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NHL power rankings: Minnesota Wild take big step forward

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Led by an unlikely source, Mike Yeo's Wild are once again in the thick of the playoff race.

A little more than two months remain in the NHL's regular season, but the Eastern Conference playoff picture is already taking shape.

Boston currently occupies the No. 8 seed; the ninth-place Panthers and 10th-place Flyers -- six and nine points behind the Bruins, respectively -- are unlikely to catch up. Now, all that's left is some reshuffling amongst those who look set to play beyond the guaranteed 82 games.

The Western Conference is an entirely different story. As of Tuesday, six points separate eighth and 12th. The reigning Stanley Cup champions are on the outside looking in. The Calgary Flames, who were 35-40-7 last year and did little to improve their roster between then and now, are hanging onto the final postseason spot.

And the Minnesota Wild are making a push.

Risers

Despite a tumultuous stretch in January in which it lost six straight, Minnesota is now ninth in the West, tied with Los Angeles in points (58) with a game in hand, and have won six in a row.

huge reason for this success is, surprisingly, Devan Dubnyk, who was just named the NHL's first star of the weekThe veteran netminder has given up only 1.49 goals per game in 10 contests with Minnesota, saving 94 percent of shots in the process. Four of his 10 starts have resulted in shutouts.

This is the same guy who couldn't stick with Nashville last year when its other healthy options were Carter Hutton, Marek Mazanec and Magnus Hellberg. Yet now he's rescuing a team that owned the league's worst even strength save percentage for a solid chunk of 2014-15.

Goes to show you how quickly things can change. Not long ago, it seemed like head coach Mike Yeo, fresh off a well-documented tirade, was on his way out of town. Suddenly, a playoff berth is within reach, and his job could be safe after all.

In the East, Detroit continues to exceed expectations. 9-1-0 in their last 10, the Red Wings now have 71 points, and are just two back of the conference lead.

Fifth in score-adjusted Corsi since Jan. 1, Detroit is dominating at even strength. Jimmy Howard has been good when healthy, and backup Petr Mrazek, who has stopped 72 of 74 shots in his last three games, filled in admirably while Howard nursed an injured groin. The kids -- namely Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist -- continue to produce.

Yes, the Wings look like the real deal, and a strong February will go a long way towards furthering that belief: Their remaining schedule this month includes games against Pittsburgh, Chicago, Montreal, Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose and Nashville.

Fallers

Just when it felt like the Winnipeg Jets were ready to make a push, things started to fall apart.

The Evander Kane saga took several bad turns, and with the locker room on shaky ground, the Jets lost five straight before taking down the Avalanche on Sunday.

Kane is done for the year, making Winnipeg's underwhelming forward corps even less potent. Additionally, Michael Hutchinson, who jumped into the Calder Trophy conversation last month, recently allowed four or more goals in three consecutive starts.

The Jets have some breathing room, and there are plenty of reasons to believe they'll make the postseason, but it's hard not to be concerned given all that's occurred over the past few weeks.

In a slightly warmer city, the Florida Panthers have taken a few steps back. A 3-0-0 West Coast swing in January provided reasons for optimism, as did consecutive victories over the Kings and Islanders. Still, the Cats have been gradually falling behind the pack.

11 overtime/shootout losses, the second-most in the NHL, have certainly helped their cause. However, a minus-18 goal differential and pedestrian possession numbers are disconcerting and perhaps too much to overcome.

Nonetheless, Dale Tallon and Co. should be commended for hanging around this long after picking first overall last summer. Finishing ninth in the East would be a noteworthy accomplishment for Florida and a sign of genuine change.

And with a strong, young core along with a world-class goalie in Roberto Luongo, this team could make a lot of noise in the near future. For now, though, it appears as if the Panthers are destined to end 2014-15 on the outside looking in.

1


Chicago Blackhawks

Record: 33-18-3

2


Tampa Bay Lightning

Team blog: Raw Charge

Record: 34-16-5

3


+3

Detroit Red Wings

Record: 31-12-9

4


Nashville Predators

Team blog: On the Forecheck

Record: 35-12-6

5


-2

Anaheim Ducks

Team blog: Anaheim Calling

Record: 34-13-7

6


-1

St. Louis Blues

Record: 34-15-4

7


New York Islanders

Record: 34-18-1

8


Montreal Canadiens

Record: 34-15-3

9


Pittsburgh Penguins

Team blog: Pensburgh

Record: 30-15-8

10


Boston Bruins

Record: 28-18-7

11


New York Rangers

Team blog: Blueshirt Banter

Record: 30-16-5

12


Washington Capitals

Team blog: Japers' Rink

Record: 28-16-10

13


+1

Vancouver Canucks

Team blog: Nucks Misconduct

Record: 29-20-3

14


-1

San Jose Sharks

Team blog: Fear the Fin

Record: 28-20-7

15


+5

Minnesota Wild

Record: 26-20-6

16


-3

Winnipeg Jets

Record: 27-18-10

17


-1

Los Angeles Kings

Record: 23-18-12

18


Calgary Flames

Record: 30-21-3

19


+1

Dallas Stars

Team blog: Defending Big D

Record: 24-21-8

20


-1

Florida Panthers

Team blog: Litter Box Cats

Record: 23-17-11

21


+1

Colorado Avalanche

Team blog: Mile High Hockey

Record: 22-21-11

22


+1

Philadelphia Flyers

Record: 23-22-8

23


+1

New Jersey Devils

Team blog: In Lou we Trust

Record: 21-24-9

24


+1

Columbus Blue Jackets

Team blog: The Cannon

Record: 23-26-3

25


-4

Ottawa Senators

Team blog: Silver Seven

Record: 20-22-9

26


Carolina Hurricanes

Team blog: Canes Country

Record: 19-26-7

27


Toronto Maple Leafs

Record: 23-27-4

28


Arizona Coyotes

Team blog: Five for Howling

Record: 20-27-7

29


Edmonton Oilers

Team blog: Copper & Blue

Record: 15-30-9

30


Buffalo Sabres

Team blog: Die by the Blade

Record: 16-35-3