HELENE ELLIOTT'S NHL RANKINGS, COMMENTS:
GAME OF THE WEEK
*--* Rk. Team (Rec.) Comment 1 VANCOUVER (10-3-2-0) Bertuzzi awakens, sustains Canucks' 8-1-2 surge. 2 NEW JERSEY (7-3-3-0) Stevens, Langenbrunner shine in 5-0-1 streak. 3 PHILADELPHIA (7-2-3-1) Hitchcock loosens reins, Flyers thrive and score. 4 TAMPA BAY (8-1-2-1) Light schedule helps. They have points in 11 of 12. 5 ST. LOUIS (9-3-0-1) Tkachuk (five goals in last five) fuels 8-2 push. 6 COLORADO (8-5-1-0) Comebacks in last four show depth, resolve. 7 BOSTON (7-2-3-2) Knuble, Raycroft create sparks, Murray stirring. 8 TORONTO (7-4-3-1) Defense much improved in 3-0-1 streak. 9 ATLANTA (7-4-3-1) Plucky, prolific and refusing to fade away. 10 KINGS (8-5-0-1) Points in all four games on trip. 11 N.Y. ISLANDERS (7-4-2-0) Czerkawski (10 goals) enjoys rebirth. 12 MINNESOTA (6-7-2-0) Gaborik not in prime form, but Wild (4-1-1) clicking. 13 CHICAGO (6-6-3-1) Offense lags, but defense is much better. 14 EDMONTON (6-6-2-0) Pisani, Torres stepping up to take scoring load. 15 N.Y. RANGERS (5-5-2-2) Two steps back for every step forward. 16 CAROLINA (4-5-5-0) Rookie Staal (10 points) belongs with the big boys. 17 BUFFALO (7-7-1-0) Noronen playing a lot -- to showcase for a trade? 18 DETROIT (7-7-1-0) Hasek returns to blank Blackhawks. 19 DALLAS (7-7-1-0) Outscored, 11-2, in losing last three. No focus or cohesion. 20 MONTREAL (7-8-0-0) Only three wins in last nine -- but all by shutout. 21 OTTAWA (5-4-2-1) Nerves getting jangled in 0-3-2 slump. 22 SAN JOSE (3-5-6-1) Cheechoo, McCauley have six goals each. 23 FLORIDA (5-8-2-0) Keenan too impatient, willful to coach kids. 24 COLUMBUS (5-7-0-1) Hopes higher with return of Cassels, Sanderson. 25 NASHVILLE (5-8-1-0) Can't beat any team but Detroit. 26 MIGHTY DUCKS (5-7-1-3) Offense goes for fancy over gritty, and shouldn't. 27 PITTSBURGH (3-7-3-0) Lemieux (hip) will sit out another week. 28 CALGARY (5-7-0-1) Shut out twice in last three and 1-5 in last six. 29 PHOENIX (4-6-3-1) Nagy (eight goals) only bright spot in 1-7-3 slide. 30 WASHINGTON (3-11-1-0) In 2-11-1 skid. Time to trade Jagr and eat some salary?
VANCOUVER AT PHILADELPHIA, THURSDAY
Could there be -- gasp -- a high-tempo, exciting game in store? The Canucks lead the West (and the NHL) with 53 goals the Flyers are third in the East with 42 goals. Jason King of the Canucks, who has been centering for twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin, leads NHL rookies with eight goals -- including five in his last four games -- and 10 points. Flyer winger Tony Amonte, rebounding from a mediocre season, has scored six goals, including goals in four straight games. The Flyers' power play is 10 for 29 in the last seven games and ranks second in the NHL with a 25.4% success rate.
-- Helene Elliott