Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Playoff watch: Kings pad division lead
By Mark Stepneski
The Los Angeles Kings kept the pressure on the rest of the teams chasing them in the playoff race with a 2-o win over Edmonton Monday night at Staples Center.
The Kings, who are 9-2-1 over their last 12 games, now lead the Coyotes by two points, the Sharks by three and the Stars by four. All those teams have a game in hand and can make up some ground Tuesday night.
The big game of course is the Stars and Sharks at American Airlines Center. Nobody is clinching a playoff spot Tuesday and nobody is getting eliminated, but the winner is going to be in a playoff spot with two games to go and the loser is going to be in a tough spot.
Let's not forget that all wins don't always reap the same benefits in the NHL playoff race. Sometimes you get two points and the other team gets no points, and sometimes the other team gets one point. Whether the Stars-Sharks game is settled in regulation or beyond regulation will be a factor in how things look moving forward.
But heat is really on the Stars, since they are the team on the outside looking in right now. They don't win and the math starts getting tough, especially with a regulation loss. They win and they still have tough games against Nashville and St. Louis. That doesn't mean there isn't any pressure on the Sharks. A loss pushes them out the eighth spot and behind the eight ball with two games left.
Phoenix hosts Columbus Tuesday night in the other key game. This isn't exactly a gimme for the Coyotes. They are 0-3-0 against the Blue Jackets this season. The Coyotes have a chance, if they can win, to push farther ahead of which ever team comes up on the short end of the Stars-Sharks score.
It's a big night in the race. It will be interesting to see where things stand once play ends.