Can you smell that? No, it's not the freshly doctored grass or ballpark dogs at your local MLB stadium. It's the smell of desperation for a post-season life. In the final week of the season, 12 teams are vying for eight spots not-yet-clinched. Though it's unlikely to cost all eight playoff-bound teams 100 points to get in the Western Conference playoffs, the league may repeat the results from the 2009-10 campaign, with 11 playoff-bound teams with a 100+ points for the second consecutive season? Bless those OTL's!
Five spots remain, as of Sunday (4.3.11), seven Western Conference teams are separated by nine points
Coyotes,96 points, are a combined 3-6 @LA, vs. SJ @SJ
Kings, 96 points, are a combined 7-6-1 @SJ, vs. PHO, @ANH vs ANH
Preds,95 points, are a combined 5-4-2 vs. ATL, CLB @STL
Ducks, 93 points, are a combined 7-7 @SJ, vs. PHO vsLA @LA
Blackhawks, 90 points, are a combined 6-3 @MON vs. STL @DET, vs DET
Flames, 89 points, are a combined 5-5 vs. EDM, VAN
Stars, 87 points, are a combined 4-2-2 vs. CLB vs. COL @COL, MIN
In the Eastern Conference, three playoff spots remain, and five teams have a glimmer of hope.
Canadiens, 91 points, are a combined 6-4 vs. CHI, @OTT, TOR
Sabres, 88 points, are a combined 3-4 vs. TB, PHI @CLB
Rangers, 87 points, are a combined 6-5 vs. BOS, ATL, NJ
Hurricanes,86 points, are a combined 6-2-2 vs. DET, ATL, TB
Maple Leafs, 84 points, are a combined 6-3-2 vs. WAS @ NJ, vs. MON
The NHL regular season dies out hard, 24 of the 30 NHL teams are playing on back-to-back nights, and 29 NHL teams are playing three or more games. For those in day-to-day roto leagues, your season is probably still going. Make the appropriate plans for goalies and keep playoff-bound number one goalie in mind for rest. Not playing on back-to-back nights VAN, PIT, OTT, MON, DET, CAL.
In the final week of the season, four season-series will come to a screeching halt. The following Western Conference rivalries have a home-and-home pinch planned for the last week of the regular season.
PHO/SJ - San Jose leads season series 4-0
For Phoenix, not enduring a loss until their ninth (7-0-2) game in 2011 did wonders for their confidence. Now 22-12-5 since the calendar flipped and the Coyotes haven't lost a stride. A team of band aids, with just the right pinch of off-talent that found an enormous chemistry. As for San Jose, 2011 has been a bit different. At one time they were exposed as a Fin goalie nightmare and a small market team that can't spend at the deadline. After beating LA 1-0 on January 1st, the Sharks went on to lose their next seven games in this calendar year. As you know, the Sharks are currently first in their division and second in conference seed. Let's see if Phoenix can get a little respect before heading into the post-season.
ANA/LA - Season series tied 2-2
A battle of two teams tightly gripping onto their playoff berths. Both teams will end their regular season in this match-up. Dollars to donuts, the NHL is praying these two don't end up facing off next week as well.
CHI/DET- Chicago leads season series 3-1-1
Scan most Western Conference power rankings across the (laughing) inter-webs,you'll find Chicago and Detroit to be the most common denominator in the top five.
COL/DAL - Colorado leads season series 2-0
While the embarrassing 6-0 loss to San Jose just about sealed the golfing reservations, the Stars have enough games in hand to disrupt things and possibly earn a spot. In the midst of six games in nine nights to end the season, we could see a Stars team kick everything they've got into overdrive or just a folding to Hockey in D/FW.
RotoWire recommends ...The Red Wings signed center Cory Emmerton, their top pick in the 2006 entry draft (42nd overall, second round) to a three-year, $1.6 million contract, according to Booth Newspapers. Emmerton must earn a roster spot next season in training camp or risk being claimed on waivers. He has improved in each of his three seasons with Grand Rapids (AHL). Montreal (LW) Mathieu Darche has three goal's (eight shots) in as many games, and seem very comfortable with Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez. Officially eliminated from the playoffs, Minnesota is now worrying about making it to game eight-two. Justin Falk (D) has been recalled from Houston of the AHL in light of injuries to (D) Marek Zidlicky, Nick Schultz and Cam Barker. Any offensive assistance in Nashville is welcome. Mr. Underwood, Nashville center Mike Fisher, had two assists in an OT loss to Detroit on Saturday. Fisher, six points during his last four-game point streak, is catching his step just in time for the playoffs. Ottawa recalled (D) Andre Benoit from its AHL affiliate in Binghamton. Benoit will replace the injured Erik Karlsson (leg laceration). It's not all dreary for Hockey in South Florida. Panthers (LW) Sergei Samsonov assisted on a goal Saturday, giving him 12 points in 17 games since he joined the Panthers. Chicago Sun-Times writer Ben Meyer-Abbott reports, Coach Joel Quenneville hopes Patrick Sharp (knee) can resume skating sometime this week. Is it time for a new Wayne era in Los Angeles? Kings fans were certainly hoping going into this season. Now they're just hoping Saturday's Wayne Simmonds -a goal, and an assist against Dallas- can finally figure out how to rinse and repeat. Blues (LW)T.J. Oshie returned to the team, after a team-imposed two-game suspension. Oshie logged 20-minutes of ice time and an assist.
News and Notes ...Sure. Sidney Crosby could come back, the Penguins odds to the cup arise immediately. But it's other players like Dustin Jeffrey (12 points in 25 games) who will need to squawk loudest in the Penguins playoffs. Does this behavior seem familiar to any other New York Rangers fans? After a 6-2 loss to the New York Islanders, most critics wonder if the Rangers even belong in the playoffs. They need to involve their offense as whole. Erik Christensen (26 points in 59 games) is probably the biggest dark horse for the MSG faithful. After eight points in his first seven March games, Christensen has since posted goose eggs. The Rangers are 14-4 when Christensen register's a point.
Nationally Televised Schedule (EST)
VERSUS APRIL 4 -- Boston at NY Rangers, 7:30
VERSUS APRIL 4 -- Los Angeles at San Jose, 10:00
VERSUS APRIL 5 -- New Jersey at Pittsburgh, 7:30
VERSUS APRIL 6 -- St. Louis at Chicago, 7:30
VERSUS APRIL 7 -- Atlanta at NY Rangers, 7:00
VERSUS APRIL 8 -- Chicago at Detroit, 7:00
NBC APRIL 10 -- Detroit at Chicago 12:30