Mar 16, 2012; Anaheim, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks celebrate after a goal by defenseman Cam Fowler (4) against the Los Angeles Kings during the second period at the Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-US PRESSWIRE

Around The Pacific: Tighten Up

Teams have, on average, around ten games left in this season, and in the Pacific Division, the race for first place has become a race of four teams. Everyone except the Ducks could jump into first place any given night. The race has tightened, the question that remains is who’s going to slip up, and who’s going to take charge?

Mar 8, 2012; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars defenseman Trevor Daley (6) and defenseman Mark Fistric (28) and center Mike Ribeiro (63) discuss strategy before the face off against the San Jose Sharks during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Stars won 4-3 in the overtime shootout. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

1. Dallas Stars: (39-29-5, 83 points)

Since Last Week: Well, the streak had to end sometime. The Stars struggled in an ugly win over Minnesota, but then were embarassed two games straight. First versus Winnipeg and then in front of the largest crowd in Dallas Stars history against the Chicago Blackhawks. The losses were discouraging and unsettling, but the Stars still hold the top spot in the Pacific Division, but only thanks to owning the games played tiebreaker over the Coyotes.

Trending: Neutral. It all comes down to Tuesday night…

Looking Ahead: …and that Tuesday night games features a match up between the Stars and Coyotes. This game will decide sole ownership of first place in the Pacific. It doesn’t get much bigger than this.

Mar 14, 2012; Vancouver, BC, CANADA; Phoenix Coyotes forward Shane Doan (19) is congratulated for his goal against Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo (1) (not pictured) during the first period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-US PRESSWIRE

2. Phoenix Coyotes: (36-26-11, 83 points)

Since Last Week: The Coyotes have been busy, putting together a decent 2-1-1 record over the last week, picking up valuable points, but gaining just one ROW (they’re still three behind Dallas). They’ve recovered from their four-game slump at the beginning of the month, putting them right back into the race for the Pacific title.

Trending: Neutral. Again, it all comes down to how things shape up after Tuesday night. They’ve been alright, but not spectacular, barely squeaking out a win against Edmonton Sunday night. They don’t look dangerous, yet.

Looking Ahead: Dallas vs Phoenix. Tuesday night. It’s gonna be a big one.

March 17, 2012; San Jose CA, USA; San Jose Sharks celebrate after a goal against the Detroit Red Wings during the first period at HP Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

3. San Jose Sharks: (36-25-10, 82 points)

Since Last Week: The Sharks are 3-0-1 since last week, but have been playing with fire, taking the last three to over time. Ensuring points in all those games helps, but it also diminishes their chances for ROW, which will be a huge factor when it comes time to decide who’s where.

Trending: Up. OT or not, the Sharks are winning again, that enormous slump that cost them a comfortable lead in the Pacific seems to have finally ended.

Looking Ahead: And tonight they can actually jump into first place, albeit briefly, with a victory over the Anaheim Ducks. Whoever wins tomorrow’s Dallas/Phoenix contest will be in first, but for the Sharks it’s an opportunity to give the team a morale boost, and prove that they can still win out.

Mar 16, 2012; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings left wing Justin Williams (14) celebrates with his team after a goal against the Anaheim Ducks during the first period at the Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-US PRESSWIRE

4. Los Angeles Kings: (35-25-12, 82 points)

Since Last Week: The Kings have put themselves into a four-game winning streak that also has them just one game out of the Pacific Division lead. They’re finally scoring, and Jonathan Quick isn’t having to shoulder the load as much. Either way, the Kings look like a team that will be in the playoffs at the end of the year. What seed they will be in is yet to be decided.

Trending: Up. Like the Sharks, the Kings are streaking, but it’s going to come to an end for one of them soon…

Looking Ahead: …because the Kings and Sharks will meet on Tuesday night. The standings will inevitably look different when this game arrives, but the importance of this game for each time will not be changed in the slightest. It’ll show the Kings and Sharks how they stack up against each other, and who knows, it could be a first round preview.

5. Anaheim Ducks: (30-32-11, 71 points)

Since Last Week: The magic is most assuredly gone now. The Sucks are 1-2-1 over the last week, and while the team is not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, they’re not going to make it. Covering them seems like a formality there, but they will play a massively important spoiler role over the final weeks of the season, so you cannot dismiss the importance this team will still have to their division rivals.

Trending: Down. Their season is done.

Looking Ahead: The Ducks and Sharks will play tonight. This is the type of situation I was talking about. If the Ducks can pull out a win, it just adds more chaos to the Pacific race. That spoiler role can become a thing that teams love, because it’s all they have left to play for. The Ducks are in a position to guide the course of this playoff race, don’t be surprised if they completely and fully embrace it.


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Tags: Anaheim Ducks Dallas Stars Los Angeles Kings Phoenix Coyotes San Jose Sharks

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