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Pregame Skate: Another day, another game-changer in Pacific, West

By Brian Stubits | Hockey writer
Nothing is better than two hopefuls playing each other this time of year. (Getty Images)

The Pregame 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.

Wednesday's scoreboard

9 ET, Los Angeles at Calgary

The Sutter brother battle takes a backseat in this one. A so-far-back-it's-in-the-trunk backseat.

This is another one of those nights when almost the entire Pacific Division is in action and so are the other teams in the mix for the West's No. 7 and 8 seeds, except for the Coyotes, who will watch it all from home. This one would appear to be the marquee game considering it is two contenders going head to head.

We're getting to the point that these types of games are of the loser-leaves-town variety. Not quite, but almost. Particularly in the case of the Flames . They're only one point behind the Kings but have one less game remaining and don't have the additional spot to fight for in the Pacific Division crown. If the Flames lose this game in regulation, they are looking at a three-point whole with four games left.

The Kings, though, have the chance to do exactly what the Sharks did on Monday; jump from ninth to third in one night. They'll need some help to do that, but they can't if they don't handle their business with the Flames, so let's just start there.

9:30 ET, Dallas at Edmonton

Like I said, it's one of those nights in the Pacific Division.

The Stars still feel like the forgotten team to me in this race in the West/Pacific, but they are quietly sitting in a pretty good position. It's possible they can put themselves two points clear of ninth place tonight. Or they could end up in 10th place. Nothing like a little pressure.

And they will have to earn the points the might get. The Oilers might be one of the league's worst teams who is now down one of their top young scorers, but they are proving tough for contenders to play right now. They're one of the teams who have fit the spoiler role well in the past few weeks.

10 ET, San Jose at Anaheim

The Sharks are back in a familiar position, atop the Pacific Division. The hope is that they can stay there.

You'll remember a little more than a week ago it was a home game against the Ducks that the Sharks lost. I think that was about time that the panic button was pushed in San Jose. It firmly put the team out of the playoff seeds at the time and was just an incredibly discouraging sign that a desperate team would lose a critical contest against the division bottom-feeder.

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Since then the Sharks have run off three wins in four games (three straight wins) to move back into the division lead. But now the season really begins because they are done playing out of the division. The final six games are only against Pacific foes, starting tonight vs. the Ducks.

This might be the way the Sharks preferred it, to have this much control over their own fate. Just about every team would like that kind of say in their destiny. So it might be a good idea to get the points against the one team that isn't fighting desperately for its playoff life.

Others worth watching

10 ET, Colorado at Vancouver: The Avalanche are likely an afterthought in the playoff conversation but they aren't dead yet. However they probably need to win out, so that starts with this one against a Canucks team that's won three in a row. Good luck.

7 ET, Rangers at Winnipeg: This one is about the Rangers' race for No. 1 now, not really the Jets, who are eight points out of a playoff spot. The Blueshirts were given a bit of a gift by the Islanders on Tuesday, who beat the Penguins. New York can push the lead out to five points with a win.

7:30 ET, Detroit at Columbus: Let's just hope the Blue Jackets show up this time, mmmkay? When these two played on Monday in Detroit it was 4-0 faster than an opera singer can sing the national anthems. It's a great chance for Detroit to build on their lead for fourth place.

Your promised miscellany

  • Tuesday's Winners & Losers
  • The Minnesota Wild fans will get a little treat in their next home game as it looks like top prospect and Team USA junior captain Jason Zucker will debut. (Star Tribune)
  • Capitals GM George McPhee announced Tuesday that the worst is behind Nicklas Backstrom and it's up to the center when he returns from concussion. (Washington Times)
  • Just in case you were wondering, no, the Devils don't really care about Tebowmania. (Bergen Record)
  • Are you ready for Bear & the Gang? If not, there's no way this 80s sitcom intro won't get you pumped. Check your local listings, airs after Family Matters and before Full House.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

 
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