The San Jose Sharks and Dallas Stars are set to play a hockey game against one another on Tuesday evening. Conveniently, the Sharks sit in the No. 8 position in the Western Conference, while the Stars sit in the No. 9 position. Those NHL schedule-makers are pretty good at this.
Both teams have played 79 games so far on the season, and through it all, they're separated by just one point in the NHL standings -- the Sharks have 90, the Stars 89. Should Dallas win on home ice, they'll pull ahead of the Sharks, bumping San Jose both out of the playoff picture and out of the driver's seat when it comes to their playoff destiny.
The No. 7 Phoenix Coyotes are also in action Tuesday evening, battling an awful Columbus team against which they've struggled so far this season. With a win in regulation or overtime, the Coyotes would jump into a dead heat with the idle Los Angeles Kings for the Pacific Division lead (and thus the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference). They would be knotted on the first tie breaker as well (total wins excluding those via the shootout), but the Kings hold the second, thanks to a better head-to-head record against Phoenix.
In any event, the Coyotes can make the Pacific Division race much closer with a win over Columbus. Should San Jose win, they'll pull within one point of the Kings for the division lead.
The only other team still alive in the West outside of the Pacific Division are the Colorado Avalanche, and while they're not in action Tuesday, they're clearly rooting for Columbus and Dallas. Wins by Phoenix and San Jose would just about put the playoffs out of reach for Colorado, as they'd require four points in their final two games just to have a chance at tying for the No. 8 spot.