1. New York Islanders (Previous rank: 6; 18-7-0, 36 points) – If you come at the king, you best not miss. The Isles didn't when they beat the previously top-ranked Penguins in a home-and-home before Thanksgiving. New York has won seven of its last eight and shares first place in the Metropolitan Division with Pittsburgh.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins (PR: 1; 17-5-2, 36 points) – Since losing a pair to the Islanders, Pittsburgh has won four of five. Marc-Andre Fleury tied his career high with his fifth shutout in the team's most recent win Tuesday against New Jersey.
3. Chicago Blackhawks (PR: 7; 16-8-1, 33 points) – Chicago has won four straight, seven of eight, and owns the best goal differential in the league (plus-29). Brad Richards has helped, posting five points in his last three games and finally filling the second-line center void that he was brought in to improve.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning (PR: 4; 17-6-3, 37 points) – After Monday's win at Madison Square Garden, the Bolts have won all three matchups with New York's Martin St. Louis since he forced a trade in March.
5. Nashville Predators (PR: 2; 16-6-2, 34 points) – A hip injury spoiled much of Pekka Rinne's 2013-14 season, but the Finnish netminder looks like his old self this season. Rinne has a .932 save percentage and helped Nashville take four one-goal wins in its last five games.
6. St. Louis Blues (PR: 3; 16-7-2, 34 points) – Whenever you have the opportunity to sign a 42-year-old goalie coming off two straight seasons with a .901 save percentage, you have to take advantage. Martin Brodeur will make his debut Thursday at Nashville.
7. Anaheim Ducks (PR: 5; 16-6-5, 37 points) – The Ducks signed Ilya Bryzgalov Wednesday, which is mostly notable because he accounts for half of the personality in the league.
8. Vancouver Canucks (PR: 10; 17-7-1, 35 points) – Ryan Miller had back-to-back shutouts last week for the Canucks, who have won five of six.
9. Detroit Red Wings (PR: 14; 14-6-5, 33 points) – Pavel Datsyuk has managed to stay in the lineup for four games and is hitting his stride. Datsyuk, who has missed 48 games over the past two seasons, has five goals since coming back from a groin injury on Nov. 26.
10. Montreal Canadiens (PR: 8; 17-8-2, 36 points) – The Habs lost on back-to-back nights against Buffalo last weekend, but the team's struggles have taken a back seat to Hall-of-Famer Jean Beliveau's passing Tuesday.
11. Calgary Flames (PR: 12; 16-8-2, 34 points) – Since going scoreless in five games to start the season, Johnny Gaudreau has 19 points in 20 games and the Flames remain hot.
12. Minnesota Wild (PR: 13; 14-9-1, 29 points) – The Wild have only been outshot three times this season. There are plenty of reasons to believe Minnesota will make a push at some point.
13. Los Angeles Kings (PR: 11; 13-7-5, 31 points) – The Kings were fined $100,000 this week after Slava Voynov was caught taking part in an optional practice, another chapter in a strange season for the defending champs.
14. Boston Bruins (PR: 9; 14-11-1, 29 points) – The B's have lost four of five, but Zdeno Chara began skating last week and is expected to return soon.
15. Winnipeg Jets (PR: 16; 13-9-4, 30 points) – The Jets continued to hover around .500 while their star player, Evander Kane, caused some controversy by posting pictures on Instagram of himself and stacks of cash. So, basically the usual for Winnipeg.
16. New York Rangers (PR: 15; 11-9-4, 26 points) – Dan Boyle, Ryan McDonagh, and Derek Stepan are finally all healthy for the defending Eastern Conference champions.
17. Florida Panthers (PR: 23; 10-7-6, 26 points) – Twenty-two-year-old Nick Bjugstad had 11 points in November and 2014 first-overall pick Aaron Ekblad, a defenseman, shares the team lead with 13 points. The Panthers might have something here.
18. San Jose Sharks (PR: 18; 12-10-4, 28 points) – San Jose looks like an average team on the way down after failing to capitalize on years at the top of its conference.
19. Washington Capitals (PR: 17; 10-10-4, 24 points) – Washington looks like an average team on the way down after failing to capitalize on years at the top of its conference.
20. Toronto Maple Leafs (PR: 24; 13-8-3, 29 points points) – It's been relatively quiet for the Leafs lately. After another fan threw a jersey on the ice in a 9-2 loss against Nashville on Nov. 18 and the players declined to salute the fans after a win two nights later, controversy dissipated as the team proceeded to win four of five.
21. Colorado Avalanche (PR: 26; 9-11-5, 23 points) – Colorado split six games while Semyon Varlamov was out with a groin injury. The Russian goaltender is expected back when the Avs play in Calgary Thursday.
22. Dallas Stars (PR: 27; 9-11-5, 23 points) – The Stars have continued to disappoint, but gave Jason Spezza a four-year, $30-million extension two weeks ago. Spezza has 20 points in 25 games in his first season in Dallas.
23. Arizona Coyotes (PR: 19; 10-13-3, 23 points) – Know how basketball teams don't want to get stuck in mediocrity, so instead they tank? The Sixers don't want to be the Atlanta Hawks and nobody in the NHL wants to be the Coyotes.
24. Ottawa Senators (PR: 20; 10-9-5, 25 points) – Ottawa is 29th in the league with 34.9 shots against per game. Craig Anderson (.930 save percentage) and Robin Lehner (.914 save percentage) have been strong, but the Sens have fallen to seventh in the eight-team Atlantic Division.
25. New Jersey Devils (PR: 25; 9-12-4, 22 points) – Scott Gomez rejoined a team that lost seven of its last nine and hopped on a line with Patrick Elias and Jaromir Jagr. No question this is the highlight of the season for anyone who hasn't followed hockey since the 90's.
26. Carolina Hurricanes (PR: 22; 8-13-3, 19 points) – After winning five of six to start November, the Hurricanes lost seven of their last 10. On the bright side, Jordan Staal began off-ice workouts last week.
27. Philadelphia Flyers (PR: 21; 8-13-4, 20 points) – Two close losses on the West Coast show progress, but the Flyers have now lost six straight and 10 of 11.
28. Columbus Blue Jackets (PR: 28; 7-15-2, 16 points) – Columbus finished November 2-9-2 and is the Flyers' only win in the last two weeks.
29. Edmonton Oilers (PR: 29; 6-15-5, 17 points) – The Oilers have now lost 11 straight and have the worst record in the league. Edmonton, with expectations buoyed by its first overall picks in 2010, 2011, and 2012, is probably more competitive than Buffalo, but the whole point of its season was to take steps so it would no longer be compared to the league's worst teams.
30. Buffalo Sabres (PR: 30; 9-14-2, 20 points) – The Sabres have won six of their last seven, but I'm still not moving them. On average, Buffalo is being outshot by just less than 13 shots per game. No other team tops seven. Until the Sabres' average shot deficit is within five of the next-worst team, they're stuck here. My arbitrary rankings, my arbitrary rules.