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Monday, January 11, 2010
Rough weekend for top teams

By JESSE ROGERS

ESPN.com's Power Rankings are out, and despite a losing weekend, the Chicago Blackhawks remain on top.

It helped that the other contenders for the No. 1 spot all lost this past weekend as well. The Hawks also remain 2 and 1, respectively, on offense and defense in the NHL.

The New Jersey Devils are closing the gap in team goals-against average, but the Hawks remain No. 1 in that category, giving up just 2.13 per game to New Jersey’s 2.16. No team since the 1977-’78 Montreal Canadiens has led the league in offense and defense.

The Devils and San Jose Sharks traded spots in the rankings with New Jersey moving up to No. 2. The Devils have the same number of wins as the Hawks but have played three fewer games.

The biggest surprise is where last year’s finals participants are in the standings. The Detroit Red Wings are 13th, but they’ve been hovering around that mark for a while because of the number of injuries they have endured.

The Pittsburgh Penguins, however, have no such excuse in dropping to ninth. One problem is goaltending. Marc-Andre Fleury has struggled since helping Pittsburgh to a Cup win last spring.

Still, you would be hard pressed to find someone that believes the Phoenix Coyotes, who rank one higher than Pittsburgh, would beat them in a playoff series.

The other team climbing the ranks is the Vancouver Canucks. They are 7-0-2 in their past nine and up to seventh in the rankings. The Hawks will play them on the road later this month. Another hot team, despite being ranked 25th, is Columbus. They have won three in a row and visit the United Center on Thursday.