Around the NHL: Plus and minus

N.Y. Rangers, Stanley Cup playoffs finalists last season, have returned to their winning ways

Times columnist Helene Elliott rates the pluses and minuses in the NHL from the past week:

+ Before heading west to play the Ducks, Kings and Sharks, the New York Rangers said they saw the trip as a measuring stick for where they stand. Now, everyone else is measuring themselves against the Rangers. Sweeping the California trifecta gave the Rangers 13 wins in their last 14 games, impressive by any standard. The only question is whether they've peaked too early.

+ The Nashville Predators became the first team to hit 60 points (28-9-4) with their 3-1 victory at Minnesota on Saturday. The Predators have won three straight games and have points in eight consecutive games (6-0-2). Goaltender Pekka Rinne leads the league with 28 wins and is in the top five in goals-against average (1.98) and save percentage (.930).

+ The Florida Panthers — fueled by wins at Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton and a 4-1-0 record on a trip that ends Tuesday in Winnipeg — are pushing for an East wild-card spot. Goalie Roberto Luongo is 8-1-1 in his last 10 decisions and has passed Dominik Hasek to rank 11th in career wins, with 390.

- Last week, lung cancer took 73-year-old J.P. Parise, who influenced hundreds of kids in his post-NHL career as a hockey administrator and director of the program at Shattuck-St. Mary's prep school in Minnesota. His son, Zach, of the Minnesota Wild, missed two games to be with him during the final stage of his illness.

- The Wild continues to be bad in a baffling way. A 4-1 loss at Chicago on Sunday was its fifth straight, 11th in 13 games and 16th in 23 since Nov. 20. "The Blackhawks had their way with the Wild, skating effortlessly around players like they were inanimate objects," Michael Russo wrote in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Perennial Norris Trophy (top defenseman) candidate Ryan Suter is minus-18 in his last 19 games.

- Last Saturday was a bad day for goalies. Detroit's Jimmy Howard — selected hours earlier to play in the All-Star game — was carried off on a stretcher after tearing a groin muscle, and he's on injured reserve. The same day, Philadelphia's Steve Mason sustained a lower-body injury against Boston that's expected to keep him out two weeks.

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