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Playoff Race: Stars extend lead; Blues with a chance to answer

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

With their win over Arizona last night, the Stars extended their lead to two points over the St. Louis Blues in the race for the top spot in the Central Division and Western Conference. The Stars, who have a significant 45-41 edge in the regulation/overtime wins (ROW) tiebreaker, guaranteed they will remain in first place no matter what the Blues do tonight.

St. Louis, which has played one fewer game than Dallas, hosts Boston tonight. The Blues have won five straight and allowed just one goal in the five wins. The Bruins are struggling (lost six of seven), and they are clinging to a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, so their desperation level should be high.

The Stars and Blues have been trading wins here the last little bit, so we’ll see who cracks first in the battle for the Central Division.

Minnesota had a chance to hammer another nail in ninth-place Colorado’s coffin last night but ended up losing 3-2 to Ottawa in St. Paul. So, the Wild’s lead over the Avalanche remained at five points, but the Avalanche have played one fewer game. The Avs are still alive in the race for the second wild-card spot, but barely. Colorado hosts Washington tonight and the Wild play at Detroit.

Nashville has cooled off a bit. The Predators lost their third straight game, falling 5-2 at Pittsburgh. The odds seem strong Nashville will finish in that first wild-card spot. They are four points behind Chicago, which is third in the Central, and four points ahead of Minnesota, which holds the second wild-card spot.

Chicago plays at Winnipeg tonight. Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith has his hearing with the league this afternoon for slashing Minnesota’s Charlie Coyle. He’s expected to get a lengthy suspension.

In the Pacific Division, there’s a new leader this morning. The Kings retook first place after a 3-0 win over Calgary and have a one-point edge on the Ducks, who host Vancouver tonight.

The Canucks snapped a nine-game losing streak (0-8-1) with a 4-2 win at San Jose Thursday. The loss left the Sharks four points behind Anaheim and five points behind the Kings. It’s looking more and more like San Jose will finish third in the Pacific.


Here’s a look at the most likely first-round opponents for the Stars, according to Sportsclubstats.com. These are the top three following Thursday’s games:

Minnesota (54.7%)

Chicago (30.4%)

Nashville (11.8%)


Dallas 4, Arizona 1

Pittsburgh 5, Nashville 2

Ottawa 3, Minnesota 2

Los Angeles 3, Calgary 0

Vancouver 4, San Jose 2


Boston at St. Louis

Chicago at Winnipeg

Vancouver at Anaheim

Minnesota at Detroit

Washington at Colorado


Dallas

Los Angeles

Anaheim

St. Louis

Chicago

San Jose






CENTRAL DIVISION PACIFIC DIVISION WILDCARD IN HUNT
1st
2nd
3rd
1st
2nd
3rd
WC1
WC2
DAL
STL
CHI
LAK
ANA
SJS
NSH
MIN
COL
Points
103
101
95
97
96
92
91
87
82
Wins (ROW)
45
41
43
44
40
40
35
35
35
Games Left
4
5
5
5
6
4
4
4
5
Home
2
3
3
3
3
2
3
2
3
Road
2
2
2
2
3
2
1
2
2
                   
 
DAL
STL
CHI
LAK
ANA
SJS
NSH
MIN
 COL
Apr. 1
-
BOS
@WPG
-
VAN
-
-
@DET
WSH
Apr. 2
@LAK
-
-
DAL
-
@NSH
SJS
-
-
Apr. 3
@ANA
@COL
BOS
-
DAL
-
-
@WPG
STL
Apr. 4
-
ARI
-
@VAN
-
-
-
-
-
Apr. 5
-
-
ARI
@CGY
WPG
@MIN
COL
SJS
@NSH
Apr. 6
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
Apr. 7
COL
@CHI
STL
ANA
@LAK
WPG
ARI
-
@DAL
Apr. 8
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
Apr. 9
NSH
WSH
@CBJ
WPG
@COL
ARI
@DAL
CGY
ANA
Apr. 10
-
-
-
-
@WSH
-
-
-
-

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter 
@StarsInsideEdge.

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