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Playoff Hunt: This Week In the West

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators
There are only five weeks remaining in the 2012 regular season and the playoff picture is shaping up -- four teams own leads of more than 10 points over the No. 9 seed, with a fifth owning a still-comfortable seven point advantage over the playoff cutline. However the division races in both the Central and Pacific remain as tight as ever. St. Louis and Detroit are tied for the Central lead with Nashville six points behind (with a game at hand against both) and the Pacific is more jumbled with four teams separated by just three points.

Road Teams dominated the weekend; teams in the Western Conference top-8 went 6-0-0 on the road this weekend, with Dallas and Chicago each earning two road wins over the weekend. Conversely, the Calgary Flames suffered the biggest drop of the weekend, earning just one point in two games (0-1-1) including a shootout loss at home to No. 7 seed Dallas on Sunday to fall five points behind the Stars and three points behind No. 8 seed San Jose.

We're tracking all teams within six points of the Preds or within six points of the No. 8 seed in the conference standings heading into Monday night's games.

Team Points* ROW^ Games Remaining* Max Pts** This Weekend's Schedule
#2 St. Louis 89 37 16 (7H/9A) 121 Tue vs. CHI, Thu vs. ANA, Sat vs. CBJ, Sun at CBJ
#3^^ Phoenix^^ 75^^ 28 17 (8H/9A) 109 Mon at PIT, Tue at CBJ, Thu vs MIN, Sat vs SJ
#4 Detroit 89 36 16 (8H/8A) 121 Tue at PHI, Fri. vs LA, Sat at NSH
#5 Nashville 83 35 17 (8H/9A) 117 Tue vs LA, Thu vs COL, Sat vs DET
#6 Chicago 79 32 15 (8H/7A) 109 Tue at STL, Fri vs NYR, Sun vs LA
#7 Dallas 75 30 16 (8H/8A) 107 Tue at VAN, Thu vs SJ, Sat vs ANA
#8 San Jose 73 27 18 (9H/9A) 109 Tue vs EDM, Thu at DAL, Sat at PHX
#9 Los Angeles 72 26 17 (7H/10A) 106 Tue at NSH, Thu at CBJ, Fri at DET, Sun at CHI
#10 Colorado 72 27 15 (7H/8A) 102 Tue vs MIN, Thu at NSH, Sat vs EDM
#11 Calgary 70 26 16 (10H/6A) 105 Tue vs MTL, Fri vs WPG, Sun at MIN
* as of all games played on Sun, March 4     ^ the first tie-breaker is regulation/OT wins (excluding shootout wins)
^^ Phoenix currently sits in the No. 3 seed by virtue of leading the Pacific Division; division champions are guaranteed the top-3 seeds in both conferences
** the most points a team can finish with in the '11-12 regular season (based on games played as of Sunday, March 4)

Noteable: There are 5 out-of-conference battles involving the 10 featured teams this week: Phoenix at Pittsburgh on Monday, Detroit at Philadelphia and Montreal at Calgary on Tuesday, & NY Rangers at Chicago and Winnipeg at Calgary on Friday ... 4 of the 10 featured teams have back-to-back sets scheduled this week: Phoenix on Monday/Tuesday, Los Angeles on Thursday/Friday, Detroit on Friday/Saturday, and St. Louis on Saturday/Sunday.

Super Tuesday: Tuesday night's schedule will showcase 8 games featuring all 10 of the teams highlighted above, including head-to-head match-ups between Chicago/St. Louis and Nashville/Los Angeles ... 7 of the 10 teams will be in action on both Thursday and Saturday. Thursday features head-to-head match-ups between Colorado/Nashville and Dallas/San Jose, while Saturday will highlight head-to-head match-ups between Detroit/Nashville and Phoenix/San Jose.

Against the Field: The Predators are one of three teams in the Western Conference playoff picture with an above .500 winning percentage against the rest of the current Top-8 in the Conference playoff seeding. Check out how the Top-8 in the Western Conference have fared in head-to-head match-ups against the other seven teams currently in a playoff seed...
   No. 1 Vancouver - 13-6-4 (.565 winning percentage)
   No. 2 St. Louis - 12-9-3 (.500 winning percentage)
   No. 3 Phoenix - 12-7-5 (.500 winning percentage)
   No. 4 Detroit - 18-10-1 (.621 winning percentage)
   No. 5 Nashville - 14-9-3 (.538 winning percentage)
   No. 6 Chicago - 11-11-4 (.423 winning percentage)
   No. 7 Dallas - 8-12-2 (.364 winning percentage)
   No. 8 San Jose - 10-11-3 (.417 winning percentage)
As a frame of reference here's how the first three teams outside the playoff cutline have fared vs. the current field; the LA Kings are 14-9-5 (.500 winning percentage) against the current Conference Top-8, the Colorado Avalanche are 11-13-4 (.393 winning percentage) vs. the Top-8, and the Calgary Flames are 10-13-5 (.357 winning percentage) against those same eight teams.

Tie-Breaker Talk: Where the Preds stand in tie-breaker potentials against the Conference's top-8...
No. 1 Vancouver (NSH leads -- NSH leads ROW 35-34, NSH won Season-Series 5pts to 4pts)
No. 2 St. Louis (STL leads -- STL leads ROW 37-35, NSH won Season-Series 9pts to 4pts w/1 game remaining)
No. 3 Phoenix (NSH leads -- NSH leads ROW 35-28)
No. 4 Detroit (DET leads -- DET leads ROW 36-35, DET leads Season-Series 6pts to 2pts w/2 games remaining)
No. 6 Chicago (NSH leads -- NSH leads ROW 35-32, NSH won Season-Series 7pts to 2pts w/2 games remaining)
No. 7 Dallas (NSH leads -- NSH leads ROW 35-30)
No. 8 San Jose (NSH leads -- NSH leads ROW 35-27)

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