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Martin Brodeur #30 of the New Jersey Devils takes a break in the action in his game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Prudential Center on December 4, 2009 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Lightning 3-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Bruce Bennett/2009 Getty Images

1. New Jersey Devils Déjà vu all over again, with Jacques Lemaire coaching.

2. San Jose Sharks Rumours of off-season demise clearly exaggerated.

3. Chicago Blackhawks Even with Huet/Niemi tandem, in top two defensively.

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4. Washington Capitals Fate in hands of young goalie Semyon Varlamov.

5. Pittsburgh Penguins Poised for second-half surge, if Evgeni Malkin comes around.

6. Phoenix Coyotes Desert Dogs defying all reasonable expectations.

7. Buffalo Sabres How did Tyler Myers slip to No. 12 in 2008 draft?

8. Colorado Avalanche Paul Stastny in midst of quiet, but effective, comeback.

9. Boston Bruins Need more from perennial scoring leader Marc Savard.

10. Calgary Flames Miikka Kiprusoff's goaltending masks glaring offensive gaps.

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11. Nashville Predators The Barry Trotz show, once again.

12. Vancouver Canucks Henrik Sedin proves he's worth the big-money extension.

13. Los Angeles Kings With Olympic nod, Drew Doughty no longer flying under radar.

14. Dallas Stars Injury-free Brad Richards leading the way.

15. Detroit Red Wings Considering the injuries, may be Mike Babcock's finest work as coach.

16. Ottawa Senators Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson injuries create vastly new look.

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17. Minnesota Wild Martin Havlat coming to life, after grim start.

18. Montreal Canadiens Mike Cammalleri at least paying dividends on investment.

19. Atlanta Thrashers Ilya Kovalchuk contract watch dominates agenda.

20. Philadelphia Flyers They can't be this bad. Can they?

21. New York Rangers See Philadelphia.

22. Anaheim Ducks Post-Chris Pronger era proving to be real challenge.

23. Tampa Bay Lightning Arguably NHL's worst supporting cast.

24. St. Louis Blues Too many youngsters stuck in neutral.

25. Florida Panthers Stephen Weiss, Nathan Horton at least providing offensive spice.

26. New York Islanders Matt Moulson a nice Cinderella story.

27. Toronto Maple Leafs Serious gaps down middle.

28. Columbus Blue Jackets Goalie Steve Mason is classically immersed in sophomore jinx.

29. Edmonton Oilers No Ales Hemsky, no Nikolai Khabibulin, no playoff chance.

30. Carolina Hurricanes Top 2010 draft choice Taylor Hall will look good in red.

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About the Author

Eric was the winner of the Hockey Hall Of Fame's Elmer Ferguson award for "distinguished contributions to hockey writing" in 2001. A graduate of the University of Western Ontario's grad school of journalism, he began covering hockey in 1978 and after spending 20 years covering the NHL and the Calgary Flames, joined The Globe in 2000. More

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