1. Nashville Predators (Last week: 2; 26-9-4, 56 points) – I never would have expected this before the season. Nashville took three of four possible points in a weekend trip to California, including a wild, 7-6 win over Los Angeles in which the Preds coughed up a three-goal lead in the last two minutes before scoring 18 seconds into overtime. In the last two weeks, Nashville has earned points against Chicago, St. Louis, Los Angeles, and Anaheim. To survive that trip would be impressive. Nashville did more than survive, though, and moved into first place in the Central Division. That earns Peter Laviolette's squad the top spot.

2. Chicago Blackhawks (LW: 1; 26-12-2, 54 points) – Chicago lost twice this week and slipped to second in the Central Division. The Blackhawks lost on the road in the Winter Classic on a soft penalty call and were shut out despite 54 shots against Colorado. I guess I'll move them down a slot, but I don't expect it to last very long.

3. St. Louis Blues (LW: 6; 24-13-3, 51 points) – You'd think David Backes' second career four-goal game Tuesday would be the highlight for the Blues over the last week, but fellow American T.J. Oshie might have topped him. Oshie, the subject of trade rumors last month, is riding a seven-game point streak. He has five goals and six assists in that span.

4. Anaheim Ducks (LW: 5; 26-10-6, 58 points) – The Ducks lead the league in points despite a measly plus-two goal differential. They've benefitted from a 20-0-6 record in one-goal games.

5. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW 8; 26-12-4, 56 points) – What makes Tampa Bay so good? The Lightning have a healthy Steven Stamkos, who scored 60 goals in his last full season, and might have a better line than his. Tyler Johnson (17 goals, 28 assists), Nikita Kucherov (17, 24), and Ondrej Palat (9, 23) formed one of the league's top trios in the first half of the season. All three have shot an absurd 12.9 percent or higher, making some of their success unlikely to continue, but each has a Corsi rating of better than 10. They'll likely regress, but still look like an elite line.

6. New York Islanders (LW: 3; 26-13-1, 53 points) – The Isles are still in second place in the division, despite two straight losses in Edmonton (oof) and Vancouver. Six of New York's next seven games are against Metropolitan Division foes.

7. Pittsburgh Penguins (LW: 4; 24-10-6, 54 points) – After the Penguins rescued him, David Perron went from playing on the Oilers to playing next to Sidney Crosby. Perron has topped 20 goals three times, and he scored in his first game Saturday, but the Pens have lost six of eight games and cling to a one-point lead in the Metropolitan Division.

8. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 7; 26-12-2, 54 points) – After winning nine of 10, Montreal dropped a showdown with Tampa Bay Tuesday night for the top spot in the Atlantic Division.

9. New York Rangers (LW: 11; 22-11-4, 48 points) – The Rangers are 13-3-0 since Ryan McDonagh returned from a separated shoulder on November 28.

10. Washington Capitals (LW: 13; 21-11-7, 49 points) – I'm never going to understand the reaction to the Winter Classic. It's a great event, but the Caps celebrated as if they won a playoff game after Troy Brouwer's winning goal. It's just two points in what's usually a choppy game on bad ice, even if it was better this year. Including less-celebrated games, the Washington has won seven of nine and is in third place in the Metropolitan.

11. Detroit Red Wings (LW: 9; 22-10-9, 53 points) – Detroit responded to six straight losses with wins in five of its next seven games, keeping up in a three-team race with Montreal and Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division.

12. San Jose Sharks (LW: 12; 22-14-5, 49 points) – Noted sniper Marc-Edouard Vlasic (36 goals in 640 career games) supplied the dramatics on back-to-back nights in Winnipeg and Minnesota. The defensie-oriented blue liner scored a winner with five seconds left in regulation Monday and followed it up with an overtime tally Tuesday.

13. Vancouver Canucks (LW: 10; 23-12-3, 49 points) – The Canucks host Roberto Luongo Thursday for the first time since dealing him last March. Luongo said sitting last year's Heritage Classic led to his departure. So, Vancouver fans, what was your favorite part of the John Tortorella era?

14. Los Angeles Kings (LW: 14; 19-12-9, 47 points) – The Kings haven't been outshot since the start of December. While the team is only 7-5-4 in that span, there's reason to be optimistic.

15. Dallas Stars (LW: 22; 18-15-6, 42 points) – This Dallas team hasn't needed help from refs. The Stars have won eight of their last 11.

16. Winnipeg Jets (LW: 16; 20-13-7, 47 points) – The Jets, already without forward Evander Kane, lost their fifth defenseman (Grant Clitsome) but split a pair of games this week and remain in line for a wild card spot in the West. This is essentially the same thing as every week, except with a new name and a larger number of players out of the lineup.

17. Boston Bruins (LW: 17; 20-15-6, 46 points) – The Bruins lost four of five before beating Pittsburgh in overtime Wednesday. Milan Lucic has been involved in trade talks, as well. As bad as Lucic has been (six goals, 12 assists in 39 games), it'd be weird to imagine him anywhere else. He has personified this era of Bruins hockey.

18. Columbus Blue Jackets (LW: 21; 18-17-3, 39 points) – The Jackets are 12-2-1 since the start of December and are within three points of a playoff spot. Columbus has lost 244 man games to injury and is still without Ryan Murray, Artem Anisimov, Boone Jenner, and Nathan Horton (probably not returning). They have also missed Cam Atkinson, Sergei Bobrovsky, Brandon Dubinsky, Matt Calvert, Scott Hartnell, and Mark Letestu for significant time this year. The Blue Jackets might be 4-1 in shootouts and have lackluster possession stats, but it's hard to call them lucky.

19. Calgary Flames (LW: 20; 21-17-3, 45 points) – Calgary has finally left the playoff picture. After a surprising start to the season, the Flames have lost 10 of their last 14.

20. Florida Panthers (LW: 18; 17-11-9, 43 points) – The Panthers have won only three of their last 14 in either regulation or overtime (Buffalo twice and Toronto). Florida has hung around with the help of four shootout wins.

21. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 19; 21-17-3, 45 points) – The Leafs finally fired Randy Carlyle, but Phil Kessel really stole the show. After being questioned about his coachability, Kessel called a reporter an idiot. The most overlooked part of the exchange was when Kessel, an American, said, "I play, eh." Eh?! Sorry, Canada, you can't steal him.

22. Minnesota Wild (LW: 15; 18-15-5, 41 points) – Coach Mike Yeo stormed out of practice Wednesday after yelling at his disappointing team after its eighth loss in 10 games. Minnesota's next four games are against Chicago twice, Nashville, and Pittsburgh. Yeo might as well not come back.

23. Colorado Avalanche (LW: 26; 16-16-8, 40 points) – The Avs have won three of four, including a victory in Chicago thanks to Semyon Varlamov's 54-save shutout.

24. Ottawa Senators (LW: 23; 16-15-8, 40 points) – The Sens have lost two straight after beating Boston in overtime Saturday.

25. New Jersey Devils (LW: 27; 15-20-7, 37 points) – The Devils beat up on the Flyers and Sabres in a pair of three-goal victories in which 42-year-old Jaromir Jagr became the oldest player to record a hat trick and Patrik Elias reached 1,000 career points. While this old, middling Devils team really doesn't have much to look forward to, at least it has some solid veterans to sell at the deadline.

26. Arizona Coyotes (LW: 24; 15-20-4, 34 points) – The Coyotes have a new owner, Andrew Barroway. It seems as if this has happened 30 times in the last five years.

27. Flyers (LW: 25; 15-18-7, 37 points) – The shootout win was cute and all, but the Flyers still gave up 42 shots at home to a lousy Sens team. This followed a five-game skid that included losses to bottom feeders such as Arizona, Colorado, Carolina, and New Jersey.

28. Buffalo Sabres (LW: 28; 14-24-3, 31 points) – The Sabres are who we thought they were, and pretty much nobody lets them off the hook. Buffalo has lost its last five and, by sinking toward the bottom of the league, is what everyone expected coming into the year.

29. Carolina Hurricanes (LW: 29; 12-24-4, 28 points) – Back-to-back wins over the Bruins and the Senators might tell me more about those teams than the Canes, whose terrible play so far has gone mostly unnoticed thanks to the Oilers' mess.

30. Edmonton Oilers (LW: 30; 9-23-9, 27 points) –It's probably sad to still talk about the Oilers this way, a team that is two years removed from its third straight first overall pick, but the Oilers have been legitimately competitive lately. They've won two of their last five against the Kings and Islanders, dropped two one-goal games, and lost in the final minutes against Detroit.