As February comes to a close and the NHL standings continue to become more jumbled by the game, hockey fans must prepare for arguably the most exciting stretch in all of sports: the playoff push. The Metropolitan Division has been a perfect example of the exciting March ahead in the National Hockey League as four teams find themselves within four points of each other for the division lead. Each game continues to mean more and fists will be flying, pucks will be passed and shots will be saved with an increasing level of intensity as each and every player will be giving it their all to get an opportunity to win the coveted Stanley Cup when all is said and done.

Look for quite a few teams to make some key moves in the next week as the trade deadline is approaching and the sellers will be looking to ship their valuable assets to a contender willing to give up some youth or draft picks in an attempt to win now. A deadline pickup could be the difference between first and fourth in a division and teams will be looking to secure a spot in the postseason at all costs.

1. Nashville Predators (40-13-7)- Nashville continues to secure its grip on the Presidents Trophy as they hold a six-point lead over Anaheim for the best record and a seven-point lead over St. Louis in the Central Division. The Predators have it all from an All-Star goaltender, a deep and talented defense and a loaded offense. This team looks hard to stop right now. (0)

2. St. Louis Blues (38-17-4)- Vladimir Tarasenko has come into his own as a full-fledged force and has keyed the Blues top-ranked power play all season with highlight reel goals. If Jake Allen and Brian Elliot can play big in net for St. Louis down the stretch they will be a team that no one wants to face in a seven game series. (0)

3. Tampa Bay Lightning (37-19-6)- Tyler Johnson has continued his stellar year and the 5’9” forward is shattering the stereotype that small forwards cannot succeed in the league as his 59 points are good for seventh in the league. Is Ben Bishop good enough in net to take the Lightning to the next level? (+1)

4. Montreal Canadiens (38-16-5)- Montreal took a step backwards with losses to Florida and Ottawa in the past week. A 3-1 victory over Columbus on Saturday provided a confidence boost as the Canadiens have a big test against the Blues on Tuesday. (-1)

5. New York Islanders (39-20-2)- The Islanders have faced many questions of late in regards to how they would hold up among a rash of injuries and aside from a 6-5 loss to the Rangers in a thriller, New York has responded magnificently as of late and find themselves atop the crazy Metropolitan Division. (+2)

6. Anaheim Ducks (38-16-7)- Anaheim has looked unimpressive to say the least as of late and Bruce Boudreau is searching for answers as the Ducks offense continues to falter. Anaheim does not have to be too worried as they currently enjoy a 12-point lead in the Pacific Division. (-1)

7. Detroit Red Wings (33-14-11) – Detroit is currently on a record breaking run of 23 consecutive seasons making the playoffs and with the play of youngsters like Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyqvist it looks like that streak could continue for years to come. Mike Babcock’s bunch has benefitted greatly from the return of Jimmy Howard but the play of goaltender Petr Mrazek in his absence was quite admirable. (+1)

8. Chicago Blackhawks (35-20-5)- Chicago has left all of us scratching our heads with some questionable losses all season but the play of the first line has carried this team to success. Patrick Kane has been nothing short of phenomenal as his 64 points lead the NHL. (-2)

9. New York Rangers (36-16-6)- Rick Nash is playing like a man with something to prove as the 30-year-old winger’s 37 goals trail Alexander Ovechkin by a single goal for best in the league. The Rangers have three games in hand on the Islanders and two on Pittsburg and could find themselves atop the Metropolitan Division by the end of the week. (+1)

10. Washington Capitals (33-18-10)- Washington had a big week with wins over Pittsburg and the Islanders and have made the Metropolitan into a four-headed monster and definitely the most exciting divisional playoff race to keep an eye on. Goalie Braden Holtby deserves a ton of credit as he has maintained a great season in net for Washington. (+1)

11. Pittsburgh Penguins (34-17-9)- Marc-Andre Fleury has been great, allowing an astonishing four goals in his last four games; however, the offense has not picked him up recently. The Penguins find themselves in third place in the Metropolitan Division and just one point ahead of the charging Capitals. (-2)

12. Los Angeles Kings (28-18-12)- No team in the NHL is hotter or more dangerous then the Kings right now. Los Angeles is enjoying a seven game winning streak and the entire league knows that if they make it into the playoffs, they are experienced and know how to grind out victories on the road. (+3)

13. Minnesota Wild (31-21-7)- Mike Yeo has been pushing all the right buttons for his team right now and not enough can be said about the play of Devin Dubnyk. He has catalyzed the resurgence of the Wild and has rejuvenated his career in Minnesota. The Wild hold the final wild card spot in the West when they seemed dead in the water just a few weeks back. (+3)

14. San Jose Sharks (30-23-8)- San Jose finds themselves in an unusual position as they are on the outside looking in of the Western Conference playoff race and seem to be in danger of missing the postseason for the first time in 10 seasons. Todd McClellan must do something about the defense as the Sharks are allowing 2.74 goals per game, good for 10th worst in the conference. (-2)

15. Calgary Flames (32-23-4)- Calgary has the unpleasant task of chasing down two of the hottest teams in the NHL as they look to save their surprisingly successful season and make the playoffs in a competitive Western Conference. Regardless of the Flame’s fate, captain Mark Giordano has been a presence on the blue line all season long and should be seriously considered for the Norris Trophy. (-2)

16. Vancouver Canucks (34-22-3)- Radim Vrbata has been the beneficiary of playing on a line with twin brothers Henrik and Daniel Sedin all year long. Vrbata’s 22 goals lead the team and many of those goals have been assisted by one or both of the Sedin brothers. (+1)

17. Philadelphia Flyers (26-23-11)- The Flyers have been on a late season surge and after looking uninspired all season, Philadelphia has points in 16 of their last 21 games and finds themselves just four points behind Boston for the final wild card spot in the East. (+3)

18. Florida Panthers (26-21-12)- Florida continues to win enough games to keep the Bruins honest but cannot seem to pass them for the final wild card spot in the East. Thursday’s shootout victory in Montreal was huge for this team going forward.   (+2)

19. Boston Bruins (29-21-9)- Boston picked up a much-needed victory on Sunday, defeating the Blackhawks 6-2. However, Florida and Philadelphia are breathing down their necks and the goaltending will have to play much better for the Bruins to have a chance. Boston is allowing just over four goals per game their last six games. (-5)

20. Winnipeg Jets (30-20-11)-Winnipeg is in the midst of a slide and the blockbuster deal to acquire Tyler Myers and ship away Evander Kane will be heavily scrutinized if the Jets miss the playoffs. Ondrej Pavelec must play better in net. (-2)

21. Colorado Avalanche (26-23-11)- Colorado has underperformed all season but Patrick Roy’s bunch has been playing their best hockey of the season with impressive wins over Chicago and Tampa Bay in the past week. (+1)

22. Dallas Stars (27-24-9)- The Stars 7-6 overtime loss against Dallas on Saturday sums up their struggles perfectly as the offense has been awesome all season; however, the goaltending has been abysmal and the defense is allowing way too many shots. (-2)

23. New Jersey Devils (25-26-9)- Corey Schneider has been the workhorse for New Jersey all year and has posted a 1.00 goals against average during the Devils current four-game winning streak, including a 38 save shutout in a win over Arizona on Monday. (+1)

24. Columbus Blue Jackets (26-28-4)-The Blue Jackets were able to cool down the Flyers in Philadelphia and beat the Penguins two nights later; however, losses to Montreal and the Rangers have brought Columbus back to reality. James Wisniewksi is being shopped around and the Blue Jackets seem to be looking to build for the future. (+2)

25. Ottawa Senators (24-23-10)- The Senators have quite a few pieces to build around and although this season has been one to forget for Ottawa fans, a high draft pick could make the Senators extremely dangerous next season. (-1)

26. Carolina Hurricanes (21-30-7)- Carolina has showed promise at time but has been unable to string enough wins together to get anything going all season. Cam Ward is in the tail end of his decorated career and Anton Khudobin is not the answer in net for the long run. The question remains: who is the answer? (0)

27. Arizona Coyotes (20-33-7)- Mike Smith has been a disaster in between the pipes all year for Arizona and seeing the emergence of Devin Dubnyk in Minnesota has to add insult to injury to the Coyotes front office for shipping him out of the desert. (+1)

28. Toronto Maple Leafs (24-31-5)- This season has been one to forget for Toronto and a failing team with stars such as Phil Kessel, James Van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri show the need for depth in this league. The top line has received no help from the rest of the team and it has showed all year. (-1)

29. Edmonton Oilers (17-34-10)- Give credit to the Oilers for remaining competitive and they have made the rest of the league work for two points lately. Youth has plagued this team and another year of experience for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall will give Edmonton fans a reason to hope for success in the near future heading into the offseason. (0)

30. Buffalo Sabres (17-38-5)- The acquisition of Evander Kane in a major victory for an organization that finds itself in the cellar of the NHL standings. Buffalo must control Kane and not let his attitude destroy his tenure as a Sabre, but there is no denying his talent. (0)