We can count the remaining games for each team on a single hand at this point. Most of the jockeying should be done, although in the still absurdly packed Western Conference, the only team that has secured anything other than a playoff spot is Vancouver, who clinched the President's Trophy this past week and can now spend the remainder of the next two weeks wondering how they'll choke in May.
As for the Phoenix Coyotes, they went 1-1-1 since we last checked in and remain in the 4th position, although the teams around them all have games in hand, so it is possible that this will change. With their final three games remaining against Los Angeles and San Jose, however, you never know where the Desert Dogs may end up.
After the jump, a look at the weekend ahead and who you should be cheering for to help the Coyotes clinch that playoff berth.
Vancouver Canucks - 78 G, 52-17-9, 113 Points
Weekend Schedule: Saturday vs. Edmonton
Best Possible Outcome: As I mentioned, the regular season is over for Vancouver, and playing a team like Edmonton isn't going to be spoiling anyone's odds. They can win, lose, play an entire AHL roster or the long lost Sedin octuplets...whatever.
San Jose Sharks - 77 G, 45-23-9, 99 Points
Weekend Schedule: Saturday vs. Anaheim
Best Possible Outcome: The Coyotes arch-nemesis, San Jose doesn't seem to want to lose any more games this year, and certainly not to the Coyotes, who they have beaten 8 consecutive times now. It really is a tad frustrating, but like Vancouver, they are prone to May collapses, so no reason to get worked up about it just yet. It's a mixed bag with the Sharks, because while I'd like them to lose this game to help the Coyotes catch them (and they only need another 4 points in their remaining 5 games, to eliminate the Coyotes from winning the Pacific), beating the Ducks helps our playoff chances a bit. Since the key is making the playoffs, I will begrudgingly cheer on the Sharks, but I'm holding out for swarm of bees too...
Detroit Red Wings - 77 G, 44-23-10, 98 Points
Weekend Schedule: Saturday @ Nashville; Sunday vs. Minnesota
Best Possible Outcome: Here's a team facing some serious injury issues (Datsyuk is desparately needed back before the playoffs for them to be successful), and after the shellacking they took at the hands of St. Louis the other night, they have a pretty important weekend to try and keep pace with the Sharks for the 2nd position (unfortunately because the Central isn't too strong, I don't see them getting passed by Nashville. Beating Nashville helps our playoff chances, so I'll cheer for that.
Phoenix Coyotes - 79 G, 42-25-12, 96 Points
Weekend Schedule: No games
Best Possible Outcome: Coyotes get the rare weekend off, and it's needed - they need to get some of those injured players healthy and hopefully we'll see a closer to full strength squad next week for the three crucial Pacific Division games.
Los Angeles Kings - 77 G, 44-27-6, 94 Points
Weekend Schedule: Saturday vs. Dallas
Best Possible Outcome: Another game pinning playoff seeding with clinching the playoff berth. I'd like to say that the Coyotes are definitely going to clinch, but until they do, it's probably better that the Kings win this one. Granted, if Dallas gets hot enough to pass Chicago, that would probably be best long term because I can't imagine anyone wants to play that team in the postseason if they get on a roll. For now, this game just needs to end in regulation and either result from there will help in some way.
Nashville Predators - 78 G, 42-26-10, 90 Points
Weekend Schedule: Saturday vs. Detroit
Best Possible Outcome: Nashville is a team that plays such a similar game to ours that I think they'd be dangerous to play in the postseason, so I'm fine with them staying out of that 4-5 match-up and losing this one to Detroit this weekend.
Anaheim Ducks - 77 G, 44-28-5, 93 Points
Weekend Schedule: Saturday @ San Jose; Sunday vs. Dallas
Best Possible Outcome: Games that end in regulation. I'd like to see them split this weekend winning in San Jose and losing to Dallas, but the other way around works too, I'd suppose. Heck, losing both games works too. Having teams behind us win games is bad, so let's get that separation.
Chicago Blackhawks - 77 G, 42-27-8, 92 Points
Weekend Schedule: Sunday vs. Tampa Bay
Best Possible Outcome: This is probably one of the very few games in the entire league that pits an Eastern Conference and Western Conference team this weekend or for the remainder of the season. No reason not to cheer the East at this point - so go Bolts - help us clinch that playoff spot.
Calgary Flames - 79 G, 39-29-11, 89 Points
Weekend Schedule: Sunday @ Colorado
Best Possible Outcome:The first team on the outside looking in, although with so many more games played than Dallas, they will be eliminated first, most likely. It would be nice to see the Avs continue their role as spoiler and wipe the floor with the Flames here. On a side note, though, heartfelt congratulations to Jarome Iginla on scoring his 1,000th NHL point last night. That is an awesome accomplishment, and once our ownership situation clears up, I think we need to look into the possibility of adding the classy Iginla to the fine team we have down here in Phoenix.
Dallas Stars - 76 G, 38-27-11, 87 Points
Weekend Schedule: Saturday @ Los Angeles; Sunday @ Anaheim
Best Possible Outcome: Dallas has gone cold, getting only a single point this past week and suffering an embarrassing 6-0 loss in San Jose Thursday night. They will clinch the Coyotes playoff spot for the 'Yotes with back-to-back losses this weekend, so let's see that, shall we. If they have to win one, I'd prefer they take out the Kings, but clinching the playoffs is higher priority to me.