NHL Playoff Standings: Sharks, Kings, Coyotes Clinch Spots As Avalanche, Stars Fall

The Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche don't have to worry about scoreboard watching this weekend. Their minds can instead wander to the golf course.

With their 2-0 regulation loss to the Nashville Predators on Thursday night, the Stars killed any hopes they had of reaching the postseason, and they'll instead watch from the couch for the fourth straight year. Defending Big D is disappointed, of course, but they have an optimistic view of a team nobody expected to challenge for a playoff spot.

The fact that this team, predicted to finish dead last in the entire league by some, and last in the western conference by most, came into game 81 of 82 with a shot at the playoffs is more than many expected at the beginning of the season.

While the Stars only needed one point to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Avs needed an outright win in regulation or the shootout to keep their season going. Cam Atkinson notched his first-career hat trick, the final goal coming with an empty net, as the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets played spoiler in a 5-2 win.

The San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings were still in action as they learned they'd clinched playoff spots, and the Phoenix Coyotes were sitting home Thursday night, preparing for a Friday night matchup with the St. Louis Blues. Dallas and Colorado eliminated themselves. It wasn't the other way around.

Now all that's left in the Western Conference is seeding, which will be determined on Saturday as all 30 teams in the league are in action.

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