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Playoff Hunt: This Week In the West

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators
This week is shaping up as a potential "clinch week" in the NHL; the NY Rangers and St. Louis Blues have both reduced their magic numbers down to 6 points. The Rangers need either six points gained or lost over two teams and five points over a third team, while the Blues need six points over two teams and four over a third team.

Tracking The Playoff Hunt
March 2 - Weekend Preview
March 5 - The Week Ahead
March 9 - Weekend Preview
Focusing on the Western Confernce, four teams enter the week with a double-digit lead over the playoff cutline, allowing them to focus more on seeding position. Vancouver appears to have a strong inside track to home ice in the first round with a 16 point lead in the Northwest Division. The Canucks also hold an 11 point advantage over the Pacific Divsion leader, meaning the Canucks are likely locked into no worse than the No. 2 seed in the Conference.

The other two divisions are more interesting stories this week.In the Central Divsion, the St. Louis Blues have expanded their lead to six points over Detroit and 10 points over Nashville, but the Blues embark on a tough seven-game road trip (the trip actually started on Sunday night in Columbus); if the Blues waver on the road it will re-open the door for the Wings and Preds. Unless Detroit or Nashville are able to catch St. Louis, the Wings or Preds are unlikely to fall below the No. 5 seed in the Conference. In the Pacific, Dallas enters the week in the top spot with 81 points, but the fourth place team in the division, San Jose, is only six points behind the Stars with two fewer games played than Dallas.

The races at the bottom of the Conference playoff picture remain tight as ever with just three points separating the No. 7 - 11 seeds -- including a three-way tie for the final playoff spot with Calgary, Colorado, and Los Angeles all opening the week at 76 points. And No. 6 seed Chicago is just four points ahead of No. 7 seeded Phoenix.

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
#3^^ Dallas^^ 81^^ 32 13 (6H/7A) 107 Tue at MIN, Wed at WPG, Fri vs CHI
#4 Detroit 91 37 13 (7H/6A) 117 Tue at LA, Wed at ANA, Sat at SJ
#5 Nashville 87 37 14 (5H/9A) 115 Mon at PHX, Thu at SJ, Sat at LA, Sun at ANA
#6 Chicago 82 33 12 (6H/6A) 106 Tue vs STL, Fri at DAL, Sun vs WSH
#7 Phoenix 78 29 13 (6H/7A) 104 Mon vs NSH, Wed at VAN, Thu at CGY, Sun at EDM
#8 Calgary 76 29 13 (8H/5A) 102 Tue vs SJ, Thu vs PHX, Fri at EDM, Sun vs CBJ
#9 Los Angeles 76 27 13 (7H/6A) 102 Tue vs DET, Fri at ANA, Sat vs NSH
#10 Colorado 76 28 12 (5H/7A) 100 Mon vs ANA, Wed at BUF, Thu at NJ, Sat at NYR
#11 San Jose 75 27 15 (8H/7A) 105 Mon at EDM, Tue at CGY, Thu vs NSH, Sat vs DET
* as of all games played on Sunday, March 11     ^ the first tie-breaker is regulation/OT wins (excluding shootout wins)
^^ Dallas 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 11)

The Last 10: Only 4 teams in the Western Conference have won more than 5 games over their last 10 games played --- Dallas (9-0-1) and St. Louis (9-1-0) lead the way with 9 wins each, followed by Nashville (7-2-1) and Colorado (7-3-0) with 7 wins ... Colorado is the only one of the four currently outside of a playoff seed, however the Avs have moved into a tie with No. 8 seed Calgary at 76 points (Calgary owns tie-breaker: fewer games played) ... Detroit (4-5-1, 9 points) is the only team in the top-8 of the Conference that earned fewer than 10 points over its last 10 games played ... Vancouver earned 10 points (4-4-2), while Chicago (5-4-1), Phoenix (5-4-1), and Calgary (4-3-3) each earned 11 points ... Colorado (14 points), Los Angeles (5-4-1, 11 points), and Columbus (5-5-0, 10 points) were the only teams outside of the West's top-8 to earn at least 10 points over their last 10 games played ... San Jose (2-6-2) earned a Conference-low 6 points over its last 10 games played.

Seeding Changes: Over the last seven days five of the eight teams in the Western Conference playoff picture changed seedings ... Calgary made the most important move sliding up three slots into the No. 8 seed -- the last seed inside the playoff picture ... Dallas moved up four slots to the No. 3 seed, while St. Louis moved up one slot to the No. 1 seed ... Vancouver slid down one spot to the No. 2 seed and Phoenix fell four spots to the No. 7 seed ... Detroit, Nashville, and Chicago all remained in the same seeding ... San Jose had the toughest drop of the week, sliding three slots out of the playoff picture (from No. 8 to No. 11).

Back-to-Backs: 8 of the 9 teams of interest in the Western Conference have back-to-back sets on the schedule this week. Chicago is the only featured team without a back-to-back set on the schedule this week ... 6 of the 8 back-to-backs are on the road, while the other 2 are road/home splits ... San Jose opens the week with a Monday/Tuesday road back-to-back as the opening of a three-games-in-four-nights set that closes out Thursday ... Dallas and Detroit both have road back-to-back sets Tuesday/Wednesday ... Colorado and Phoenix both have road back-to-back sets Wednesday/Thursday ... Calgary plays Thursday at home and Friday on the road ... LA opens Friday on the road before returning home Saturday ... Nashville is on the road Saturday and Sunday, the final two games of a three-games-in-four-nights set.

Action all Week: The schedule is balanced throughout the week with 4 teams of interest playing on Monday night, Wednesday night, and Friday night ... 5 teams of interest are scheduled to play on Thursday, including head-to-head match-ups with Nashville at San Jose and Phoenix at Calgary ... 6 teams of interest are scheduled to play on Tuesday, including head-to-head match-ups with Detroit at Los Angeles and San Jose at Calgary.

Misc.: Colorado is the only team in the Western Conference on the outside of the playoff picture to win more than 50% of its games this season (36 wins in 70 games played). Two teams inside the playoff picture have won less than 50% of their games, No. 7 seed Phoenix (34 wins in 69 games) and No. 8 seed Calgary (32 wins in 69 games) ... Last season all 8 teams in the Western Conference playoffs won more than 50% of their games ... Calgary is the only team in the Western Conference top-8 win a negative goal differential (-18; 173 goals for, 191 goals against). San Jose is the only team out side of the Conference's top-8 with a positive goal differential (+11, 184 goals for, 173 goals against).

Tie-Breaker Talk: Where the Preds stand in tie-breaker potentials against the Conference's top-8...
No. 1 St. Louis (STL leads -- STL leads ROW 41-37, NSH won Season-Series 9pts to 4pts w/1 game remaining)
No. 2 Vancouver (NSH leads -- NSH leads ROW 37-35, NSH won Season-Series 5pts to 4pts)
No. 3 Dallas (NSH leads -- NSH leads ROW 37-32)
No. 4 Detroit (DET leads -- ROW tied 37-37, DET leads Season-Series 6pts to 4pts w/1 game remaining)
No. 6 Chicago (NSH leads -- NSH leads ROW 37-33, NSH won Season-Series 7pts to 2pts w/2 games remaining)
No. 7 Phoenix (NSH leads -- NSH leads ROW 37-29)
No. 8 Calgary (NSH leads -- NSH leads ROW 37-29)
(Nashville also leads the ROW tie-breaker against the No. 9-15 seeds in the Western Conference, the closest margin is a 37-28 lead in ROW against No. 10 seed Colorado)

Highlight Games Of The Week: There are 6 head-to-head games among teams in the No. 3 - No. 11 mix in the Western Conference playoff picture

Nashville at Phoenix

San Jose at Calgary
Detroit at Los Angeles


Phoenix at Calgary
Nashville at San Jose

Chicago at Dallas

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