The New York-area hockey scene is heating up as the trade deadline approaches and the chance (however slight it may be) of all three teams making the playoffs. For the first time all season, two area teams are representing the top five in the Real Clear Sports power rankings, with the New York Rangers occupying the No. 2 spot and the surging New Jersey Devils grabbing hold of No. 5 in a tie with the Bruins. The New York Islanders are in 23th.
RCS averages the rankings of six major media outlets into a single streamlined one.
Since the Rangers have led the power-rankings discussions literally all season, let's talk Devils first. New Jersey is 35-20-4 this season, fourth in the Eastern Conference, and coming off a week in which they won all three of their games -- against the Sabres, Ducks and Canadiens. It also began the week (not identified in this version of the power rankings) with an overtime victory over the Maple Leafs. Even though they haven't been recognized as an "elite" team, New Jersey continues to find ways to get the job done, and that's all that counts. It will likely add a few pieces before the Feb. 27 deadline.
The Rangers are in the midst of a slight funk, something -- with a 38-15-5 record -- they haven't dealt with too often. They went 2-1-0 from Tuesday, Feb. 14 to Tuesday, Feb. 21. They defeated the Bruins handily, lost to the Blackhawks and needed overtime versus the league's bottom-dwellers, the Blue Jackets. They also began the new week with a 2-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. It's the second time all season New York hasn't had a regulation win in a three-game spurt. The East-leading Rangers will likely look to add a scorer at the deadline. The Blue Jackets' Rick Nash has been mentioned extensively.
The Islanders, 25-27-8, went 2-2-0 over their week with wins against the Jets and Hurricanes, and losses to the Blues and Senators. In their losses, they scored one goal and gave up 11. New York began the week with a 2-1 loss to the Sabres and at seven points out, cannot afford too many letdowns over the final stretch if they want to make a playoff push.
All three teams continue with busy weeks (Feb. 21 to Feb. 27). The Devils play the Canucks on Friday, followed by the Lightning and Rangers. The Rangers will take on the Islanders, Sabres and Devils in a three-game-in-four-nights situation. The Isles play the Rangers, then clash with the Senators to close the power-rankings week.