Alright, I'm heading to Vegas for the weekend, so the Weekend Preview is going up today as opposed to tomorrow morning. So we'll also focus on tonight's games in addition to the weekend. The Western Conference continues to be ridiculous, including back-to-back days where games were tied with 5 seconds or less left creating three point games - thanks Stars and Kings...way to help create some real separation.
Regardless, the Phoenix Coyotes are just 2 points back of both the Sharks and Red Wings right now (both have games in hand, but whatever). With the first of 3 match-ups with the Sharks this weekend, it's officially time for the Coyotes to make that final push towards their first ever Pacific Division title. Make it happen boys.
In addition, this week I'm eliminating the Wild from our previews. Having lost 7 games in a row, the Wild may not be mathematically eliminated, but they are simply too far back to realistically have a shot at making the playoffs.
Vancouver Canucks - 74 G, 48-17-9, 105 Points
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Atlanta; Sunday @ Columbus
Best Possible Outcome: Vancouver just keeps cruising along, looking like they will easily capture the President's Trophy and top seeding in the West. Neither game this weekend will make any difference for the Coyotes, so win, lose or draw, it's a wash.
Detroit Red Wings - 74 G, 43-22-9, 95 Points
Weekend Schedule: Saturday vs. Toronto
Best Possible Outcome: Remember how I kept saying it's highly unlikely that the Coyotes could catch Detroit...well, with the Red Wings losing all three games this past week and getting only a single point, perhaps I spoke too soon. Phoenix now sits just two points behind Detroit and a motivated Maple Leafs team will end its road trip at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday night...let's hope it's with another victory.
San Jose Sharks - 75 G, 43-23-9, 95 Points
Weekend Schedule: Saturday @ Phoenix
Best Possible Outcome: The Sharks stole a point last night with their last second goal against LA, but the Coyotes are still only 2 points behind the Sharks for the Pacific Division lead with three games remaining against San Jose. Taking 5 of 6 points from the Sharks is my goal for the Coyotes...starting with these two would be a perfect start for them.
Phoenix Coyotes - 76 G, 41-24-11, 93 Points
Weekend Schedule: Saturday vs. San Jose
Best Possible Outcome: See the commentary above for the Sharks. Coyotes are playing winning hockey over the last week and a half. Their best effort probably came in the loss to Chicago, actually and they need to start getting out of the gates a little better. Their quest for a first-ever Pacific Division crown will be won if they keep getting points in every game...to paraphrase Dori from Finding Nemo: "just keep winning, just keep winning, just keep winning"
Los Angeles Kings - 74 G, 42-26-6, 90 Points
Weekend Schedule: Saturday vs. Colorado
Best Possible Outcome: With the Avs being on the outside looking in, but playing pretty competitive hockey, the Coyotes could use their help playing spoiler. The Avs beating LA on Saturday would be good justice for the Kings allowing San Jose to steal that point last night.
Nashville Predators - 75 G, 40-25-10, 90 Points
Weekend Schedule: Saturday vs. Dallas
Best Possible Outcome: So I was worried last week about Nashville getting hot around this time...and so they've now won 5 in a row to move into 5th position in the West just a few points behind the Coyotes. Meanwhile, Dallas is heading in the exact opposite direction and are now on the outside looking in. Let's see the situation get a bit murkier with Dallas taking this one in regulation.
Chicago Blackhawks - 73 G, 40-25-8, 88 Points
Weekend Schedule: Saturday vs. Anaheim
Best Possible Outcome: The Blackhawks have a few games in hand on the Coyotes right now and have now won two in a row to get themselves in a strong position. Losing to Anaheim is probably the best possible outcome here (again, in regulation, of course). Chicago has a lot of games remaining, and with Patrick Sharp missing some time, it might not be shocking to see them drop a few.
Anaheim Ducks - 74 G, 41-28-5, 87 Points
Weekend Schedule: Saturday @ Chicago
Best Possible Outcome: The Ducks stole a huge two points the other night against Dallas when they scored with 5 seconds left to tie it before winning in overtime. With the Stars reeling, it wasn't the worst three point game of the week, but we'll call it a close second. Now the Ducks can help us out a bit by winning earlier in the game after their loss last night to Nashville and beat the Hawks in regulation Saturday.
Dallas Stars - 73 G, 38-25-10, 86 Points
Weekend Schedule: Saturday @ Nashville
Best Possible Outcome: We've already discussed this match-up. As much as it pains me to do so, let's cheer for Dallas to snap the Preds' winning streak and then the Coyotes can squash the Stars' renewed playoff desire when they come to Glendale next week.
Calgary Flames - 76 G, 37-28-11, 85 Points
Weekend Schedule: Saturday @ Edmonton
Best Possible Outcome: Seeing Calgary struggle has been oddly satisfying. Even if Calgary gets hot, it would be hard for them to make up all the points on the Coyotes. That being said, there's no reason that they can't help the Coyotes get that much closer to clinching a playoff berth by losing to their Albertan rivals on Saturday night.