With the Coyotes sitting idle tonight, they've already dropped multiple places in the standings with wins by Dallas and Los Angeles who each have a game in hand against the Coyotes. The Western Conference has been completely bunched up since the beginning of October, and while a few teams have separated themselves from the pack...ok, one team has separated themselves (Vancouver), the gap between #2 Detroit and #11 Minnesota is a mere 11 points.
Now it's unlikely that Minny will be taking Detroit's spot, but with teams from 4-11 separated by only 5 points, there aren't going to be a lot of teams locking up playoff spots any time soon. Let's take a look at the schedule for each of those teams sitting in the playoff hunt in the Western Conference for the upcoming weekend and see how many 3-point games we can see muddy the waters even further.
Vancouver Canucks - 69 G, 44-16-9, 97 Points
Weekend Schedule: Saturday @ Calgary
Best Possible Outcome: The Canucks are well on their way to winning the President's Trophy with a 7 point lead over Philadelphia, so they may as well keep winning. The Flames are tied with the Coyotes with 81 points, so let's get some help from the Canucks and have them knock-off their Western Canadian rivals.
Detroit Red Wings - 68 G, 40-20-8, 88 Points
Weekend Schedule: Saturday @ St. Louis
Best Possible Outcome: St. Louis had a promising start but has dropped virtually out of the playoff picture with only 71 points. Again, it's unlikely that the Wings will be caught by the Coyotes, but why the heck would you cheer for them especially after they just eeked out the win tonight against Edmonton.
San Jose Sharks - 68 G, 39-22-7, 85 Points
Weekend Schedule: Saturday vs. New York Rangers
Best Possible Outcome: No reason not to cheer for the Eastern Conference teams at this point, so go Rags...I hate what Glen Sather did to this team, but it would be nice if they could help out their former Assistant GM, Don Maloney by helping the Coyotes win their first ever Pacific Division crown.
Dallas Stars - 68 G, 37-23-8, 82 Points
Weekend Schedule: Sunday vs. Los Angeles
Best Possible Outcome: Two of the teams sitting right in front of the Coyotes in the Western Conference playing each other. It's one of those games where it really doesn't matter who wins, so long as it doesn't go to overtime. Los Angeles is probably the better team overall, but they are currently behind the Stars in points (albeit by just one) so they might as well win and hold Dallas where they are right now.
Chicago Blackhawks - 68 G, 37-24-7, 81 Points
Weekend Schedule: Sunday @ Washington
Best Possible Outcome: On Sunday, we can all be like Carl and cheer for the Capitals to take out the reigning Stanley Cup Champs who were visiting the White House today. Chicago has dropped two in a row against Eastern Conference foes, so no reason not to just keep that trend going.
Los Angeles Kings - 68 G, 38-25-5, 81 Points
Weekend Schedule: Sunday @ Dallas
Best Possible Outcome: As we mentioned above, go LA! Anze Kopitar had a hat trick against a reeling Columbus team tonight and are riding high after beating the Wings the previous game - just keep things going through the weekend, alright? Regardless of whether they win or lose, however, one thing we know - keep it to a 60 minute game; this is one of those games that will just hurt if it goes past regulation.
Phoenix Coyotes - 69 G, 35-23-11, 81 Points
Weekend Schedule: Sunday @ Anaheim
Best Possible Outcome: Needless to say, Phoenix just needs to keep winning. Right now the Coyotes are 12 games over .500 on the season. Over the past several years, 95 points has been good enough to make the playoffs which would equate to 13 games over .500 over the course of a full season. That means that if the Coyotes simply finish their final 13 games at one over .500 (e.g. 7-6-0), then history suggests they should be making the playoffs. Of course, simply making the playoffs and having to play Vancouver in the first round isn't really the goal, so let's see the Desert Dogs finish the year on a 9-4 or 10-3 clip and move themselves into that 4-6 range.
Calgary Flames - 70 G, 36-25-9, 81 Points
Weekend Schedule: Saturday vs. Vancouver
Best Possible Outcome: As we mentioned earlier, the Canucks are free and clear, so they may as well keep that going and help the Coyotes gain a bit of a gap over the Flames (already have a game in hand) prior to the Coyotes heading into the Saddledome next Tuesday.
Anaheim Ducks - 68 G, 37-26-5, 79 Points
Weekend Schedule: Sunday vs. Phoenix
Best Possible Outcome: LOSE! Coming off of two big wins against the Rangers and the Avs, it's time to bring the Ducks back down to earth. Dan Ellis has come over and played quite well, but the Coyotes will need to reignite #DanEllisProblems on Sunday night.
Nashville Predators - 68 G, 34-24-10, 78 Points
Weekend Schedule: Saturday vs. Colorado
Best Possible Outcome: With Colorado losing seven games in a row, they've joined Edmonton as a team completely out of the running for the playoffs this year, so they may as well play the playoff spoiler Saturday by taking two points against Nashville and do it in regulation.
Minnesota Wild - 69 G, 35-27-7, 77 Points
Weekend Schedule: No games
Best Possible Outcome: Minny has been on a bit of a fade, losing tonight to the Stars 4-0 and having lost 5 of their past 7 games. As close as all the teams are, they are by no means out of things, but if this skid continues on for another week or so, they could be looking at a pretty steep task to make the playoffs...here's hoping that it happens.
So there's your weekend preview and a look at the games to be keeping an eye on as they will affect the Coyotes playoff push. Scoreboard watching is going to become a routine habit over the next month and it will definitely be interesting to see how the Western Conference shakes itself out over this span.