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Blog Entry

Morning Skate: Stars and Wild in West's big one

Posted on: February 24, 2012 10:01 am
Edited on: February 24, 2012 10:57 am
 

By Brian Stubits

The Morning Skate is back. Every morning for the rest of the season we're going to take a look at the games that have the greatest significance in the push for the postseason for you to digest while you drink your java. We'll throw in some miscellany for the fun of it.

Playoff Race

8:30 ET, Minnesota at Dallas: With how quiet they have been since their early-season run, it's a little surprising to wake up on Friday and see that the Dallas Stars are in the eighth position in the Western Conference.

With how bad they've been since their early-season run, it's a little surprising the Minnesota Wild are still within earshot of the playoffs in the Western Conference.

Today's movin' and shakin' game in the massive battle for the West's last playoff spot is the matchup of the two teams that have called Minnesota home. It's like their step-brothers or something and the "first" brother doesn't take kindly to the "new" brother moving in. It's been 15 straight trips to Dallas without a victory for Minnesota. Yikes.

This would be as good a time as any to snap that. The Wild head into Friday three points behind the logjam for eighth place. Fall five back and they really have a tough task at hand.

But the Wild have picked it up here. Over the weekend it looked like they were about to be buried for good until they turned in one of their best performances in months and beat the Bruins. Then on Thursday night they got a rare shootout win over the Panthers in Florida. They're getting back to that Mike Yeo hockey that was so successful.

The Stars, meanwhile, aren't setting the world on fire but nobody at the bottom of the West is, so they're tied for that No. 8 spot after a strong win in Chicago on Thursday. Yet they are still reportedly considering being a seller at Monday's deadline.

For teams teetering, every game before the deadline is that much more important, especially when the playoff race is in full swing.

7 ET, Montreal at Washington: No two teams have been a bigger drama show this season than the Capitals and Canadiens. So maybe it's fitting they play each other just before the trade deadline, the season's biggest big top.

These are two teams either on the brink (Washington) or already over it (Montreal). The Habs are now in the bottom three. Starting Friday eight points out of a playoff spot, they are close to done for. At this point it's more like playing out the string ... and playing spoiler.

Really, most everybody's eyes will be on the Capitals. They have been significantly better on home ice this season so perhaps that can be the cure for the three-game losing streak that ails them. They are still miraculously in the Southeast Division race, entering Friday four points behind the Jets and three behind the Panthers. But remember they have four games in hand on Winnipeg. Florida, meanwhile, will have two in hand on Washington after Friday.

Washington might have to do it without Alex Ovechkin again, too. He missed the team's game in Ottawa earlier this week with a "lower-body injury" and has been listed as day to day. For a team that's struggling to score like the Caps are, being down an Ovechkin really isn't helping matters. They'll have to rely on some quality goaltending, whoever might get that nod.

7 ET, Vancouver at New Jersey: After taking out the Red Wings in a shootout and ending their home winning streak at 23 games, the Canucks set their sights on taking over the West's top spot for the time being with a trip to New Jersey.

Only problem for them is the Devils are no slouch. They have been one if the absolute best teams in the league since the All-Star break and have climbed into the East's No. 4 position, that critical spot for home-ice advantage in the first round.

Hard for me to believe that with both of these teams' pedigrees that people seem to be sleeping on them. The Canucks are quietly going about their business -- perhaps a refreshing change in Vancouver -- and are again in the Presidents' Trophy race. The same goes for the Devils who could potentially move to within five points of the Rangers for the top position in the East if they get some help from the Islanders.

Others worth watching

7 ET, Rangers at Islanders: What better way for the Rangers to get out of a scoring funk than to visit their neighbors on Long Island?

7 ET, Colorado at Columbus: The Avs are another one in that West logjam while the Jackets move on to the post-Jeff Carter era (era?).

7:30 ET, Boston at Buffalo: This was supposed to be a big game. Now it's about Brad Marchand calling Buffalo the worst city in the league.

Your promised miscellany

  • Kyle Quincey, just moved to Detroit after a three-way deal, wasn't very complimentary of the Avalanche franchise and said other guys were jealous that he got to leave. (Denver Post)
  • Want to know why the Canadiens have been called a circus act this season? Here's a reason. P.K. Subban got into a skirmish with a teammate at practice. Again. (TSN)
  • Peter Laviolette was just a bit unhappy with his Flyers' performance in Edmonton on Thursday night and he let the Philly media know. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
  • Jeff Carter might not have welcomed his move to Columbus with open arms, but at least Jack Johnson is giving it a try. (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Flames GM Jay Feaster wasn't pleased with his team's effort in the last couple of games and threatened his team by telling Sportsnet it would be busy on Monday if they didn't pick it up. (Sportsnet)

Photo: Getty Images

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