(By Alex Liepold)With the NHL on hiatus for the Olympics, how will the break affect the league’s hottest and coldest teams? Going dormant could hamper a team’s hot play and kill the momentum they’ve built. For cold teams, a break from the action could either be a chance to regroup and turn it around, or it could make it worse. When play continues on Feb. 25, more than a quarter of the season will be condensed into the remaining month and a half. Teams will have between 22 and 25 games left to make their charge toward the playoffs.
With this in mind, we take a look back and track the league’s five hottest and coldest teams since the New Year:
1. Colorado: 13-5-1
The young Avs hit a speed wobble at mid-season, but have recovered nicely since Jan. 1. They hold onto the fifth spot in the Western Conference.
2. Columbus: 12-5-1
The Jackets have taken themselves from below .500 to within a single point of the final playoff spot in the East. They’re looking to make the playoffs for just the second time in franchise history after losing out on eighth place via tiebreaker last season.
3. New York Rangers: 12-5-1
They have looked more comfortable of late under first-year bench boss Alain Vigneault and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has rounded back into form.
4. St. Louis: 12-5-1
The Blues are a popular pick amongst pundits to win the Cup this year. They have consistently been around or in top spot in the West all season.
5. Toronto: 12-6-1
After reaching a boiling point through four straight ugly losses at the beginning of January, Randy Carlyle has his club out to prove last season’s playoff appearance was no fluke.
1. Vancouver: 4-13-2
John Tortorella’s club needed this break more than any other team, managing to pick up just 10 of a possible 38 points in 2014. Since Jan.1, they are averaging just 1.78 goals per game and have been shutout three times.
2. Buffalo: 4-9-4
This is just par for the course in a dreadful year for the Sabres. They have four separate losing streaks of four or more games so far this year.
3. Los Angeles: 6-10-2
The Kings are having problems scoring goals (averaging just 2.25 a game, good for 29th overall), just as they did in 2011 when they won the Stanley Cup. That year, they acquired Jeff Carter from Columbus to beef up their offense – could a similar move be coming this year?
4. Phoenix: 7-11-1
The Coyotes have played themselves right out of a playoff spot in the West. They are tied for eighth alongside Dallas with 64 points, but have one less regulation win.
5. Florida: 7-9-1
Still trying to play themselves out of their 7-16-5 start, but aren’t likely to get it turned around before an impending fire sale at the trade deadline