|NHL Power Rankings: The injuries are piling up||11.04.09 at 9:47 am ET|
The bodies are beginning to pile up in the NHL, and injuries have taken their toll on the power rankings. Days after CBC analyst and former Bruins coach Don Cherry ominously warned that somebody might just target Russian superstar Alex Ovechkin for his consistently chippy play, the Caps’ magic man went down with an upper-body injury that has him out at least two weeks.
The Red Wings are missing rented mule Johan Franzen and key puck-moving defenseman Brian Rafalski. Jonathan Toews is out with a concussion, and Marian Hossa has been gone all season for the Blackhawks. Ilya Kovalchuk has the most talked-about broken foot in the NHL this season along with the “Will he or won’t he?” intrigue with his $100 million contract extension talks.
The Devils have been without Patrik Elias all season, and the Penguins are soldiering on without their quicker-minutes-picker-upper defenseman Sergei Gonchar and big center Evgeni Malkin. And, of course, the Bruins are a smoldering, charred version of themselves offensively without Marc Savard and Milan Lucic. Phil Kessel is one of the newly healthy bodies now, though, and he tantalized the Maple Leafs crowd Tuesday night with a 23-minute, 10-shot performance in his Toronto debut.
Without further ado, here are WEEI.com’s NHL power rankings:
1. 12-3-0 (1, last week). The Penguins share the lead for the most goals in the NHL (52), sit a perfect 7-0 away from the friendly frozen confines of home and have survived the last few games without a dinged up Evgeni Malkin. Pittsburgh is tied with the 1940 Leafs, 1985 Flyers and 2005 Red Wings for the most consecutive road wins to start a season. Good stuff.
2. 10-3-2 (2) The Avs dropped a pair of road games to the Sharks and the Canucks last week, but they also played 11 of their first 15 games on the road this season. So they get a hall pass from Haggs. Still the best story in the NHL thus far this season. Ryan O’Reilly is something special at 18 years old and leads Colorado with a plus-10.
3. 10-4-1 (9) Five straight wins for the Sharks including an impressive defeat of the surprise Avalanche. Patrick Marleau has 11 goals and has scored in eight straight games. Perhaps teams should strip their captains of the letter on their sweater more often. Hmmm.
4. 8-2-4 (5) No Ovechkin, no problem. The Russian star is out “week-to-week” after appearing to hurt his arm in Washington’s overtime loss to the Blue Jackets, but there still is plenty to rest on during Ovie’s absence. The Caps will be just fine.
5. 9-4-2 (7) Anze Kopitar and Ryan Smyth give the Kings a legit “Crown Line” for the first time in recent memory. Kopitar entered Wednesday leading the NHL with 24 points and has a chance to distance himself from the pack with Ovechkin’s injury.
6. 9-6-1 (4) Attention, NHL bargain hunters! Vaclav Prospal sits in the NHL’s top 10 in scoring and ranks third with his 14 assists while setting up Marian Gaborik, and he’s making only $1.15 million this season. That, friends, is a cap-friendly player.
7. 8-4-1 (3) The Blackhawks did an admirable job of surviving without Marian Hossa for the entire month of October and Jonathan Toews for the last week with concussion-like symptoms. They’re still leading the Central Division but play eight of their 12 November games on the road in a pretty solid test.
8. 8-2-1 (6) Not sure what the Sabres are going to have to do to get a little top-five love from me, but it hasn’t happened yet. Goalie Ryan Miller and the Sabres had been on a roll until they were absolutely smoked by Jeff Tambellini and the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum last weekend. Mike Milbury says: “That selfish little dink Tim Connolly leads the Sabres with 10 points this season.”
9. 9-7-0 (21) I deserve a week in the Hoser Hut for ranking the Canucks so low last week. I just just hope Colbie Smulders will still speak to me despite my thoughtless actions. Ryan Kesler has been a point-per-game player through the first 16 games.
10. 9-5-0 (14) The Yotes are no longer in danger of bankruptcy after the sale to the NHL went through this week. They promptly celebrated by blowing a two-goal lead to the Kings. Coyotes fever, catch it! At least Shane Doan is still howling after all these years.
12. 7-4-1 (8) Olli Jokinen. Paging Olli Jokinen to the front desk. We have a call for Ollie Jokinen. Six points and a minus-1 in 12 games ain’t cutting it.
13. 6-4-3 (14) The Winged Wheels are finally starting to put it together after a European vacation hangover that didn’t involve Big Ben or Parliament. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are starting to put things together, and the puck-possession game is coming back. Bad news for everybody else.
14. 6-3-5 (10) James Neal? Loui Eriksson? Jamie Benn? Who are these guys? Of course, Brad Richards putting up 17 points in 12 games is helping just a little as well. One of several surprise teams in the West thus far.
15. 7-4-1 (16) The Flyers got back on the winning track, but they’ve lost Simon Gagne for the foreseeable future with surgery on his abdomen. It’s the third groin/abdomen surgery for Gagne in his last four years, and takes a big offensive chunk out of Philly’s lineup.
16. 7-7-1 (12) Warning: Don’t read this ranking without rubber gloves and a surgical mask. The Oil have one player diagnosed with H1N1 in Ladislav Smid and another player in Lubomir Visnovsky who donned a surgical mark around his family while battling the flu. The sickness played into Edmonton taking its lumps in Boston and New York last week.
17. 7-5-1 (15) Last season Rick Nash didn’t hit 20 points until Nov. 23. The Blue Jackets star already is there at the beginning of November this season and is on another 40-goal pace. Per usual, don’t sleep on the B.J.’s.
18. 6-4-2 (13) Fifty-one shots on net, and the Senators outshot the Thrashers by a 24-3 margin in the third period. But they still lost to Atlanta goaltender Ondrej Pavelec in an impressive performance between the pipes. Time to tip your cap and move on, boys.
19. 5-4-5 (25) The kids are all right on the Island — John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Matt Moulson, Jeff Tambellini. Three straight wins last week and so much good karma that Brendan Witt even had a two-goal game. Could this be a playoff team this season?
20. 5-4-4 (23) Steven Stamkos is tearing things up in Tampa Bay with 11 goals in 13 games, and he’s showing why he was a No. 1 overall draft pick. On the negative tip: Vinny Lecavalier has been dropped to the fourth line and there’s a brewing goalie controversy with backup Antero Niittymaki off to a 3-1-1 start with a .940 save percentage.
21. 7-8-0 (20) Carey Price is 2-6 and hasn’t won a game since Oct. 3. Bad start for a young netminder with some shaky confidence, and things are getting worse with injuries to defensemen Andrei Markov, Hal Gill and Ryan O’Byrne. Les Habitants don’t really look any better than they did last season, but at least both Kostitsyn brothers will be stuck in Hamilton soon enough.
22. 6-4-1 (22) The Thrashers have found an answer to their problems with Ilya Kovalchuk, and his name is Ondrej Pavelec. Eighty-plus saves in road wins over the Senators and Canadiens, and a goaltending star is on the way to being born. The 22-year-old has a 2.75 GAA and a .924 save percentage and is another thing falling into place for Atlanta.
23. 6-6-1 (24) The Predators entered Wednesday with a three-game losing streak. J.P. Dumont has stepped forward with 11 points in nine games this season. Nashville will have to soldier on without Shea Weber; the Predators have done the whole .500 thing before. Nothing new there.
24. 6-7-1 (17) The B’s are 27th in overall offense with 2.21 goals per game and dead last in power-play efficiency with an 11.5 percent success rate. They simply can’t score — a shocking development given that Boston was second in the NHL in scoring last season. How the mighty have fallen.
25. 5-6-1 (18) The Blues have posted a very Bruins-like bagel in their last two games and haven’t scored a goal in 123 minutes, 50 seconds and counting. Time for Keith Tkachuk and Paul Kariya to step up and be counted.
26. 4-7-2 (26) Ryan Getzlaf has been slow to come back from surgery. There’s no more Chris Pronger growling and intimidating around the net. These aren’t your father’s Ducks. What does that even mean? Tough year for Anaheim so far.
27. 4-7-1 (28) Two wins last week and barely a dent for the Panthers. Cory Stillman picked up his first goal of the season last week. Nathan Horton and Steve Reinprecht are starting to put things together offensively. Baby steps.
28. 5-9-0 (29) Eric Belanger notched the game-winner against the Penguins last week, and the Wild are beginning to cut down on the mistakes. Not sure it’s taking them anywhere, but they’ve got that going for them.
29. 2-8-3 (27) What in the wide, wide world of sports has happened to Eric Staal? Staal has three goals and two assists with a minus-5 in 13 games, and that’s been a big factor in what’s happening down in NASCAR country. Staal has been the invisible man early for Carolina, and now he’s banged up with an upper-body injury.
30. 1-7-5 (30) The Leafs still only have one win, but they actually played very well in their overtime loss to the Lightning on Tuesday night. Phil Kessel had 10 shots on net and played almost 24 minutes after missing the preseason. Hate to say it, but he looked exactly like what the B’s are missing right now.
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