NHL Playoff Race 2012: With 3 Pacific Teams In Action, Big Western Shakeup Could Happen Wednesday

Wednesday will be a slow night in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. With the Winnipeg Jets essentially out of the mix at this point, the only Eastern team to watch is the New York Rangers, who can extend their hold on first place in the conference to five points with a victory over the Jets.

The West, however, is completely different. For starters, the Nashville Predators can again clinch a spot for the third straight night. They weren't able to win their game against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday, which would have solidified their playoff spot for good, but they only need one of the Dallas Stars, San Jose Sharks or Los Angeles Kings to clinch a spot despite sitting idle Wednesday. Nashville will also clinch a playoff spot if two or more of the Stars, Sharks and Kings lose beyond regulation.

But yes, that means that three of the contenders in the wild, insane Pacific Division are in action on Wednesday.

Stars at Oilers: The Oilers will be without Taylor Hall, because they decided 60-something games with a busted shoulder is enough and have opted to sit the future of their franchise for the remaining six. The Stars will take the odd timing, though. Points, points, points. They're necessary for Dallas, which sits in the seventh spot, just one point up on No. 9 Los Angeles.

Kings at Flames: It's a huge game for both teams. While the Kings are looking to keep pace with the rest of the Pacific Division, the Flames sit just one point behind Los Angeles in the Western Conference standings. If the cards fall properly for Calgary, they could find themselves in playoff positioning by the end of the night, but a regulation win is of utmost importance. Of course, it's Brent Sutter vs. Darryl Sutter behind the benches, which makes this all so much more fun ... or something.

Sharks at Ducks: Anaheim may be done, but they can frustrate the rival Sharks by stealing some vital points. San Jose sits in third place in the West with the Pacific Division lead in hand, but could easily fall out of that spot and out of the playoff picture entirely should they lose. They sit just one point ahead of the Stars and idle Coyotes and just two points ahead of the ninth-seeded Kings.

The Colorado Avalanche are also in action on Wednesday evening, facing division foe Vancouver. Colorado sits just a point back of the final playoff spot but they've played two more games than San Jose, Dallas and Los Angeles. That's not good for their chances, and it makes points even more precious at this stage.

The Detroit Red Wings face the Columbus Blue Jackets yet again on Wednesday, a good opportunity to stretch their lead over the idle Predators for the West's No. 4 seed.

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