NHL Playoffs: Monday A Crucial Day In Pacific Division, Western Conference Races

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 13: Goalie Jonathan Quick #32 and Willie Mitchell #33 of the Los Angeles Kings celebrate after the game against the Detroit Red Wings at Staples Center on March 13, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Kings won 5-2. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Monday's NHL action is critical in both the Western Conference and Pacific Division playoff races, as the Kings, Sharks, Avalanche, Stars and Flames are all in action. Nashville and Detroit can clinch playoff spots as well.

There will certainly be some scoreboard watching in San Jose and Vancouver on Monday evening, as the No. 8, No. 9 and No. 10 teams in the NHL's Western Conference playoff race battle for positioning.


Western Conference Standings
GP
W-L-OT
Pts
7. Phoenix Coyotes 77 37-27-13 87
8. Los Angeles Kings 75 37-26-12 86
9. San Jose Sharks 75 38-27-10 86
10. Colorado Avalanche 77 40-31-6 86
11. Calgary Flames 76 34-27-15 83

MONDAY'S CRUCIAL MATCHUPS

Avalanche at Sharks: In San Jose at 10:00 p.m. ET, the Sharks will battle the Avalanche in a head-to-head battle that's a virtual must-win for Colorado. With 77 games played in comparison to the 75 played by Los Angeles and San Jose, the Avalanche cannot let any points slip directly to Western Conference opponents. It's also pretty important that they win in regulation time.

Kings at Canucks: A Colorado victory would make things much more interesting in terms of pulling the race together, just as a Los Angeles Kings loss to the Canucks would in Vancouver at 10:30 p.m. ET. Vancouver will be without Daniel Sedin, who remains sidelined with a concussion, but with a victory the defending Western Conference champs can move within two points of the St. Louis Blues for the first seed in the conference.

Stars at Flames: Sitting three points behind the field, the Flames are nearing "must-win" territory as well with six games left in their season. The Stars sit in a points tie with the Phoenix Coyotes (although they've played two fewer games) for the Pacific Division lead, so despite their status as a No. 3 seed at present, they're on weaker footing than you might expect. They're not as weak as the Flames, but the playoffs or the division title are not a lock for the Stars just yet. A Dallas win tonight, and thus a sweep of a home-and-home with Calgary, would do quite a bit by both helping to eliminate a challenger below and grabbing a strong hold on their current position.

CLINCHING SCENARIOS

  • The Detroit Red Wings can clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Columbus Blue Jackets -- a highly probable outcome. If they earn one point vs. Columbus and both San Jose and Los Angeles fall in regulation, the Red Wings will also clinch. Two points would also give the Red Wings the upper-hand over idle Nashville in the Central Division race and thus the race for home-ice in the West.
  • Speaking of Nashville, the Predators can clinch a playoff spot as well if both San Jose and Los Angeles lose in regulation.

IN THE EAST

  • In the Eastern Conference, the Winnipeg Jets face a virtual must-win against the No. 7 Ottawa Senators. Winnipeg sits six points out of the final playoff spot with seven games remaining on their schedule. They also hold a game in hand over No. 8 Washington and No. 9 Buffalo, and that game will be played this evening.
  • No. 7 Ottawa can put some daylight between themselves and both the Capitals and Sabres with a win over the Jets. The Senators are currently just two points ahead of the two teams directly behind them in the race.
  • Philadelphia can move within two points of Pittsburgh and three points of the New York Rangers with a victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
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