Pacific Division NHL Power Rankings
The weekend in Raleigh, N.C., will prove to be fun and games for players and fans alike, but it can also make or break a team’s season. Well, maybe not the game itself, but the break can.
With three months and around 30 games left on each team's schedule, this five-day hiatus will either provide the rest needed for players to get healthy or cause a fissure ending in irreversible damage.
Let's take a look at how the Pacific Division stacks up heading into the break:
1. Dallas Stars
The top-ranked Stars are the Pacific Division’s story of the season. Not a single analyst or fan could have predicted the stellar season that was awaiting Dallas back in September, but the Stars are 30-15-5 with 65 points and are ranked third in the Western Conference.
General manager Joe Nieuwendyk attributes the Stars' success to the tight bond between teammates and their desire to win for each other. Top performances from captain Brad Richards don't hurt either. With 20 goals and 37 assists, Richards is leading the team in goals, assists and points. He will also be playing alongside teammate Loui Eriksson at the All-Star game.
If Dallas can keep playing the way they have been, it will be no surprise to see them raise a Pacific Division banner from the rafters. What will be a surprise is them overcoming the powerhouse Vancouver Canucks or Detroit Red Wings to win a conference championship.
2. Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks have also had an unexpectantly great season, thanks largely in part to their All-Star goalie, Jonas Hiller. The netminder’s commanding presence between the pipes has led to a league-leading 25 wins and a fourth-ranked save percentage at .926.
Anaheim is 28-20-4 with 60 points and a fifth place ranking in the Western Conference. Corey Perry will be joining Hiller at the All-Star game as will rookie Cam Fowler, who will compete in the Honda NHL SuperSkills on Jan. 29.
The Ducks have the opportunity to make a big splash at the playoffs but may not have the defensive depth needed to back up Hiller and pose a threat to the top teams in the conference.
3. Phoenix Coyotes
With its future finally secure, Phoenix has wrangled its way into a third place ranking in the Pacific and sixth in the Western Conference. A 25-17-9 record has garnered the Coyotes 59 points, thanks in part to 11 games ending in overtime or a shootout.
Although the club have lost four of its last six games and will need to make readjustments, Phoenix will clinch a playoff spot. Keith Yandle and rookie Oliver Ekman-Larsson will represent the Coyotes in Raleigh.
After a tense, exciting, playoff-caliber game against the Kings on Jan. 27, the Sharks have finally played themselves back into a playoff spot before the break (25-19-6, 56 points.). Although San Jose lost the game in a shootout, it is huge for their mental game and will set them up for a smooth run through the rest of the season and into the postseason.
The boys in teal may be back in the top half of the Western Conference with an 8th place ranking, but only a handful of points separate eighth from 14th. Colorado, Minnesota and Los Angeles will all be battling to steal that spot from the Sharks.
Dan Boyle and rookie Logan Couture will be representing the Sharks in the All-Star game.
5. Los Angeles Kings
The Kings are on a three-game win streak and regained some confidence after their 3-2 shootout win over the Sharks. Undeterred by the Sharks scoring back-to-back goals in 30 seconds, Los Angeles came back with two unanswered goals to take the game.
“We’re going to be better, we’re going to be stronger,” coach Terry Murray said in a post-game press conference. “The kids are growing up a lot going through these tough situations and they’re starting to show it.”
The Kings are now 27-22-1 with 55 points and rank 11th in the conference going into the break. Anze Kopitar will be the sole King in attendance at All-Star weekend.
The Kings will get back to business as usual after the break and commence a 10-game road trip. Murray doesn’t seem to think that will get in the way of their playoff aspirations.
“You go away for three, you come back for three days,” Murray said. “You’re practicing, you unpack your suitcase, get the laundry done, get the ironing board out, press a few shirts and get back on the road for six games. That’s the way you have to look at it. A six-game road trip for the L.A. Kings is normal.”
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