The Anaheim Ducks have spent most of the season on top of the Pacific Division; they led the San Jose Sharks by nine points at the end of January and by seven when play resumed after the break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
But that lead is all gone, and the Ducks are facing the prospect of looking up at the Sharks after Friday night. Each team has 93 points, though the Ducks still hold first place because they've played one fewer game.
The Sharks continue a road trip with a visit to the New York Islanders, who are last in the Metropolitan Division. That game starts about two hours before the Ducks play the Colorado Avalanche in Denver.
Here's a look at all of the action on a busy Friday:
San Jose Sharks at New York Islanders -- The Sharks flew to Long Island for the second half of a back-to-back after a 4-3 shootout win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday. Backup goaltender Alex Stalock improved to 3-0 in tiebreakers by stopping all three Columbus shooters, and Joe Pavelski scored the deciding goal. It was the Sharks' 10th win in 15 shootouts this season; one of the losses came against the Islanders in San Jose three months ago. New York begins a four-game homestand after a three-day break following its improbable 7-4 road win against the Vancouver Canucks on Monday, a game in which the Islanders overcame a three-goal deficit and scored all seven of their goals in the third period.
Vancouver Canucks at Washington Capitals -- While the Canucks flew to Washington following their 3-2 shootout win against the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday, their top goal-scorer, Ryan Kesler, returned to Vancouver to have his injured right knee re-evaluated. Kesler will miss the game in Washington and the other two stops on this road trip. Washington is reeling after losing a home-and-home series to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Capitals begin the night three points behind the Philadelphia Flyers, who hold the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference -- and the Flyers have two games in hand.
Edmonton Oilers at Detroit Red Wings -- The Oilers went toe-to-toe with the NHL-leading St. Louis Blues for two periods Thursday and were tied 2-2 entering the third. Then the roof fell in; the Blues scored four times and rolled to a 6-2 victory. This is Edmonton's third road game in four nights. Detroit, which enters play Friday two points behind the Flyers in the race for the last wild-card spot in the East, expects to have starting goaltender Jimmy Howard back in the lineup after he missed a 4-1 loss to the Blue Jackets on Tuesday because of the flu. Finnish forward Teemu Pulkkinen will make his NHL debut in place of Tomas Jurco, who was injured in the loss at Columbus.
New Jersey Devils at Florida Panthers -- Florida goaltender Roberto Luongo probably knows his opposite number better than he knows many of his teammates. Luongo is expected to get the start for Florida, which acquired him from the Canucks last week. He'll face Cory Schneider, who shared the crease with Luongo in Vancouver for the past few seasons until he was traded to New Jersey during the 2013 NHL Draft. The Devils also enter play Friday two points behind the Flyers in the wild-card race in the East; after back-to-back games against the Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning, they'll play 10 of their final 14 at home. Luongo got the night off Thursday, when the Panthers lost 5-4 to the Lightning in Tampa.
Nashville Predators at Chicago Blackhawks -- The Predators come to Chicago looking for a sweep of a three-game road trip that has seen them score four goals in each of their back-to-back victories, against the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres. However, Nashville is still eight points behind the Dallas Stars, who hold the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. The Blackhawks enter play Friday seventh in the overall standings but third in the Central Division; the Avalanche passed Chicago on Wednesday by holding on for a 3-2 victory.
New York Rangers at Winnipeg Jets -- The Rangers picked the wrong time to have their offense go cold. New York has managed one goal in each of its back-to-back road losses, to the Carolina Hurricanes and the Minnesota Wild. Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start in goal for the Rangers after Cam Talbot played Thursday against the Wild. Winnipeg's hopes for a playoff berth continue to fade; the Jets' 3-2 shootout loss to the Canucks on Wednesday left them five points behind Dallas, which also has two games in hand.
Calgary Flames at Dallas Stars -- The Flames start a quick two-day trip to the Southwest by visiting the Stars, who have manhandled them in each of their first two games this season. But Calgary is coming off perhaps its best performance of the season, a 7-2 rout of the Ducks at Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday in which it scored four times in the first period. The Stars got a visit Thursday from forward Rich Peverley, who will miss the rest of the season after collapsing during Dallas' game Monday against the Blue Jackets due to a cardiac problem. Rookie Alex Chiasson, who was so upset by Peverley's collapse that he was unable to play the next night against the Blues, was perhaps happiest to see his teammate. He'll be back in the lineup.
Anaheim Ducks at Colorado Avalanche -- The Western Conference rivals haven't met since they opened the season in Denver on Oct. 2, a game the Avalanche won 6-1 to make Patrick Roy a winner in his debut as an NHL coach. That win started Colorado on a 14-2-0 season-opening run, and the Avalanche have proved since then that they're no fluke. They lead Chicago by a point in the race for second place in the Central Division; the winner would get the home-ice edge in a likely first-round playoff series. Anaheim won its first two games after the Olympic break but is 0-2-2 in its past four and was embarrassed by the Flames on Wednesday.