As the schedule opens the second half of the season, NashvillePredators.com looks around the Western Conference to see how the playoff race is shaping up. Entering play on Thursday, five teams in the Conference were on pace to surpass 100 points, but only nine teams were on a pace to post more than 90 points this season, with eighth place currently trending at 94 points. Last season the Conference’s No. 8 seed – Chicago – finished the season with 97 points. So, much like the trend in mid-December (click here
), the playoff cut line remains trending around two-to-three points behind last season’s final standings.
Central Division Notes:
Once again the Central Division is emerging as the top division in the Conference. Heading into tonight’s action, the division is home to four playoff teams, including the teams with the second, third, and fourth highest point totals in the conference. St. Louis is on pace for 107 points, Chicago 105, and Detroit between 103 and 104. Nashville, fourth in the division, is trending for 97/98 points, which would trend for the No. 6 seed in the Conference … St. Louis has feasted on Eastern Conference teams this season, posting an 8-0-1 mark out-of-conference (.944 points percentage) compared to a 17-12-4 mark inside the conference (.576 points percentage), with just a 5-4-2 record within the Central Division. The Blues face Western Conference teams in five of their next six games … Detroit has been one of the league’s most dominant home teams with a record of 15-2-1 at Joe Louis Arena. However the Red Wings are 11-13-0 on the road this season, one of just three teams inside the top-8 of either conference with a below .500 record on the road.Northwest Division Notes:
Vancouver has posted a 6-3-1 record in its last 10 games to move into first place in the Western Conference standings with 57 points. The Canucks 15 road wins are most of any team in the NHL this season … The Minnesota Wild have been one of the more volatile teams in the NHL this season. The Wild opened 4-3-3 in October and then rattled off a 16-4-0 run to move to 20-7-3 December 10. Minnesota has gone just 2-8-3 since to fall into the No. 7 seed in the Conference and are on pace for 95 points over the full 82 game slate … Colorado enters tonight’s play just two points out of a playoff seed, but the Avalanche have played four more home games than road games this season. The Avs open a key three-game road trip tonight at Nashville (No. 6 seed in the Western Conference), followed by trips to Dallas (No. 9 seed) and Phoenix (No. 11 seed) … Calgary enters tonight’s action in 12th place in the Conference, five points shy of the No. 8 seed and have played more games than any team in the Conference. However the Flames have played a very road-heavy slate with 25 road games and just 19 home dates so far, meaning Calgary will close the season with 22 home games and 16 road games. Pacific Division Notes:
The San Jose Sharks have posted a 7-1-2 mark over their last 10 games to claim the top spot in the Pacific Division, despite playing at least two fewer games than any other team in the Division. With 51 points in 39 games, the Sharks are on pace for 107 points this season – tied with St. Louis for the highest trending pace in ’11-12 … Dallas and Los Angeles are both trending for 94 points through the 82 game schedule … The Pacific Division has struggled at home this season, playing to just 13 games above .500 on home ice. By comparison the Central Division is a combine 37 games above .500 on home ice and the Northwest Division +26 games. Only three of the Pacific Division’s five teams are above .500 on home ice with Phoenix posting a 8-8-3 record at home and Anaheim a 10-12-1 mark … Preds fans should follow the Anaheim Ducks upcoming schedule. The Ducks enter Thursday’s play 18 points behind the Preds in the standings, but 7 of Anaheim’s next 11 games will come against teams who currently sit within five points of Nashville in the Western Conference standings, including two games against the Coyotes, two against the Flames, two against the Stars, and one against the Avalanche.