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April 6, 2011 2:30 pm

Is Pacific the best? Does home ice matter?

As noted earlier, there’s still a very plausible scenario in which all five Pacific Division teams could make the playoffs, which has never happened in any division in the current format. San Jose is in, and the winner of tonight’s game between the Kings and Phoenix Coyotes will be in. Incidentally, Anaheim’s chances might get a boost as well. The Ducks play San Jose, which — having clinched the Pacific Division — will start backup goalie Antero Niittymaki tonight and will be without injured forward Ryane Clowe. Dallas finishes with three very winnable games. After today’s morning skate, I asked Terry Murray if he thought the Pacific Division was that much better than the other divisions this season, or whether it’s something of a statistical anomaly…

MURRAY: “It kind of goes around. I can remember, going back a few years ago when I was coaching in Florida, in the Southeast Division, and the only team that was going to get in was by virtue of winning the division. Then, you go through it a few years later and you’ve got Tampa Bay winning the Stanley Cup. It just goes around. This is the time for this division here, where teams are really good, playing hard, intense. We’ve put a lot of pressure on ourselves, in this division, to challenge each other, basically, to respond to the other team’s win. That’s the way it’s gone this year. It’s been very exciting. It comes down here to the last three games of the season, playing division games that are very meaningful.”

The winner of tonight’s Kings-Coyotes game will also move into fourth place in the Western Conference, but does home-ice advantage matter that much? Last season, of the eight first-round series, four were won by the lower-seeded team. Overall in last season’s playoffs, the higher-seeded team won 8 of 15 series. Still, Murray said he saw the advantage in having home-ice advantage in the first round…

MURRAY: “There probably is. I think so. Over the course of the history of the game, that seventh game of the series (at home), you get your matchups, you get your home fans, you’ve got some things that are going to come your way because of it, absolutely. Is it everything in a series? No, it’s not, but it’s nice to have. Whenever the opportunity is there to have that seventh game at home, you want to take advantage of it.”

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