Dallas Stars: Los Angeles Kings

Now that the Stars have been eliminated from the playoff race, they are in mix for the NHL draft lottery, which will be held Tuesday.

The Stars are currently the 17th place team in the NHL, hold the 14th pick in the draft and have a 0.5 percent chance of winning the lottery and moving up four places. They can still move up in the lottery draft standings depending on how things go on the final day of the season.

The draft lottery standings are below.

Playoff watch

The playoff teams are set in both conferences now. The only question is the final seeding. The Stars and Colorado were both eliminated in the West last night, leaving Vancouver, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Nashville, Detroit, Chicago, San Jose and Phoenix.

In the East it’s the New York Rangers, Boston, Florida, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Ottawa and Washington.

Play of the night: Clowe’s stickwork from the bench

The play of the night had to be San Jose’s Ryane Clowe reaching out with his stick from the bench and breaking up a Los Angeles Kings rush. None of the officials saw it, so there was no call.

The story and video is here.

The Dallas Stars can keep their playoff hopes alive tonight -- or they can be eliminated.

A win over the Nashville Predators will keep them alive and kicking for at least one more day. Here are the ways they can be eliminated from the race Thursday:

*A regulation loss against Nashville.

*An overtime loss against Nashville and a Los Angeles win over San Jose in overtime or shootout.

*An overtime loss against Nashville and a San Jose win over Los Angeles in regulation, overtime or shootout.

Also, if the Stars win and San Jose wins in overtime or a shootout, they’ll no longer be able to catch either the Sharks or Kings, so they would have to turn their attention to catching Phoenix, which doesn’t play its final two games until Friday (at St. Louis) and Saturday (at Minnesota).

Colorado is still in the hunt. The Avalanche need a win over Columbus tonight and they need to hope that San Jose loses in regulation.

FRISCO -- The Dallas Stars no longer control their own destiny in the playoff race, but they are still alive and hope to keep the heat on the teams they are chasing.

That means the Stars need to win Thursday in Nashville and then hope that San Jose, Los Angeles and Phoenix don’t get enough points in their next game to eliminate Dallas, pushing the race down to the final day of the season on Saturday.

“If we get our points then and then Los Angeles, San Jose or Phoenix doesn’t on Thursday or Friday, then there is a lot of pressure on somebody the last day,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “We’d like to put that pressure on somebody.”

But the Stars are going to need some help from others. After getting swept in by San Jose in a home-and-home series, the Stars no longer control their own destiny, so they best they can do is take care of their own business and watch and hope.

"We all know the situation. We've got to win two games to give ourselves a chance, and we need a little help," Gulutzan said. "If we take care of ourselves here, I think, it is going to come down to the last day and we are going to put somebody in a must-win situation. That's how we see it playing out. We're not going to focus too much of what somebody else has to do; we have to win, and that's pick up four points in the next two games."

And that was the message Wednesday in Frisco as the Stars prepared to head off to Nashville in yet another do-or-die game.

“We’re still in it, although it is a tougher road,” said defenseman Stephane Robidas. “We have to hope other teams lose, but we can’t quit now. We’ve played 80 games so far and we’ve put ourselves in the situation we’re in. We’ve just got to win our games.

Playing catch up in the playoff race

Here’s a look at how the Stars can catch each of the teams they are still chasing the Western Conference playoff race. The Stars would only need to tie each team in the standings since they would own the first tiebreaker, which is regulation/overtime wins.

Los Angeles: The Stars would have to win both their final two games and the Kings would have to lose both their two remaining games against San Jose in regulation.

Phoenix: The Stars would have to win both their final two games and the Coyotes would have to lose their two remaining games, which are at St. Louis (Friday) and at Minnesota (Saturday).

San Jose: There are two ways to catch the Sharks. The Stars would have to win both their final games and the Sharks would have lose their remaining two games against the Kings and at least one of those losses would have to be in regulation. The second scenario is that the Stars go 1-0-1 in their remaining two games and the Sharks lose both their games against the Kings in regulation.
The worst case scenario for the Dallas Stars Tuesday was to lose in regulation to the San Jose Sharks, and for the Phoenix Coyotes to win. That’s what happened and now the Stars’ chances of making the playoffs pretty slim.

The folks at sportsclubstats.com now put the Stars’ chances of making the playoffs at 8.8 percent, down from 46.5% when play started Tuesday night.

The Stars now trail the Sharks by three points, and both Los Angeles and Phoenix by four points. The Stars hold the first tiebreaker (regulation/overtime wins) over each of those teams, so they could pass anyone of them by equaling their points.

To make the playoffs the Stars have to win their final two games – at Nashville (Thursday) and vs. St. Louis (Saturday) and then hope for one of the following scenarios.

San Jose gets one or no points in its final two games.

Los Angeles gets no points in its final two games.

Phoenix gets no points in its final two games.

Now, San Jose and Los Angeles play each other in a home-and-home, so one of those teams is picking up two points on Thursday when they meet in the first game. Phoenix plays at St. Louis (Friday) and then at Minnesota Saturday.

But before any of that comes into play, the Stars will have to win at Nashville on Thursday to stay alive in the race.

Playoff watch: Kings pad division lead

April, 3, 2012
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.

There’s only one game in the Western Conference playoff race tonight, and that has the Los Angeles Kings hosting the Edmonton Oilers.

It’s a big chance for the Kings to put some heat on the teams chasing them in the race. A win and they go two points up on Phoenix, three on San Jose and four on Dallas. That would put them in a pretty good spot. Get one point or none, then they have to watch Tuesday and see where they stand heading into the final two games of the season.

It’s easy to look at this game on paper and say it’s a win for the Kings, but look around the league and you’ll see games aren’t always playing out the way you’d think.

For example, the Minnesota Wild notched shootout victories over both the Kings and Blackhawks over the weekend. The Wild aren’t going through the motions here at the end of the season. Neither are a lot of other teams. The Wild are worth noting because they host Phoenix the final day of the season.

That’s why a lot of can and will happen over this final week and it may not play out the way it looks like it should on paper. Games will be settled and points will be gained and lost on the ice.

Of note yesterday, Detroit beat Florida in a shootout to move into that fourth spot in the West. They are one point up on Nashville and Chicago, which picked up a point in that shootout loss to the Wild.

The Dallas Stars are on the outside looking in at a playoff spot for the first time in more than a month. Saturday was not a good night for the Stars. Among those Pacific Division teams battling for the third, seventh and eighth spots, they were the only team not to get points.

Their 3-0 loss to the Sharks dropped them down to ninth, one point behind the now eighth place Sharks. Tuesday is basically a must-win game for the Stars. The Sharks need the win, too. It’s not like they are out of the woods because they won Saturday.

The Kings lost in a shootout to Minnesota Saturday, but the point they picked up kept them in first in the Pacific Division. Phoenix, a 4-0 winner over Anaheim Saturday, tied the Kings at 91 points. Both teams have 33 regulation/overtime wins, so it went to the next tiebreaker, which is the head-to-head matchup. Both teams won three games, but the Kings were 3-1-2 and the Coyotes were 3-2-1 and the Kings win the series 8 points to 7 points. And people wonder why I put the records for the season series and not just the wins in game previews.

But the bottom line is the race is still tight. None of those four teams has anything secured yet and none of them is out of the picture yet. The standings have shifted a lot this past week and they can shift a lot over this final week.

Some other notes from Saturday night:

*Chicago clinched a playoff spot with a 5-4 victory over Nashville.

*Vancouver took over the top spot in the West, beating Calgary 3-2 in overtime and getting some help from Columbus, which beat St. Louis 5-2.

*The Flames, by the way, were officially eliminated from the playoff race with the OT loss to the Canucks.

There’s still a pretty good battle for that fourth seed and home ice in the first round. Detroit and Chicago both are one point behind Nashville. Detroit hosts Florida Sunday and Chicago hosts Minnesota.

For the fifth time in the last nine days there’s been a change at the top of the Pacific Division. The new leader is the Los Angeles Kings, who won 4-1 at Edmonton last night to pass the Dallas Stars. The Kings are 8-2-0 over their last 10 games.

The Kings play at Minnesota on Saturday night, so they can hold that division lead with a win -- and move one step closer to securing a playoff spot.

The game of the night in the playoff race is Dallas at San Jose. The Stars dropped to seventh after their loss in Vancouver Friday night. They have a one point lead over the Sharks, who currently sit in ninth place. It’s a huge game for both teams. It’s a chance to gain points and take away points from a team you’re battling for a playoff spot. This is the first of a home-and-home series and both teams need the points, so that makes it all that much more intriguing.

The Coyotes, who are in eighth place in the West, host Anaheim Saturday night. The Coyotes are 2-3-0 against Anaheim this season, so it will be another chance for the Ducks to wreak some havoc in the race. A win for the Coyotes and they pick up points on whoever falls in the Stars-Sharks battle.

Colorado beat Calgary Friday night. That kept the Avalanche’s slim hopes alive and basically buried the Flames’ chances. Colorado has 88 points, but doesn’t play for the next five days and has only two games left. If the Avs win their final two games – home tilts against Columbus and Nashville – they’d hit 92 points. They’d have to hope for a lot of losing among those four Pacific Division teams to get in.

Calgary is at 85 points with three games left. They could max out at 91 points and even if they did, it’s not likely it would be enough to get them in.

Nashville beat Detroit Friday to take over fourth place in the West. The Predators now lead Detroit by one point. That’s a key spot since it brings home ice in the first round. And the Canucks are just one point behind St. Louis for first overall in the West. There’s still a lot of stuff to be decided.

The San Jose Sharks started play on Wednesday as the third seed in the West. Just 24 hours later they were sitting on the outside looking in at a playoff spot. A 2-0 loss at Phoenix on Thursday night knocked the Sharks out of the top eight and moved the Coyotes back into a playoff spot.

Phoenix is now tied with the Stars at 89 points, but the Stars have the third seed because they have played one fewer game. Even if the games and points were the same, the Stars would still hold the third seed because they own the regulation/overtime wins tiebreaker.

The Stars have a big chance to enhance their chances Friday night in Vancouver. Get a win and they go two points up one Phoenix and three up on San Jose with four games to go. They'd stay at least one ahead of the Kings, who play at Edmonton. Don't get any points out of that Canucks game and then, well, there isn't much breathing room.

The Kings, as I mentioned, play at Edmonton on Friday.

The other big game in the West is Detroit at Nashville. Those two teams are in a fight for the fourth seed and home ice in the first round. Detroit has a one point lead over the Predators.

Here's a look at what at the race in the Pacific Division, including each teams' remaining schedule. After that, the Western Conference standings.

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
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.