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December 31 NHL Power Rankings

Chicago is 16-3-1 in its last 20 games heading into Thursday’s Winter Classic against Washington, and erased a three-goal deficit to beat division rival Nashville in a shootout Monday.

1. Chicago Blackhawks (Last Week: 1; 25-10-2, 52 points) – Chicago is 16-3-1 in its last 20 games heading into Thursday's Winter Classic against Washington, and erased a three-goal deficit to beat division rival Nashville in a shootout Monday. The Blackhawks are third in the league in goals per game, are first in goals against, have five guys projected to start the All-Star Game out of the six available slots, and have the best jerseys and maybe the best goal song. Basically, this feels like Chicago's league right now.

2. Nashville Predators (LW: 5; 24-9-3, 51 points) – After blowing a three-goal lead and allowing a tying goal in the last two minutes on the way to a shootout loss Monday in Chicago, the Preds fired 47 shots in a win over St. Louis on Tuesday. While Nashville surely would have liked both wins, three of four possible points against two elite teams in a back-to-back is an accomplishment, and it's another milestone in legitimizing the upstart Predators.

3. New York Islanders (LW: 2; 24-11-1, 49 points) – The Islanders really could make things a lot easier for themselves. New York blew its fourth three-goal lead in December on Monday. Unlike the first three, though, the Isles came away with a win on Johnny Boychuk's overtime winner and remain tied atop the Metropolitan Division.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins (LW: 3; 22-9-5, 49 points) – Entering Monday's game against New Jersey, Sidney Crosby had only 11 goals in his last 50 games, including the playoffs. Crosby did break through for his 11th this year and his second in his last 13 games, but the Pens lost to the lowly Devils.

5. Anaheim Ducks (LW: 4; 24-8-6, 54 points) – The Ducks lead the league with 54 points and are 11 ahead of second-place Vancouver in the Pacific Division but, almost incredibly, are fifth in their division in goal differential at an unremarkable plus-six.

6. St. Louis Blues (LW: 6; 22-12-3, 47 points) – Brian Elliott's impending return cast a shadow Monday over Martin Brodeur's start, which could have been the last in his career. Brodeur responded with a performance that felt right from the trap-era Devils, stopping 16 shots in a shutout, the 125th of his career. Elliott did return to start Tuesday, but the Blues decided to keep three goalies for now, retaining Brodeur along with Elliott and Jake Allen.

7. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 9; 24-11-2, 50 points) – The Habs have won four in a row, seven of eight, and haven't given up more than two goals in any game in that span.

8. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW 10; 23-11-4, 50 points) – Tampa Bay picked up one-goal wins over Carolina and Toronto to move back into a tie for first place in the Atlantic Division.

9. Detroit Red Wings (LW: 8; 19-9-9, 47 points) – There are a few different ways to look at the Red Wings. Either they're barely a .500 team with 19 wins in 37 games, or they're quietly better than their record because of a 1-7 mark in shootouts. With a plus-11 goal differential and the third-best Corsi percentage (53.2) according to War on Ice, the Wings are probably for real.

10. Vancouver Canucks (LW: 12; 21-11-3, 45 points) – After losing four of five starts in which he had a save percentage below 90 four times, Ryan Miller has rebounded in his last four outings. He has won three and had a .954 save percentage over that span.

11. New York Rangers (LW: 11; 19-11-4, 42 points) – The Rangers' eight-game winning streak ended in Dallas, but not before it moved them into the early playoff picture.

12. San Jose Sharks (LW: 7; 19-13-5, 43 points) – The Sharks followed five straight wins with three consecutive losses against Pacific Division foes.

13. Washington Capitals (LW: 15; 18-11-7, 43 points) – The Caps remain fairly pedestrian in the standings, but they might be establishing themselves as the league's best documentary subjects in 24/7-type shows. I guess that's something.

14. Los Angeles Kings (LW: 13; 18-12-8, 44 points) – If you lose to the Oilers, you fall. Even if it's in a shootout.

15. Minnesota Wild (LW: 14; 17-13-4, 38 points) – Minnesota snapped a five-game losing streak with a win over Winnipeg on Monday in a sneaky-big game. The Jets own the top wild card in the West and currently lead Minnesota by seven points, a margin skewed by the Wild's three games in hand.

16. Winnipeg Jets (LW: 17; 19-11-7, 45 points) – This week was pretty much the same as every other for the Jets. They lost a key contributor for an extended amount of time and stayed afloat. In this instance, Evander Kane will be out at least a month with a lower-body injury. The Jets have earned points in 13 of their last 15 games and were already without four of their regular defensemen.

17. Boston Bruins (LW: 16; 19-15-3, 41 points) – The Bruins have won three of four including wins against Nashville and Detroit. Despite the recent success, the B's are tied for fifth in the Atlantic Division with Florida even though they've played four more games.

18. Florida Panthers (LW: 19; 16-9-9, 41 points) – The Panthers netted four unanswered in the third to top Toronto on Sunday before a late goal stole a point in a shootout loss against Montreal on Tuesday. Nick Bjugstad, who scored the game-tying goal, signed a six-year extension after the game, according to George Richards of the Miami Herald. The 22-year-old, former first-round pick has 13 goals and 21 points, including 20 points in his last 25 games.

19. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 18; 20-14-3, 43 points) – With a pair of losses on a Florida road trip, the Leafs have lost five of six.

20. Calgary Flames (LW: 20; 20-15-3, 43 points) – Calgary rebounded from an eight-game skid with three consecutive wins, including two over Los Angeles. Johnny Gaudreau has six goals and an assist over his last four games.

21. Columbus Blue Jackets (LW: 21; 15-16-3, 33 points) – Scott Hartnell returned from injured reserve and scored twice in Columbus' 6-2 pounding of Boston. That was the Blue Jackets' ninth win in 11 games.

22. Dallas Stars (LW: 24; 16-14-5, 37 points) – After a disappointing start to the season, the Stars are showing signs of life. They've won six of seven, including back-to-back victories over the Blues and Rangers. Tuesday's win against New York ended the Blueshirts' eight-game winning streak.

23. Ottawa Senators (LW: 25; 15-14-7, 37 points) – The Sens might still be chasing Gustav Nyquist around their defensive zone if he didn't stop to score an overtime winner Saturday. After blowing that game against the Red Wings, Ottawa rebounded to beat Buffalo, 5-2, Monday behind a Bobby Ryan hat trick.

24. Arizona Coyotes (LW: 26; 14-18-4, 32 points) – Arizona is riding a three-game winning streak, and Devan Dubnyk might have stolen the starting-goalie gig from Mike Smith. Dubnyk started the last three and gave up four goals in that span.

25. Flyers (LW: 22; 14-16-6, 34 points) – The loss in Arizona exposed one of the Flyers' weaknesses. If an elite defenseman, such as Oliver Ekman-Larsson, can shut down the top line, the team struggles to generate an attack with its other three lines. If Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek ever slump, this could get even uglier for the top-heavy Flyers.

26. Colorado Avalanche (LW: 23; 13-15-8, 34 points) – The Avs dropped a pair to the Blackhawks and Blues and Ryan O'Reilly is rumored to be on the trading block, which seems like it should just be assumed at this point.

27. New Jersey Devils (LW: 27; 13-18-7, 33 points) – Remember when the Devils were a model organization? After last week's chaos, that feels like history. After firing Pete DeBoer on Friday, the team is going with multiple coaches. New Jersey declined to ask Washington permission to hire Adam Oates, who was still under contract after the Caps fired him after last season, to run the forwards while Scott Stevens coaches the defensemen. General Manager Lou Lamoriello will also step behind the bench for the time being. There have been rumors the team is interested in former Ottawa coach Paul MacLean. While it has been almost a week, this situation is still in flux.

28. Buffalo Sabres (LW: 28; 14-20-3, 31 points) – For all the talk about how surprisingly competent the Sabres have been, Buffalo has only eight regulation/overtime wins, just one more than last-place Edmonton.

29. Carolina Hurricanes (LW: 29; 10-22-4, 24 points) – Jordan Staal returned Tuesday night from a broken fibula and assisted on brother Eric's goal, but Carolina lost for the 10th time in 12 games.

30. Oilers (LW: 30; 8-22-7, 23 points) – The Oilers lost … Wait a second, the Oilers finally won a game. After nine straight losses and 20 in 21 games, the Oilers beat Los Angeles, 3-2, in a shootout Tuesday.