1. New York Rangers (Last Week: 1; 44-18-7, 95 points) – Henrik Lundqvist looks as if he could be back in about a week, but the Rangers didn’t miss a beat without him. So far, they’re 15-3-3 since he left the lineup and they won five straight before Wednesday’s loss to Chicago.
2. St. Louis Blues (LW: 2; 45-20-5, 95 points) – The Blues moved into sole possession of first place in the competitive Central Division for the first time since Dec. 13. This is important because, if the Blues hang on, they would avoid playing Nashville and Chicago in the first round of the playoffs. That said, red-hot Minnesota and the defending-champion Kings could be the wild card that St. Louis draws, so there might not be an easy path to the conference semifinals.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW 4; 43-21-7, 93 points) – Matt Carle is back from a torn abductor muscle Saturday, and the Lightning have won five of seven. The Bolts are tied for the most regulation/overtime wins with 41.
4. New York Islanders (LW: 3; 43-25-4, 90 points) – The Isles have dropped four straight, but it’s not all bad. The team re-signed defenseman Johnny Boychuk to a seven-year, $42 million contract, and his defense partner, Nick Leddy, should be back soon from an upper-body injury.
5. Anaheim Ducks (LW: 5; 45-20-7, 97 points) – The Ducks have the most points in the league with 10 games left in the season, so now seems like a good time to create a goalie controversy. Frederik Andersen was Anaheim’s go-to netminder before a head injury sidelined him on Feb. 8. Andersen, 30-10-5 this year and 50-15-5 in his career, has been active since Feb. 27 but has had only three starts. John Gibson started his fourth straight game Wednesday and has a .920 save percentage this year.
6. Chicago Blackhawks (LW: 12; 43-21-6, 92 points) – Since the Blackhawks picked up Kimmo Timonen and Antoine Vermette before the deadline, they’ve won six of seven.
7. Pittsburgh Penguins (LW: 8; 39-21-10, 88 points) – Want evidence that Sidney Crosby hasn’t been as good as he usually is? His general manager was propelled to defend him. Crosby had 104 points last year and played at a 128-point pace during a lockout-shortened 2012-13. The 27-year-old is on pace for 84 this season.
8. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 9; 44-20-7, 95 points) – The Habs have outshot their opponents only three times in their last 13 games, but Carey Price has kept them in first place. Price has a 1.93 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage.
9. Minnesota Wild (LW: 10; 39-24-7, 85 points) – The Wild haven’t sat Devan Dubnyk since trading for him, and it’s easy to see why. He’s 21-5-1 with a .939 save percentage with Minnesota. The Wild have a four-point cushion in the playoff race with 12 games to go.
10. Detroit Red Wings (LW: 6; 38-19-11, 87 points) – The Red Wings’ biggest win of late might belong to their general manager. It looks as if Ken Holland might finally get his way with a three-on-three overtime to avoid shootouts. Considering 148 games have been decided by a shootout, we could see the league’s leading scorers getting back more than a point per game next year.
11. Nashville Predators (LW: 7; 43-21-8, 94 points) – The Preds have lost nine of 11. On Feb. 24, Nashville had four more points than anyone else in hockey. Now, it might not even get a home-ice advantage in the first round.
12. Los Angeles Kings (LW: 11; 34-22-14, 82 points) – The Kings have points in seven of eight games, and forced overtime Wednesday on a late Justin Williams goal that eventually led to a loss. That point, though, gave L.A. the edge for the final playoff spot from the Pacific.
13. Washington Capitals (LW: 13; 38-23-10, 86 points) – The Capitals are doing that thing in which they don’t acknowledge their backup goalie again. Braden Holtby has played 14 straight and is up to 62 games this season. His shutout Sunday helped Washington fend off Boston for the top wild-card spot.
14. Boston Bruins (LW: 14; 36-23-11, 83 points) – The Bruins dropped their last two on the heels of a five-game winning streak. Boston holds a four-point edge on Ottawa for the last playoff spot in the East.
15. Vancouver Canucks (LW: 15; 40-25-4, 84 points) – I wish every team used an organist as much as the Canucks. Nothing says “hockey arena” like pop songs on an organ to fill the air after whistles.
16. Winnipeg Jets (LW: 17; 35-23-12, 82 points) – The Jets have won two straight, and defenseman Dustin Byfuglien returned to practice this week.
17. Ottawa Senators (LW: 19; 34-24-11, 79 points) – The Hamburglar, Andrew Hammond, tied a 76-year-old record by allowing two goals or fewer in his first 12 starts. He is 11-0-1 with a .956 save percentage, and the Sens are still in a playoff race.
18. Calgary Flames (LW: 16; 38-27-5, 81 points) – The Flames are out of the playoff picture, but their season is far from over. Seven of Calgary’s remaining 12 games are against teams that will miss the postseason and, of the five games against playoff teams, it plays Los Angeles and Winnipeg, the teams directly in front of Calgary in the standings.
19. Colorado Avalanche (LW: 20; 32-26-11, 75 points) – Semyon Varlamov has given up five goals over his last five starts, all wins.
20. San Jose Sharks (LW: 18; 34-28-8, 76 points) – The Sharks finally imploded. General manager Doug Wilson, the guy who promised big changes this season and did next to nothing, said the pressure and stress of captaincy had impacted Joe Thornton, the team’s former captain. Thornton told him to shut his mouth, and the Sharks have since lost two straight and will likely miss the playoffs. Thornton is second in the NHL in scoring since the 2004-05 lockout and is still hovering around a point per game. He seems like the wrong guy to pick a fight with.
21. Dallas Stars (LW: 23; 32-28-10, 74 points) – The Stars have won three of five and outshot their opponents by at least seven in each game since Tyler Seguin returned on March 7.
22. Florida Panthers (LW: 21; 31-25-14, 76 points) – The Panthers have lost two straight and are seven points behind Boston, meaning a playoff appearance is looking increasingly unlikely.
23. New Jersey Devils (LW: 22; 30-29-11, 71 points) – Mike Cammalleri reached 25 goals for the second straight season and the sixth time in his 12-season career.
24. Flyers (LW: 24; 29-28-15, 73 points) – With a handful of games left, the Flyers could use this time to look at some of the young guys such as Nick Cousins, who made a strong debut Tuesday. In both the OHL and AHL, Cousins developed into one of the top scorers. Cousins, a 2011 third-round pick, is only 5-foot-10 and is not known for his defense, but he has shown consistent growth over the past few seasons, and hockeysfuture.com rates him as the organization’s fifth-best prospect.
25. Columbus Blue Jackets (LW: 26; 31-35-4, 66 points) – Columbus has won four or five to create some distance from last-place Carolina in the Metropolitan Division.
26. Carolina Hurricanes (LW: 25; 26-34-9, 61 points) – The Canes have lost six of eight this month and have surrendered 27 goals in that stretch.
27. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 27; 27-38-6, 60 points) – The Leafs have won only eight of their last 40 games. In any other year, Toronto would be establishing new levels of futility, but, thanks to some generational talents on the way, not this year.
28. Edmonton Oilers (LW: 28; 19-39-13, 51 points) – Arizona has three points since Feb. 9, and Edmonton just passed the Coyotes to get out of last place. What a race.
29. Arizona Coyotes (LW: 29; 21-41-8, 50 points) – The Coyotes have lost 15 of 16 and have just three points in that stretch.
30. Buffalo Sabres (LW: 30; 20-43-7, 47 points) – Is Buffalo going to blow its guaranteed top-two pick? The Sabres have points in three of four, and Anders Lindback, he of the .904 career save percentage, owns a .934 mark in the seven games since Buffalo acquired him from Dallas.