Dallas Stars: Colorado Avalanche

It was another night of movement in the Western Conference standings. The Stars jumped from seventh to third, the Kings went from ninth to seventh, San Jose dropped from third to eighth and Phoenix slipped from eighth to ninth. In the middle of all that, the Kings were first in the Pacific for about five minutes.

The Kings got knocked out of the third spot when the Stars wrapped up their 3-1 win over Edmonton. That was a huge two points for the Stars, who needed to bounce back from the loss in Calgary on Monday. Still a tough road ahead with that back-to-back at Vancouver and at San Jose Friday and Saturday to close out the trip. The Stars need to find a way to get points out of those two games.

The Kings beat Calgary 3-0 Wednesday night. The Kings snapped a two-game losing streak and are now 7-2-0 over their last nine games. They close out their road trip with games at Edmonton and Minnesota.

The Sharks lost 2-1 at Anaheim. The Ducks won five of six against the Sharks this season. The Sharks are back at it Thursday night. They play at Phoenix. This kicks off a stretch that will see the Sharks play the rest of their games against teams battling for the Pacific Division title.

The Coyotes have been off the last three days and they ended up being one point behind both San Jose and Los Angeles and two points behind the Stars. It could have been worse from their perspective.

Colorado lost 1-0 at Vancouver. Huge loss for the Avalanche. They are two points out of a playoff spot and only have three games left to play. The teams they are chasing all have five. Their chances are very slim right now. Ditto for Calgary. The Flames are three back with four games left on their schedule.

It’s looking more and more like the four Pacific Division teams – Dallas, Los Angeles, San Jose and Phoenix – are going to be fighting it out for those three playoff spots.

How tight is the Western Conference playoff race? It’s so tight that the Stars could be anywhere from third place to ninth after tonight’s games.

All the teams the Stars are battling are in action tonight, except for Phoenix.

The Stars, of course, are at Edmonton. The Oilers have been playing well lately. They are coming off a 3-0-1 road trip and have points and are 5-0-2 in their last seven games overall. They are relatively healthy, except for no Taylor Hall, who is going to have season-ending shoulder surgery.

Pacific Division-leading San Jose is at Anaheim. The Ducks haven’t been kind to the Sharks this season, winning four of the first five meetings. The Sharks are coming off a 3-0-0 homestand and are 5-2-0 in their last seven games.

On a side note, after tonight the Sharks' final five games look like this: at Phoenix; vs. Dallas; at Dallas; at Los Angeles; vs. Los Angeles. Five head-to-head games against teams they are battling for that Pacific Division title and a spot in the playoffs.

The Kings, who are two points behind San Jose and point behind the Stars and Coyotes, continue their four-game road trip with a stop in Calgary tonight. The Kings, who have lost two straight, are 1-1-1 against Calgary this season. The Flames are one point behind Los Angeles and two points out of a playoff spot. It’s a huge game for both teams.

Colorado, winless in its last three, plays at Vancouver. The Avalanche have just four games left and they have little margin for error. They need a win tonight.
The San Jose Sharks are on top of the Pacific Division for the first time since February 25. The Sharks beat Colorado last 5-1. The Sharks went 3-0-0 on their just concluded homestand that also included wins over Phoenix and Boston.

The Stars slipped to seventh place after their regulation loss in Calgary. The Stars are 2-4-0 in their last six games. Wednesday’s game against Edmonton is big because looming on the horizon is that big back-to-back with games at Vancouver and San Jose.

The Kings lost 1-0 at Vancouver as they opened a three-game road trip through Western Canada. After stringing together six straight wins, the Kings have now dropped two straight in regulation.

The Kings’ loss and the Stars’ loss in Calgary last night were good news for Phoenix. The Coyotes don’t play again until Thursday, so neither one of those teams will get too far ahead by the time Phoenix has its next chance to get points.

Colorado, is now winless in its last three games (0-2-1) with the two regulation losses coming against San Jose and Phoenix. The Avalanche have only four games left and it’s starting to look like they’ll have to run the table to have a chance.

Calgary’s in the same boat. Last night’s win over the Stars was a start for the Flames, who host the Kings on Wednesday.

There are no games tonight that will have an impact on the Stars, but Wednesday will be another pivotal night.

Phoenix lost 4-0 to St. Louis last night. That’s a big loss for the Coyotes. They are still second in the Pacific and seventh in the West with 87 points, but they have played two more games than the Stars, Kings and Sharks.

Phoenix is off the next three days and their Pacific Division rivals all play twice. In a race where everyone is within one point of each other, the Coyotes are going to have to hope those other teams don’t pull too far ahead of them.

On a side note, the Coyotes went 1-1-1 without Shane Doan during this three-game suspension for elbowing Stars forward Jamie Benn.

Plenty of opportunity for the standings to shift around tonight. The Stars, of course, are at Calgary. It’s basically do or die these days for the Flames right now, and the Stars need points, too. It is still a tight race.

Los Angeles opens its three-game Western Canada road trip tonight with a game at Vancouver.

The Sharks and Avalanche play in San Jose. The Avs are tied with the Sharks and Kings at 86 points, but they have played two more games than both those teams.

The Avalanche are getting to a point to where the math starts looking a little tough if they don’t get points tonight because the points pace for that final spot is about 94 points and they’d have to win out just to reach that.



Playoff watch: Stars in first in Pacific

March, 25, 2012
3/25/12
12:33
AM CT
When the Stars won over Calgary on Saturday afternoon they moved into first place in the Pacific Division and third in the Western Conference, and when play wrapped up Saturday night they were still in that position.

It’s still tight though. Just one point separates the Pacific Division leading Stars and San Jose, which is currently fourth in the division race and ninth in the Western Conference.

Los Angeles, which had been in the first in the Pacific, had its six-game winning streak snapped with a 4-2 loss to Boston. The Kings dropped to eighth place in the West.

Phoenix, which could have taken over first in the division with a win, lost 4-3 in a shootout to San Jose. The Coyotes, who are in seventh place, and Stars are tied at 87 points, but Phoenix has played one more game and the Stars hold the division lead based on a better points percentage.

The Sharks are tied with the Kings 86 points, but the Sharks are ninth in the West. Both teams have played the same number of games, but the Kings hold the regulation/overtime wins tiebreaker, 31-30.

Colorado dropped from ninth to 10th after its 3-2 shootout loss to Vancouver. The Avalanche also have 86 points, but they have played two more games than both San Jose and Los Angeles. Vancouver clinched the Northwest Division title with the win over Colorado.

The Flames, who are still in eleventh place, are three points out of the final playoff spot and they have six games left on their schedule.

The only team in the Pacific Division race playing Sunday night is Phoenix, which hosts St. Louis.

Everybody in the Western Conference was off last night, but there are plenty of big games tonight.

By the end of the end of the night, the Stars could be anywhere from third in the West to out of a playoff spot. A win, obviously, keeps them at least in the top eight.

The Stars and Flames, of course, kick of their home-and-home series this afternoon at American Airlines Center. Both teams need the win because if they don’t then the pressure will really be on when the two teams meet again Monday in Calgary.

Los Angeles, the current Pacific Division leader, hosts Boston tonight. The Kings have won six straight. The Bruins are 2-5-0 in their last seven games.

Seventh place Phoenix is at tenth place San Jose. Those two teams are separated by two points.

Ninth place Colorado hosts Vancouver.

Detroit and Nashville both have games as well. They are battling Chicago for that fourth seed, which brings home ice advantage in the first round. The Blackhawks are idle.


Teams changed positions in the Western Conference on Thursday night, but the situation remains the same. It’s tight. Five teams are separated by two points. It’s three points separating six teams.

With their loss to the Canucks on Thursday night, the Stars dropped from third place in the West to eighth. Three losses –- all of them in regulation –- over the last four games will bite you in a tight race. When you get no points in three of four games, you are eventually going to slip. But the Stars are only one point out of the Pacific Division lead. Of course, they are only two points ahead of 11th place Calgary, the team Dallas plays against in its next two games. More on that in a bit.

The Kings, who made it six straight wins with a 1-0 shootout victory over St. Louis, are now sitting on top of the Pacific Division and in the third spot in the West. It sounds good, but their grip on that is just as precarious as when the Stars started the day Thursday. They Kings have a one-point lead on the 10th place Sharks. No reason to celebrate just yet, but the Kings are playing some pretty good hockey right now.

The Coyotes also passed the Stars and now sit in seventh place in the West. Playing their first game without captain Shane Doan, who is serving a three-game suspension for elbowing Stars forward Jamie Benn, the Coyotes beat Colorado 3-2. The Coyotes have won only four of their last eight games, but they have points in seven of eight (4-1-3). Avoiding those regulation losses and picking up points has helped keep the Coyotes right in the thick of things.

This was a big loss for Colorado, which dropped into ninth place. The Avalanche are tied with the Stars at 85 points and are just one point behind the Coyotes and Kings, but have played two more games than Dallas and Los Angeles and one more than Phoenix.

San Jose snapped a two-game losing streak with a 2-1 win over Boston. The Sharks are just one point out of the division lead and one point behind the Stars for eighth place. Just when it looks like the Sharks are reeling a bit, they come up with a big win.

Calgary lost 2-1 in a shootout at Minnesota. It left the Flames in eleventh place, two points out of a playoff spot. The Flames haven’t won in four games, but they have picked up one point in each of their last three losses. That’s helped them hang in the race. This home-and-home coming up with the Stars is basically do or die for them. They need to win these games and gain ground or their chances really start to fade. It’s going to be huge for the Stars as well, because if they let Calgary gain ground on them then chances are they will lose some ground to the teams they are now chasing.

No games in the West Friday night, so enjoy an evening of no scoreboard watching.


Playoff watch: Several key games

March, 22, 2012
3/22/12
8:13
AM CT
Just look at the standings and you can see why every game and every point is big right now for the Stars. They still sit atop the Pacific Division and third in the West, but their grip on that spot is precarious. The lead is just one point in the division and just one point on ninth place.

Plenty of big games tonight. The Stars and Canucks square off in a battle of division leaders. Vancouver played last night in Chicago, losing 2-1 in overtime to the Blackhawks. They also lost forward Daniel Sedin, who took an elbow to the head from Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith in the first period and did not return. We should get more on Sedin’s status today. The Canucks, who have been struggling lately, played well last night but are just 3-5-3 over their last 11 games.

Los Angeles, one point behind the Stars and eighth in the West, takes on St. Louis, which is coming off a 4-3 loss at Anaheim last night. The Kings are starting to score some goals and have won five straight games. The Blues, who are on game five of a seven-game road trip, are 1-2-1 over their last four games.

Phoenix, one point behind the Stars and ninth in the West, hosts seventh-seeded Colorado, which is tied with the Stars at 85 points. The Coyotes will be without captain Shane Doan, who will be serving the first game of his three-game suspension for elbowing Stars forward Jamie Benn. The Avalanche are on a roll. They have points in six straight (4-0-2) and are 6-1-2 over their last nine games.

San Jose -- which is in 10th place, three points behind the Stars and two points out of the playoffs -- hosts Boston tonight.

Calgary, in eleventh place, plays at Minnesota. The Flames are worth watching because the Stars play them in a home-and-home series this Saturday and Monday.


Playoff watch: Two points big for Stars

March, 21, 2012
3/21/12
8:29
AM CT
Those were two big points for the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night. They stayed in first place in the Pacific Division and third in the Western Conference.

But things are still incredibly tight. The Stars lead in the division is just one point and their lead over ninth place is one point. Everybody chasing the Stars in the division and in the conference race picked up points, except for the San Jose Sharks. So, there is still a lot of work to do.

The Kings beat the Sharks 5-2 in Los Angeles Tuesday. The Kings, who have won five in a row, moved into second in the division and into eighth place in the West. Los Angeles and Phoenix are tied at 84 points, one behind the Stars, but the Kings have played one fewer game than the Coyotes and they get the higher ranking because of a better points percentage.

The Sharks, who were trending up a couple days ago, have dropped two straight and are now three points out of the Pacific Division lead and tenth in the West, two points out of a playoff spot.

Colorado beat Calgary 2-1 in overtime Tuesday night. The Avalanche are at 85 points, the same amount as the Stars, but they have played two more games.

The Avalanche are 5-0-1 in their last six and 7-1-1 in their last nine. Four of Colorado’s last five wins have come in either the shootout or overtime.

The Flames are winless in three games, but they have points in two of those games, so that’s helped them hang around things. They are in eleventh place, two points out of a playoff spot.

Chicago won again Tuesday night, routing Columbus 5-1. The Blackhawks, who have won four straight and have points in six straight (5-0-1) are now challenging Nashville and Detroit for that fourth seed, which brings home ice in the first round.

The Blackhawks play Vancouver tonight with a chance to Detroit and Nashville at 92 points.


Games in hand are great, but they don’t mean much if you don’t win them. The San Jose Sharks played their game in hand on the Dallas Stars and Los Angeles Kings Monday night and lost it, falling 5-3 to the Anaheim Ducks.

The Sharks blew an opportunity to take the Pacific Division lead, and instead fell to 10th place in the Western Conference. They’re tied at 82 points with Los Angeles, but the Kings own the regulation/overtime wins tiebreaker.

The Sharks and Kings play Tuesday night. It’s one of several key games in the Western Conference playoff race.

The Stars, of course, are playing the Phoenix Coyotes at American Airlines Center. First place in the Pacific Division and the third seed in the Western Conference are at stake in that one.

Colorado is hosting Calgary as well. The Avalanche are currently in 8th place and the Calgary is in 11th place, two points off the pace.

Should be a great night of hockey.


Playoff watch: Standings get even tighter

March, 19, 2012
3/19/12
12:39
AM CT
The Phoenix Coyotes won Sunday night, rallying from a 2-0 deficit in the third period and then beating Edmonton 3-2 in a shootout. With the two points the Coyotes tied the Stars at 83, but the Stars remain atop of the Pacific Division because they have played one fewer game and have the better points percentage. Those two teams will break the tie in points Tuesday night when they play in Dallas.

Phoenix’s victory means that Colorado now holds the eighth spot and the Avalanche have 83 points, the same number as the Stars and Coyotes. That’s a sign of how tight things are. Colorado has, however, played two more games than the Stars and one more than Phoenix.

Calgary lost 2-1 in a shootout to Columbus Sunday night. The point gave the Flames 81, leaving them in 11th place and two points behind the Stars and two points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The key game of note Monday tonight is San Jose hosting Anaheim. The Sharks, who are currently in ninth place, can take over first place in the Pacific Division and that third seed in the West with a win over the Ducks.


The Dallas Stars’ lead over the teams chasing them in the standings got smaller Saturday night. Their lead in the Pacific Division is now one point and so is their lead over the ninth place spot in the Western Conference.

Sportsclubstats.com, which had the Stars chances of making the playoffs at 90 percent after they beat Minnesota on Tuesday, had their chances at 64 percent after Saturday’s games. The Stars' chances of winning the Pacific Division sit at 25 percent, according to that site. A couple of losses and other teams racking up some wins will do that.

San Jose pulled to within one point of the Stars in the divisional race with a 3-2 overtime win over Detroit. Martin Havlat, in his second game back after missing 39 contests with a torn hamstring, scored two goals, including the game-winner in OT. The Sharks, who are 3-0-1 in their last four, have a game in hand on the Stars and can take over first in the Pacific with a win against Anaheim on Monday.

Los Angeles made it four straight wins with a 4-2 victory over Nashville. Dustin Penner, Dwight King and Kyle Clifford scored third period goals for Los Angeles. The Kings also moved to within one point of the Stars in the Pacific Division, and they have played the same number of games. Right now, the Kings are the ninth place team in the West.

Colorado made it four straight wins with a 3-1 win on the road against the New York Rangers. Seymon Varlamov made 41 saves for Colorado, which went 2-0-1 in road games against Buffalo, New Jersey and the Rangers. The Avalanche, who are 6-1-1 in their last eight games, have tied the Stars at 83 points, but have played two more games.

There are a couple of key games to watch on Sunday. Phoenix, which has slipped to tenth place and is two points behind the Stars, plays at Edmonton. A win would move the Coyotes back into a playoff spot.

Calgary, currently in eleventh place and three points behind the Stars, hosts Columbus.
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.
The Stars kick off a four game homestand Friday night and they’ll be facing some pretty stiff competition over the next week, taking on Chicago, Phoenix, Vancouver and Calgary.

These are big points because even though the Stars have gone on a great run, teams below them have picked up points and are still within striking distance. It’s still a dog fight for the division and a spot in the playoffs.

The Stars have three days off after Friday's game, so picking up points and padding their lead would be a nice way to head into the their break. Get no points, and there's always the chance someone could pass them by the time they play their next game, which is Tuesday against Phoenix.

Friday night it is Chicago. If the playoffs were to start today, the Blackhawks would be the Stars' first round opponent.

The Blackhawks have been holding pretty steady at the sixth seed but – like the Stars – they’ve got work to do to secure a spot, which means to keep collecting points and avoid any kind of significant slide over these final 11 games.

Games around the league Thursday night were a mixed bag as far as the Stars were concerned.

The Phoenix Coyotes, playing their second game in as many nights, lost 4-1 at Calgary. The Coyotes remain two points behind the Stars, who now have one game in hand.

San Jose won 2-1 in a shootout over Nashville to move to within three points of the Stars with one game in hand on Dallas. San Jose also moved to within one point of eighth-seeded Colorado and the Sharks have three games in hand on the Avalanche.

Nashville moved to within one point of Detroit for the fourth seed in the West and home ice in the first round.

The Flames, who made it five straight wins with their victory over Phoenix, moved to within one point of eighth-seeded Colorado. The Flames, who play at Edmonton Friday night, have two games in hand on Colorado.

The Avalanche picked up a point Thursday night to hang onto the eighth spot, falling 1-0 in a shootout to New Jersey.

The Kings, who are five points behind the Stars and three points out of eighth, play at Anaheim Friday night.

The Dallas Stars lead in the Pacific Division is down to two points after last night’s games, which saw the Stars lose in Winnipeg and the Phoenix Coyotes win at Vancouver.

The Coyotes overcame an early 2-0 deficit to beat the Canucks, 5-4. The Coyotes, who have picked up points in four straight (2-0-2), play at Calgary tonight.

If the Coyotes win they would tie the Stars in points, but Dallas would still be in the division lead due to having played one fewer game (points percentage).

It’s a big game for Calgary, which has won four in a row and is just two points out of a playoff spot.

San Jose, which is five points behind the Stars with two games in hand and two points out of a playoff spot, hosts Nashville tonight. The Sharks, who are 1-3-3 in their last seven games, play six of their next seven at home. If they are going to get back on track, this is their chance.

The Predators are in a battle with Detroit for that fourth seed in the West and home ice in the first round of the playoffs. They can take over that spot (by points percentage) with a win in San Jose, where they are 2-0-1 in their last three games.

Colorado moved into eighth place last night, scoring with two seconds left to tie Buffalo and then winning the game in a shootout. The Avs have won three in a row -- all of them beyond regulation -- and five of six. They play again tonight, this time at New Jersey.

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