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Power Rankings: Stars streak to top amid franchise turmoil

by | CBSSports.com Staff Writer
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Updated Dec. 20

Among the various feel-good stories this season in the NHL, one of the best is being written by the Dallas Stars. You know, the team that seemed destined to contend for the lottery pick but instead is challenging for the Western Conference lead.

Brenden Morrow helped the Stars top the Wings in OT on Sunday with an equalizing goal in the third period. (AP)  
Brenden Morrow helped the Stars top the Wings in OT on Sunday with an equalizing goal in the third period. (AP)  
The Stars lead the Pacific Division by four points and after winning impressively in Detroit on Sunday. They start the new week just one point shy of No. 1 in the West. Not a bad place to be for a team that missed the past two playoffs.

But what makes the success more noteworthy is that Dallas is having a great season while the team is up for sale, a process that has kept an extremely tight rein on costs and forced the team to operate near the floor of the salary cap. It might force the organization to trade its best player by the deadline because Brad Richards is in the final year of a lucrative contract and will likely be too expensive to re-sign next summer.

It's a difficult situation for a franchise struggling at the box office, since the departures of icon Mike Modano and longtime goalie Marty Turco as free agents last summer have in essence made Richards the face of the franchise. The threat of his departure has been a very public issue that has loomed all season, but in the meantime, Richards is leading the team in scoring and tied for sixth in the league overall.

Along with wingers Loui Eriksson and James Neal, former Conn Smythe winner Richards is part of one of the league's most dangerous lines, getting nice support from veterans Brenden Morrow, Mike Ribeiro and a cast of characters providing a lot of bang for the buck.

Kari Lehtonen has played exceptionally well in goal in his first full season in Dallas, with Andrew Raycroft doing a nice job as backup. The defense has been solid and coach Marc Crawford seems to have everybody on the same page. The result is that Dallas has gone 10-2-2 in the past 14 games and made a quick start when few really noticed a foundation for a serious turnaround.

The rankings through Sunday night's games:

RANK TEAM MOVE (LW)
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