The Vancouver Canucks find themselves nestled among a pack of seven teams that hit the stretch run in search of a spot above the playoff bar.
As it stands right now, the Canucks have two ways of clinching a playoff spot – finishing third in the competitive Pacific Division or landing one of the two Wild Card berths available under the NHL’s new playoff format (top three teams in both the Pacific and Central automatically qualify for the post-season while the next two teams will earn wild card entries).
When they resume play on Wednesday against the St. Louis Blues, the Canucks begin the stretch run of the remaining 22 games on their regular season schedule sitting 10th in the West and with work to do to nail down a playoff spot. Here’s how the teams in the hunt stack up as the NHL action resumes:
Los Angeles Kings (68 points) – the Kings are currently the third-place team in the Pacific Division and as such they have a tentative grab on a playoff spot. They have 23 games remaining (11 home/12 road). Of the games left on their schedule, five are against either Calgary or Edmonton. However, they still have three tough games left with their California cousins (Anaheim (2) & San Jose (1)). They also have six games remaining against teams on this list including a March 5th visit to Vancouver.
Home: CAR, MTL, TOR, ANA, PHX, WAS, FLA, WPG, MIN, PHX, ANA
Road: COL, CGY, WPG, EDM, CGY, PHI, WAS, PIT, SJS, VAN, CGY, EDM
Minnesota Wild (69 points) – despite having more points than LA, the Wild are below the Kings in the standings by virtue of the fact they are the fourth place team in the Central Division. That drops Minnesota to top spot in the wild card chase. Minnesota has 23 games to go (11 home/12 road). They start out of the Olympic break in Edmonton and will be here in Vancouver on Friday February 28th for a key match-up. The Wild has seven games remaining against teams on this list and also has a tough run of games left against St. Louis (3), Chicago, Pittsburgh and Boston.
Home: CGY, STL, EDM, NYR, CBJ, DET, VAN, PIT, BOS, STL, NAS
Road: EDM, VAN, DAL, BOS, NYI, NJD, DET, STL, PHX, LAK, CHI, WPG
Dallas Stars (64 points) – the Stars worked their way into the second wild card spot ahead of the break. They have 24 games to play (12 home/12 road) including seven head to head with teams on this list. Dallas resumes play with six of seven games on home ice and will have to make the most of that portion of the schedule because the Stars finish with 10 of 15 on the road. Among the featured teams Dallas still has to face down the stretch, three games against St. Louis and singles in Chicago, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay.
Home: CAR, TBL, BUF, VAN, MIN, CBJ, CGY, OTT, WPG, NAS, NAS, STL
Road: CBJ, STL, WPG, PIT, PHI, CHI, STL, WAS, CAR, TBL, FLA, PHX
Phoenix Coyotes (64 points) – the Coyotes are at the head of the class among those teams on the outside looking in as play resumes. Although tied in points with Dallas, Phoenix has one fewer regulation or overtime win which serves as the first tie-breaker. The ‘Yotes have 24 games to play (11 home/13 road) and have eight games remaining against teams on this list including a big showdown with the Canucks on March 4th in the desert. Phoenix also still has to make two trips to the East coast – including stops in Boston, Tampa and Pittsburgh.
Home: STL, VAN, MTL, CGY, FLA, BOS, MIN, WPG, EDM, SJS, DAL
Road: WPG, COL, WAS, TBL, FLA, BOS, LAK, NYR, PIT, NJD, LAK, CBJ, NAS
Vancouver Canucks (63 points) – the Canucks launch into the post-Olympic portion of their schedule with work to do. They have 22 games remaining (13 home/9 road) and begin with three straight at home including the Heritage Classic at BC Place Stadium on March 2nd. The Canucks have seven games remaining against teams on this list. They finish with six of seven at home, but will see plenty of the road before then. The challenge is to find success away from home so that final stretch can work in their favour.
Home: STL, MIN, OTT, CGY, NYI, NAS, BUF, ANA, NYR, LAK, ANA, COL, CGY
Road: PHX, DAL, WPG, WAS, FLA, TBL, MIN, COL, EDM
Winnipeg Jets (62 points) – the Jets hit the break on a 9-3-1 run and will look to pick up where they left off. They have 22 games to go (12 home/10 road), but have the fewest regulation or overtimes wins of any team on this list and that could be significant. They also have nine games left against teams on this list including a March 12th visit from the Canucks. The Jets face a daunting run of games in late March and early April when they visit Dallas, San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Phoenix then return home to face Pittsburgh before jetting off again to take on Toronto. That stretch could very well determine the Jets fate.
Home: PHX, NYI, LAK, OTT, VAN, NYR, DAL, COL, CAR, PIT, MIN, BOS
Road: NAS, COL, STL, DAL, SJS, LAK, ANA, PHX, TOR, CGY
Nashville Predators (60 points) – the Preds remain in the chase but will have to find a way to navigate past four teams to work their way to the right side of the playoff bar. They have 23 games remaining (11 home/12 road) including six against other teams in the hunt. The Preds start out of the break on a five-game homestand, but then have a stretch that will see them play seven of eight games and 11 of 15 away from Music City. Among the Preds remaining games, they have a steady diet of top teams in the league including two games remaining against both St. Louis and Chicago along with match-ups with Anaheim, San Jose, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay. They will visit Vancouver on March 19th.
Home: TBL, WPG, PIT, STL, CBJ, STL, COL, BUF, WAS, PHX, CHI
Road: OTT, BUF, CHI, EDM, VAN, CGY, CHI, DAL, ANA, SJS, DAL, MIN