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April 5th West Playoff Race Update

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The Stars may have been eliminated from the playoff race last night. But that doesn't mean I've stopped paying attention.

Afterall, I still have a rooting interest left in this (Go Blackhawks!)

Since the Last Update

Let's start at the top where San Jose holds a six point lead over Detroit for the President's Trophy this morning. On Thursday, they stretched their lead over the Red Wings to six points by virtue of their 2-1 win in Edmonton and Detroit's wild 5-4 loss to St. Louis at home. The Sharks dropped a 5-3 decision to Anaheim at home last night, but still have the inside track to the top seed in all the NHL and the home ice that comes with it as their magic number for clinching the top stop stands at 5 this morning.

Even if the Sharks went 1-3 in their final four games, Detroit would need to go 4-1 in their final five to overtake them.

Now since those games were against other playoff contenders, they obviously had a big impact on the battle for the remaining playoff spots. Edmonton, which looked like they were getting things together at the right time to climb comfortably into the 7th seed just two weeks ago, found their playoff hopes sliding before scoring a huge 5-3 win over Vancouver last night. They're still three points out with three games to play, however.

St. Louis, which had lost 3-1 to Chicago the night before, scored their big win at Detroit to climb back into the 8th seed briefly before falling in OT at Dallas last night. They're tied with Nashville at 86 points, but are technically 9th by virture of Nashville having more wins at the moment with 39 wins.

And then there's Anaheim. You know, the club that was supposed to have been gutted by the release of Brendan Morrison and the trades of Chris Kunitz, Sami Pahlsson, Kent Huskins, and Travis Moen. Instead, they've rallied around each other and won four in a row.

Thursday, they beat Vancouver in a shootout handing the Canucks their first home loss of any kind in over two months. Last night, they won at San Jose in the first half of a home and home with the Sharks and now have a two point lead over St. Louis and Nashville for the 7th seed. And with 41 wins, they cannot lose the wins tiebreaker to the Blues.

Minnesota is still two points out with a game in hand on the Predators and Blues. They haven't been world beaters of late, but they have picked up five out of a possible six points in their last three games to stay in it, including a 4-0 shutout of Calgary on Friday. And today, they'll try to keep the Red Wings in a floundering state at 11:30 am CDT on NBC.

Speaking of the Flames, they're locked in a battle with Vancouver for the Northwest Division title with the loser either hosting or visiting Chicago to open the playoffs. And they've allowed the Canucks to get back in the race by playing very inconsistent hockey. The night before getting shutout in Minnesota, they barely squeaked by the AHL squad that Dallas fielded on Thursday night.

And before we look at the Canucks most recent games, let's take time to give thoughts to Taylor Pyatt, whose fiancee and high-school sweetheart, Carly Bragnalo, was killed in car accident while vacationing with her family in Jamaica.

This is the second time in less than a year that the Canucks organization has been forced to deal with an off-ice tragedy. Last May, Luc Bourdon was killed when the motorcycle he was driving struck a tractor trailer head on on a rural road in Lameque, New Brunswick near his hometown of Shippagan.

Understandably, Pyatt is not with the team as he deals with this tragedy. The rest of his mates returned to action last night in Edmonton and dropped a 5-3 decision to the Oilers. Two nights earlier, they dropped a 6-5 shootout decision to the Ducks.

Finally, there's the Blackhawks, who are currently sitting in the 4th seed with one point leads over the Canucks and Flames. After a two game losing streak to start the week, they've bounced back with home wins over St. Louis and Nashville to open a six point lead over Columbus. They can clinch at least the fifth seed with a regulation win over the Blue Jackets today.

Looking Ahead

I've already mentioned Minnesota's tilt with Detroit today, Anaheim hosting San Jose at Honda Center, and Columbus hosting the Blackhawks. In addition, Vancouver hosts the Avalanche tonight.

On Monday, Detroit travels across the border to Windsor, through London, then onto Hamilton before crossing through Fort Erie, over the Peace Bridge to Buffalo. Or they may just fly over there, I don't know.

Calgary also hosts Los Angeles.