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Thursday, February 16, 2012
Big points at stake for Stars

By Mark Stepneski

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the Anaheim Ducks have climbed back into the playoff picture. The Ducks won 2-1 at Pittsburgh last night to improve to 14-2-3 over their last 19 games. They are now just two points behind the Stars and six points behind Phoenix for eighth place in the West.

If it weren’t for the Stars, the Ducks would be even closer. The two regulation losses the Ducks have suffered during their remarkable run both have been to the Stars.

As for the Stars, the Ducks aren’t their big concern right now. These next two games are. They play two teams ahead of them of them in the standings -- ninth-seeded Calgary tonight at the American Airlines Center and then at Phoenix on Saturday.

The Coyotes and Flames are where they are right now because they’ve been able to get on runs. Phoenix is 5-1-1 since the All-Star break, including 5-0-1 in its last six games. They Flames are 4-1-2 since the break and 4-0-2 over their last six games.

The Stars are where they are right now -- 11th in the West and four points out of a playoff spot -- because they’ve struggled out of the break. They are 3-4-1, including 1-3-1 over their last five games.

These are big points against teams the Stars are chasing in the playoff race. With the Feb. 27 trade deadline getting closer, these games could help determine which way Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk leans when it comes to making any moves.