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Playoff picture in West could come into focus tonight

by Adam Schwartz
Anaheim, St. Louis and Nashville all have 88 points in the Western Conference, but only two of them are getting into the playoffs, provided that Minnesota, which has 85 points, doesn't jump past them.

While Thursday night provided hockey fans with the eight teams that are going to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, Friday night is going to go a long way in deciding which teams make it in the West. Both

The Predators will play their final game of the season in Minnesota, where the Wild still have two games remaining; the Blues could clinch a playoff spot if they beat the Blue Jackets and the Predators lose in overtime or regulation; Anaheim, which has more wins -- the first playoff tie breaker -- than Nashville or St. Louis, battles the Stars, and the Flames will try to regain the lead in the Northwest Division when they play the Oilers.

Here are some quick-hitting stats to keep an eye out for:

* Nashville center Jason Arnott has 4 goals and 6 points in his last three games, including a goal, an assist and the game-deciding shootout goal Thursday night in the Predators' 4-3 win against the Red Wings. Arnott is Nashville's fourth captain in franchise history and has hit the 30-goal mark for just the third time in his 13-season career, which has seen him score at least 20 goals 12 times.

* Wild left wing Andrew Brunette is one of just two Minnesota players to score 20 goals this season and has 4 goals and 8 points in his last seven games. Brunette leads the team with an 18.3 shooting percentage.  

* Columbus center R.J. Umberger this season has scored six more goals than he has in any of his three other seasons in the NHL with the Flyers. Umberger has scored 20 of his 26 goals in the first and third periods and leads the team -- one that includes Rick Nash -- with nine power-play goals.

* Blues right wing Brad Boyes leads the Central Division and is tied for fifth in the League with 16 power-play goals, but has the worst plus-minus in the division and is tied for third-worst in the League at minus-20. Boyes has 9 goals and 13 points in 16 career games against the Blue Jackets, including 3 goals and 5 points in five games this season.

* Calgary center Jarome Iginla is just one point short of hitting the 90-point plateau for the fourth time -- his third in a row -- in his 12-season career and is just one assist short of tying his career-high of 55 assists. Iginla leads Northwest Division forwards and is sixth among forwards in the NHL with an average ice time of 21:35.

* Oilers center Andrew Cogliano is the only Edmonton player to play in all 80 Edmonton games this season is two goals short of becoming just the second Oiler to score 20 goals this season. Prior to the All-Star Break, Cogliano had 12 goals and 25 points in 46 games, but in 34 games since, he has just 6 goals and 12 points.

* Dallas center Mike Ribeiro hit the 50-assist mark for the second time in his career this season, but unlike last season when Ribeiro had a plus-21 rating, he has a minus-4 rating this season. Ribeiro has 20 assists and 27 points in 25 career games against the Ducks, including 4 goals and 10 points in five games this season.

* Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer is second among Pacific Division defensemen and tied for sixth among NHL defensemen with 55 points. Niedermayer has 5 assists and 6 points in his last four games, but in the four games prior to that he had no points.

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