HOT: MINNESOTA GOIN' WILD
Minny's won five in a row and seven of eight, outscoring opponents 27--14, while goalie Niklas Backstrom's .921 save percentage is tied for seventh in the NHL. Said Backstrom, after his first shutout of the season, last Saturday against the Sharks, "I think the whole team feels good."
NOT: TROUBLE BRUIN
UCLA sacked Ben Howland on Sunday following an 83--63 loss to 11th-seeded Minnesota last Friday, the fifth straight year the Bruins have come up short of the Sweet 16. In 10 tumultuous seasons Howland was 233--107 and made three Final Fours.
HOT: SEATTLE BAT-TLE
Seattle should have its problems this year, but the Mariners are raking this spring: In 28 games they're hitting .286 with 50 home runs, and lead the majors in slugging (.516). Your guy? Michael Morse. The 31-year-old has launched six bombs in only 47 at bats.
NOT: CAROLINA CATACLYSM
The Hurricanes were cruising along after winning six of seven, but are now spinning out of control, losing five straight while being outscored 17--6. The problem: special teams. Carolina is 28th in power play percentage (13.8%) and 27th in penalty killing (77.1%).
HOT: SUPER SPURS
Miami? Denver? Sure, they've got winning streaks that total 41 games. But ol' reliable San Antonio (53--17) just keeps plugging along, on pace to take the top seed in the West. The Spurs lead the NBA in assists, thanks to Tony Parker (7.6 apg to go with his 21.0 ppg).