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Playoff Hunt: This Weekend In the West

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators
We've hit the final six weekends of games in the 2012 regular season and the playoff battles in the Western Conference are taking shape with a four point differential between the No. 7 and No. 11 seeds at the bottom of the Conference playoff seeding. The Divisional Title races are getting tight, too; six points separate the top-3 teams in the Central Division and five points separate the top-4 teams in the Pacific Division. The races for the final seeding seems destined to remain tight through end of the '11-12 regular season.

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 this Friday's games.

Team Points* ROW^ Games Remaining* Max Pts** This Weekend's Schedule
#2 Detroit 87 35 18 (10H/8A) 123 Fri vs. MIN, Sun vs. CHI, Tue at PHI
#3^^ Phoenix^^ 75^^ 28 18 (9H/9A) 111 Sat vs. CBJ, Mon at PIT, Tue at CBJ
#4 St. Louis 87 36 17 (7H/10A) 121 Sat at SJ, Tue vs. CHI
#5 Nashville 81 34 18 (8H/10A) 117 Sat at FLA, Tue vs LA
#6 Chicago 75 30 17 (8H/9A) 109 Fri at OTT, Sun at DET, Tue at STL
#7 San Jose 73 27 19 (10H/9A) 109 Sat vs STL, Tue vs EDM
#8 Dallas 71 29 18 (8H/10A) 107 Fri at EDM, Sun at CGY, Tue at VAN
#9 Los Angeles 70 25 18 (8H/10A) 106 Sat vs. ANA, Tue at NSH
#10 Colorado 70 26 17 (8H/9A) 104 Sat vs. PIT, Sun at MIN, Tue vs. MIN
#11 Calgary 69 26 18 (11H/7A) 105 Fri at ANA, Sun vs. DAL, Tue vs. MTL
#12 Minnesota 66 22 18 (11H/7A) 102 Fri at DET, Sun vs. COL, Tue at COL
* as of all games played on Sun, March 13     ^ 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 Thursday, March 1)

Noteable: Pay attention to Sunday. Six of the 11 teams featured above will be in action, all in head-to-head match-ups with Detroit hosting Chicago, Calgary hosting Dallas, and Minnesota hosting Colorado ... There are three out-of-conference match-ups in this weekend's mix with Colorado hosting Pittsbugh on Saturday, while Chicago visits Ottawa on Friday and Nashville visits Florida on Saturday ... Western Conference No. 1 seed Vancouver holds a 20 point lead in the Northwest Division, meaning they already have a magic number of just 15 points to clinch a playoff spot (and the division title).

Tie-Breaker Talk: Where the Preds stand in tie-breaker potentials against the Conference's top-8...
No. 1 Vancouver (NSH leads -- ROW tie 34-34, NSH won Season-Series 5pts to 4pts)
No. 2 Detroit (DET leads -- DET leads ROW 35-34, DET leads Season-Series 6pts to 2pts w/2 games remaining)
No. 3 Phoenix (NSH leads -- NSH leads ROW 34-28)
No. 4 St. Louis (STL leads -- STL leads ROW 36-34, NSH won Season-Series 9pts to 4pts w/1 game remaining)
No. 6 Chicago (NSH leads -- NSH leads ROW 34-30, NSH won Season-Series 7pts to 2pts w/2 games remaining)
No. 7 San Jose (NSH leads -- NSH leads ROW 34-27)
No. 8 Dallas (NSH leads -- NSH leads ROW 34-29)

East/West Split: Western Conference teams have posted a 117-76-37 record against Eastern Conference foes, leading the Conference battle 271 points to 259 points (Eastern Conference teams are 113-84-33 vs. the West). With 40 out-of-conference games remaining in the '11-12 regular season, Western Conference teams have a .589 points percentage against the East, down slightly from last year's .600 points percentage in out-of-conference games.

Spoiler Alert: Western Conference #14 and #15 seeds Edmonton and Columbus will have an impact on the standings over the next five days; Columbus plays a home-and-home with Phoenix on Saturday/Tuesday, while Edmonton hosts Dallas on Friday and then has a California back-to-back to open next with with stops in Anaheim on Monday and San Jose on Tuesday ... Edmonton enters Friday night 15 points outside of the playoffs. Columbus comes into the weekend 26 points off the playoff pace, but the Blue Jackets have gone 4-5-1 in their last 10 games played.

Best of the West: Corey Perry (Anaheim) and Radim Vrbata (Phoenix) lead Western Conference skaters with 30 goals each, tied for fifth in the entire NHL ... Henrik Sedin (Vancouver) leads Western Conference skaters with 66 points, tied for sixth in the entire NHL ... Shea Weber (Nashville) leads Western Conference defensemen with 14 goals, tied for second among all NHL defensemen (one behind Ottawa's Erik Karlsson) ... Alex Edler (Vancouver) leads Western Conference defensemen with 41 points, fourth among all NHL defensemen ... Pekka Rinne (Nashville) leads NHL goaltenders with 35 wins ... Brian Elliott (St. Louis) leads the NHL with a 1.63 goals against average; three of the four goaltenders with a GAA below 2.00 play in the Western Conference ... Elliott also leads Western Conference goaltenders in save percentage (.937), second in the entire NHL.

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