: 20 This past week has been a tale of their season… two wins on the road, two losses at home. Sunday’s loss to Nashville was devastating to their flickering playoff hopes. 23. New York Rangers (31-32-9), LW: 19 The last three games couldn’t have gone any worse for John Tortorella and company. Losses to fellow bubble teams Montreal and Boston may prove to be fatal. 24. Toronto Maple Leafs (26-34-12), LW: 27 So… once they are basically eliminated from the playoffs, they decide to turn it on. I guess they don’t want Boston to get that number one pick! 25. New York Islanders (29-33-10), LW: 23 Scott Gordon’s club played well out west, and was able to surprise the Canucks. But they didn’t have enough in the other games, which has been their swan song this year. 26. Dallas Stars (31-27-14), LW: 26 After a so-so week at home, the Stars head out on the road for a trip that will ultimately decide their fate. 27. Florida Panthers (29-31-11), LW: 22 I think the Panthers’ playoff hopes were slammed shut when they blew a 3-goal in the third to the Coyotes at home. You can’t lose games like that at this time of year. 28. Columbus Blue Jackets (29-31-12), LW: 29 Columbus is a solid 4-1-1 in their last 6, and easily could have won in Nashville this weekend. IMO, Claude Noel deserves to stick around… 29. Tampa Bay Lightning (28-32-12), LW: 25 This team has been dreadful over the last week or so. With their firepower up front, you would think they could muster more than one or two goals a game. 30. Edmonton Oilers (23-42-7), LW: 30 In back-to-back games, the Oilers beat the Red Wings and Sharks. It’s time to start printing playoff tickets!
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.