The Kings are under performing, the Coyotes have hit a bump, the Sharks have hit one as well, and the Ducks are still occupying the cellar of the NHL. You could translate that last sentence into the reason why the Stars are tied for first, you could also say it’s an opportunity to put some distance between themselves and their division rivals. Unfortunately, that’s not how the Pacific works, and though they’re coming off a satisfying win against the Los Angeles Kings, the race in the Pacific is as tight as ever. In other words, still business as usual for the Stars as they fight for first place in their last year as a member of the Pacific Division.
Phoenix Coyotes: (15-11-3, 33 points)
The desert dogs are 5-5-0 in their last ten games, and are in the midst of a frustrating two game losing streak. They’ve been crushed by the Red Wings and the Minnesota Wild by a combined score of 9-3. Goaltender Mike Smith has had his worst stretch of the season thus far, performing far below what’s been expected of him. The good news is the two game losing streak followed a convincing three game winning streak, and the Coyotes have a match up against the Ducks next, who are still struggling to get out of the doldrums. There’s a reason the team is tied for first, they’re a solid hockey club, but this bump could cost them some valuable points. As mentioned before, the Coyotes’ next game is Wednesday, December 14th, against the Anaheim Ducks.
San Jose Sharks: (15-10-2, 32 points)
The Sharks lost last night, making their record 4-5-1 over their last ten, and it was a heart breaker. They were leading the Chicago Blackhawks with a minute to go, but the ‘Hawks managed to tie the game, and then went on to win the game in overtime. They’ve only won one of the last five games, that one being the drubbing they gave Dallas. Joe Pavelski still can’t score, and Joe Thornton can’t win games on his own. The Sharks are approaching a six game home stand that they’re going to need a strong performance to put the team back on track, but before that they have to face the Colorado Avalanche tomorrow night, a game that will be televised nationally on Versus.
Los Angeles Kings: (13-12-4, 30 points)
Things are about to come to a head in the City of Angels. A new report from the Los Angeles Times says that head coach Terry Murray’s days in Los Angeles are numbered. Can anyone honestly say they are surprised? The Kings are playing like a mediocre, middle of the pack team that’s struggling to put wins together. That fact they are at the bottom of the league in average goals per game says all you need to know. This a team led by Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, Dustin Brown, and Drew Doughty. Any team in the NHL would line up to take those guys, yet they can’t create an offensive rhythm, and they are fortunate to even be in the race for the Pacific Divison. They’re 3-6-1 in the last ten, and if they have another stretch like that, they’re in danger of falling out of contention. Jonathan Quick remains one of the best goaltenders in the NHL, but he’s not going to win if he can’t get any goal support. Something’s got to change in Los Angeles, and it’s got to change soon. Things don’t get easier, the Kings next game is tomorrow night against the Boston Bruins to start a four game road trip.
Anaheim Ducks: (8-16-5, 21 points)
The Ducks are still struggling, but things are getting better. Bobby Ryan is acting like his old self, putting up goal after goal, but the Ducks are still having issues getting wins. Bruce Boudreau is putting in his system and while the Ducks are going to have a tough time getting back into any kind of race, they are trending upwards. Also of note is the team’s scoring leader Teemu Selanne, 41 years old and putting up spectacular point totals for a guy that old. Selanne is the core of that team, and he’s going to be essential to getting them back on track.
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