The post-Olympics race for playoff spots is heating up. The high-powered Capitals remain atop our rankings, but there’s plenty of shifting going on.
1. (1) 44-13-9 Deadline deals by George McPhee, adding versatile center Eric Belanger, rugged Scott Walker and skilled defenseman Joe Corvo, make the Caps a serious contender.
2. (3) 43-17-5 The big game ability demonstrated by Patrick Kane in the Olympic gold medal game provides some indication the Blackhawks will have plenty of playoff leadership when the road gets tough.
3. (2) 42-14-9 Likewise, the no-show performance by Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley and Dan Boyle during the gold medal game shows the Sharks still have an unsurpassed ability to disappear when it matters.
4 . (9) 40-22-4 Would anyone really mind if Matt Cooke were suspended for the season?
5. (5 ) 39-22-4 A 6-0 blasting of Columbus on Monday showed the Kings have adjusted to the arrival of deadline acquisitions such as Fredrik Modin and are ready for a return to the playoffs.
6. (5) 39-22-5 Good luck in the desert, Derek Morris. Mr. Chiarelli found you a nice landing spot.
7. (7) 40-23-2 After their 14-game road trip ends Wednesday, the Canucks play 10 of their final 15 games at home. Welcome back, boys.
8. (6) 35-20-9 Has Ilya Kovalchuk made the Devils a better team? They’re just 3-6-1 in their last 10 games.
9. (8) 37-22-4 Talk about under the radar. Avalanche forward Chris Stewart suddenly received league-wide attention, being named as the NHL First Star for the week ending Sunday. Stewart leads Colorado in goals (24) and plus/minus (plus-13).
10. (11) 35-20-9 The Sabres will play just six of their final 17 games at home. A five-game road trip that begins Saturday in Detroit could greatly impact how the battle for the Northeast Division title plays out.
11. (10) 36-25-5 The Senators looked to end an 0-2-1 start to post-Olympic hockey with a contest in Edmonton Tuesday.
12. (14) 31-21-12 How funny would it be if the Red Wings grab the eighth playoff spot in the West and face the Sharks in the first round? Come on, the Sharks drawing the playoff-tested Wings in the opening round, that’s good stuff.
13. (12) 35-25-5 The Predators remain among the playoff eight in the West but face a tough four-game road trip that began Tuesday in Atlanta and includes games against all three California teams.
14. (17) 34-26-4 If you’re looking for a team rounding into playoff form, take a look at the Flyers, who are 7-1-1 in their last nine games entering play Tuesday.
15. (16) 29-24-12 The Stars continue to quietly get things done. Monday’s 4-3 shootout victory over the Caps showed they can skate with anyone.
16. (13) 32-24-9 The Flames could be a strong candidate for a late-season crash out of the playoffs. They are a mediocre 5-4-1 in their last 10 games.
17. (19) 29-24-11 The loss of Marc Savard could seriously dampen playoff hopes for the Bruins. But this team still has the character, skill and goaltending to get it done.
18. (22) 30-26-9 A 6-4 run in their last 10 games gets the Blues back in the mix for a playoff spot.
19. (21) 32-29-6 A fast, 3-1 start fresh from the Olympic break has helped the Canadiens push for a playoff spot. On Sunday they rallied from a three-goal third-period deficit to beat Anaheim.
20. (19) 30-27-8 Ducks players won three gold, two silver and two bronze medals at the Olympics. But entering play Tuesday, they have not won an NHL game since, and that could doom their playoff hopes.
21. (20) 31-28-5 After a 4-5-1 slide in their last 10 games, the Wild face a tough climb to land a playoff spot.
22. (23) 28-26-10 The Thrashers have gone 4-3-2 since trading Ilya Kovalchuk and remain in the fight for a playoff spot. Not bad.
23 . (16) 27-26-11 Entering play Tuesday, the Lightning had lost five of their last six games, undermining thoughts they were a late bloomer this season.
24. (24) 29-28-9 Three losses in a row for the Rangers, one of the league’s most disappointing teams this season.
25. (25) 26-28-10 Reports had free agent-to-be Dennis Seidenberg eager to remain with the Panthers before being dealt to the Bruins. Some curious moves in Florida.
26. (27) 27-31-7 The hottest team in the league? The pride to the rafters Hurricanes, who are 8-2 in their last 10 games. Veterans with nothing to play for getting it done every night.
27. (26) 26-31-8 After an impressive start, Islanders rookie John Tavares entered play Tuesday without a goal in 16 games. His minus-19 rating is also the worst on the team. Welcome to the league, kid.
28. (28) 25-30-11 A 6-0 drubbing in Los Angeles Monday provides a nice sign the Blue Jackets already are closing things down.
29. (29) 20-33-12 Signs of life against the Bruins Tuesday, but that top pick still is looking good for the B’s.
30. (30) 21-38-4 Tough to figure why the Oilers didn’t move more bodies at the deadline.