The Week Ahead: Stars and the Playoff Race Edition

There’s only three weeks left in the season as of today, the Stars are still sitting in the third spot in the Western Conference. The ledge is still quite precarious though. Only five points seperate the Stars from the ninth spot and a ticket out of the playoffs. A short losing streak and all that the Stars have worked for in the past three weeks will have gone for naught. There’s no margin to relax, even if the schedule seems easier this week.

Here’s a look at the schedule this week for Dallas and closest opponents to the Stars in the playoff race. Just about all these teams have back-to-back situations this week.

Dallas Stars (38-16-5, 81 pts):

  • March 13 @ Minnesota Wild – The Wild have only lost one of the last seven games. The Stars have won two of the three games in the season matchup.
  • March 14 @ Winnipeg Jets – The Jets are a pretty mediocre team but they are excellent at home (21-10-4). The Stars are a well documented bad team on the second night of back-to-backs (1-9-1).
  • March 16 vs Chicago Blackhawks – Dallas might have a chance to jump aheda of the Blackhawks in the standings by the time that game rolls around. Chicago has gotten back on track despite the loss of Jonathan Toews (winning four of the last six). Dallas is 2-1-0 against Chicago this season.
  • The Stars have their penultimate back-to-back this week (and the much much easier one) on the road against the Wild and Jets.

Chicago Blackhawks (37-25-8, 82 pts):

  • March 13 vs St. Louis Blues – Chicago is 2-2-0 this season against the NHL leading Blues.
  • March 16 @ Dallas Stars
  • March 18 vs Washington Capitals – The Capitals are a horrendous road team (12-18-3, seventh worst in the NHL).

Phoenix Coyotes (34-25-10, 76 pts):

  • March 12 vs Nashville Predators
  • March 14 @ Vancouver Canucks
  • March 15 @ Calgary Flames – Second night of a back-to-back. The Yotes are 3-3-1 in that situation this season.
  • March 18 @ Edmonton Oilers
  • Coyotes have dropped off the face of the earth recently. They’ve lost five of the last six games (two of them to the Columbus Blue Jackets so that Oilers game isn’t a gimme). A bad week here and a good week from the Stars and the Coyotes are all but out of the division race.

Calgary Flames (32-25-12, 76 pts):

  • March 13 vs San Jose Sharks
  • March 15 vs Phoenix Coyotes – Between this game and the Sharks, the Flames can provide a lot of help to the Stars this week.
  • March 16 @ Edmonton Oilers – Second night of a back-to-back for the Flames. Calgary is 2-3-2 this year on the second night of back-to-backs.
  • March 18 vs Columbus Blue Jackets
  • Calgary has won three in a row, gotten back into the playoff race and now sit in the eighth spot. They’re sort of the forgotten team in the minds of Stars fans and might be one of the more dangerous. Dallas will play this team twice next week.

Los Angeles Kings (32-25-12, 76 pts):

  • March 13 vs Detroit Red Wings – LA is 0-3-0 against the Wings this season.
  • March 16 @ Anaheim Ducks – Don’t expect too much help from Anaheim. The Kings are 4-1-0 against the Ducks this season
  • March 17 vs Nashville Predators – Back-to-back. Kings are 4-4-4 on the second nights this season. LA is 2-1-0 against Nashville this season.

Colorado Avalanche (36-30-4, 76 pts):

  • March 12 vs Anaheim Ducks
  • March 14 @ Buffalo Sabres
  • March 15 @ New Jersey Devils – Avs are 4-4-1 on the second night of back-to-backs this season.
  • March 17 @ New York Rangers – New York is the third best home team in the NHL (23-7-2).
  • The Avs can’t directly affect the standings too much this week as they’re playing mostly Eastern Conference teams. There will be lots of scoreboard watching here.

San Jose Sharks (33-25-9, 75 pts):

  • March 12 @ Edmonton Oilers – If San Jose loses this game, it’s a huge sign that they’ve just about given up. This is one they should not lose.
  • March 13 @ Calgary Flames – Sharks are 6-4-1 on the second night of back-to-backs this season.
  • March 15 vs Nashville Predators
  • March 17 vs Detroit Red Wings
  • If Phoenix has dropped off the face of the earth, the Sharks have flat out winked out of the universe. They’ve only won four times in the past 19 (19!!) games. If they losing week this week, it’ll be as close to putting a nail in the coffin as you could possibly get. The only reason it’s not the end is that they play 9 of the last 11 games against the division so there’s still room for the Sharks to move upwards.