The Wild West playoff race

Welcome to the Western Conference playoff race. Please keep arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times. The race is essentially down to five teams competing for two spots, with one point separating all three teams (each of whom has between 11-13 games remaining). Here’s how it looks…

7. Phoenix — 79 points in 70 games (29 regulation/overtime wins)
8. San Jose — 78 points in 69 games (28 ROW)
9. Calgary — 78 points in 70 games (30 ROW)
10. Kings — 78 points in 70 games (28 ROW)
11. Colorado — 78 points in 71 games (29 ROW)

Since so many Pacific Division teams are in the hunt, if you want to throw division-leading Dallas into the equation, the Stars have 83 points in 70 games (33 ROW). Looking at it deeper, which teams have the scheduling advantage down the stretch? Here’s a look at the home-road split, and also the split in terms of games remaining against current playoff teams and non-playoff teams…

7. Phoenix — 5 home, 7 road — 6 vs. playoff, 6 vs. non-playoff
8. San Jose — 8 home, 5 road — 7 vs. playoff, 6 vs. non-playoff
9. Calgary — 7 home, 5 road — 5 vs. playoff, 7 vs. non-playoff
10. Kings — 6 home, 6 road — 7 vs. playoff, 5 vs. non-playoff
11. Colorado — 4 home, 7 road — 7 vs. playoff, 4 vs. non-playoff

Based on that, it’s fair to say that Calgary has the “easiest’’ stretch, followed by San Jose. The Kings and Phoenix are close, and Colorado would seem to have it the toughest. Of course, head-to-head matchups will be huge. The Kings have three games remaining against San Jose and one against Calgary. Speaking of those two teams, they didn’t do the Kings any favors last night, as they went to overtime before the Flames beat the Sharks. Three-point games are killers for teams trying to pass other teams, as Drew Doughty knew well after last night’s game.

DOUGHTY: “I heard that game went into overtime, so that kind of sucks but we just have to worry about ourselves. All we can control is all the games we’re winning. Hopefully some other teams lose some for us.’’

The Kings have clear rooting interests tonight, as Colorado plays at Buffalo, Dallas plays at Winnipeg and Phoenix plays at Vancouver. Darryl Sutter was asked, other than a 12-0-0 finish, what he thought the Kings might need to do in order to make the playoffs…

SUTTER: “Twelve and 0 would be a good thing. You can’t look at it like that. Hey, this team dug a hole because of their home record early in the year. Now you’re trying to stay in it and dig out of it. It’s that simple. We’ve had a tough, tough schedule, and we’ve managed to stay in it. Now we have some tough opponents. You look at what we just came from: Detroit, Chicago, Detroit. [laughs] That’s not easy.’’

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