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Saturday, March 17, 2012
Playoff watch: Teams have chance to gain ground on Stars

By Mark Stepneski

The Dallas Stars don’t play for the next three days, so what happens around them will determine how things look in the standings when they play their next game on Tuesday. Some teams have games in hand and will have a chance to gain ground.

The Stars are still two points up in the division and have a three point lead over the ninth spot in the conference, but that could start to change tonight. Or it could stay the same. It will depend on how things play out.

The Sharks, who are three points behind the Stars with two games in hand, host Detroit tonight. San Jose is third in the Pacific and ninth in the West. The Sharks opened a stretch of six of seven at home with a 2-1 shootout win over Nashville on Thursday. The Red Wings are 0-3-0 on their current road trip and have lost their last two games – at Anaheim and Los Angeles –by a combined score on 9-2. The Red Wings will get a boost with the return of Pavel Datsyuk, who has been out following arthroscopic knee surgery. But Nicklas Lidstrom remains out with an ankle injury.  Johan Franzen is questionable as well.

The Kings, who beat Anaheim 4-2 Friday night for their third straight win, host Nashville tonight. The Kings are three points behind the Stars with one game in hand. The Predators  are 1-0-1 so far on their four-game road trip and are battling Detroit for that fourth seed and home ice in the first round of the playoffs.

Colorado, which is currently in eighth place, is two points behind the Stars but have played one more game. They play the Rangers at Madison Square Garden this evening. Colorado is 5-1-1 in its last seven games and Matt Duchene returned to the lineup Thursday after missing a week-and-a-half with a high ankle sprain.