NHL Power Rankings: Kaprizov, Zuccarello helping Wild make big climb

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In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings the Lightning reclaim the top spot, the Canucks hit bottom, and the Wild make a big climb into the top 10.

The Wild are the intriguing story this week thanks to a six-game winning streak. Forwards Mats Zuccarello and Kirill Kaprizov are leading the way on this recent surge. Zuccarello has been outstanding since making his season debut with 11 points in his first seven games, while Kaprizov has been worth the hype as one of the league’s top rookies. They still have the defense, they are getting the goaltending, and now they have a potential star forward to make plays with the puck.

The West Division has three strong contenders in Colorado, Vegas, and a health St. Louis team at the top. But that fourth playoff spot has always been wide open given the rest of the division. Minnesota is looking to take advantage of it and grab it.

This week the Wild are in the No. 8 spot of our NHL Power Rankings.

Where does your team sit?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

1. Tampa Bay Lightning. No Nikita Kucherov and they still have one of the best records in the league. In four games this week against Carolina and Dallas they went 4-0-0 and outscored those two teams by a 15-3 margin.

2. Toronto Maple Leafs. The clear favorite in the North Division, and the gap seems to be widening every game.

3. Vegas Golden Knights. The Marc-Andre Fleury redemption tour rolls on for Vegas. Hard to argue that the job is not once again his.

4. Colorado Avalanche. Philipp Grubauer does not get a lot of attention given the talent elsewhere on the roster, but he has been outstanding this season in net.

5. Carolina Hurricanes. Tough week against Tampa, but the Hurricanes are still playing fantastic hockey this season overall. A legitimate Stanley Cup contender.

6. Florida Panthers. Goalie Chris Driedger and offseason pickups Patric Hornqvist and Carter Verhaeghe are really driving this great start.

7. Boston Bruins. There is no slowing down David Pastrnak right now, and Charlie McAvoy is emerging as a Norris Trophy front runner right now.

8. Minnesota Wild. Kirill Kaprizov has completely changed the entire dynamic of this team.

9. Philadelphia Flyers. They had a dominant weekend against Buffalo and are finally starting to get some of their top players back.

10. Washington Capitals. If Conor Sheary could only play games against teams that traded him (Buffalo and Pittsburgh) he would be unstoppable.

[Your 2020-21 NHL On NBC TV Schedule]

11. Winnipeg Jets. They are using the recipe they need to use in order to win: Great goaltending and relying on their top forwards to to carry the offense.

12. New York Islanders. They played 12 games in February. They went 2-2-2 against Pittsburgh. They went 6-0-0 against everybody else.

13. Edmonton Oilers. They are exciting. They play in the right division to make a run in the playoffs. But does that make them a true Cup contender?

14. Pittsburgh Penguins. They keep collecting points, but they only have four regulation wins this season. Special teams are also a major problem.

15. Chicago Blackhawks. They are exceeding expectations, but we are about to find out if they are for real with the schedule they have ahead.

16. Los Angeles Kings. They future is extremely bright, but the veterans on the roster are eyeing another trip to the playoffs this season.

17. St. Louis Blues. Their biggest problem right now is injuries, but they are getting closer to getting a significant player back in Vladimir Tarasenko.

18. Calgary Flames. They have hit a little bit of a slump here, so it is a perfect time to get a stretch of four consecutive games against the Senators.

19. Montreal Canadiens. It is crazy what a difference a month makes. The Habs started the season look like the biggest surprise story in the NHL. Now they fired their coach and can not seem to get a win.

[Related: What the Canadiens need to fix]

20. Nashville Predators. They feasted on Columbus this week to try and get back into the playoff race. Still seems like changes are on the horizon.

21. Arizona Coyotes. Overcoming back-to-back three-goal deficits to win games is good, but it also means you were trailing back-to-back games by three goals. Probably not great.

22. Dallas Stars. They have won just two out of their past 12 games after starting the season with a four-game winning streak.

23. New York Rangers. Not much is going right for them this season, but Mika Zibanejad‘s slump is quite a surprise.

24. New Jersey Devils. Mackenzie Blackwood is going to keep them in almost every game he plays.

25. San Jose Sharks. No offense, aging stars on defense, and no goaltending. It is a bad combination.

26. Columbus Blue Jackets. Patrik Laine has scored a lot of goals, but nobody else has. They are also not winning.

27. Anaheim Ducks. When you lose back-to-back games when you hold a three-goal lead, against the same team, that is never a good sign.

28. Buffalo Sabres. What. A. Mess.

29. Detroit Red Wings. They would probably like to see more progress from some of the younger players on the roster.

30. Ottawa Senators. A lot of their young players are showing some progress.

31. Vancouver Canucks. They are 3-0 against Ottawa. They are 5-14-2 against everybody else in the division. It is not like the rest of the division is loaded with Stanley Cup contenders.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

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Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

“We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

“I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

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OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.