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NHL Playoff Push: Desperation time for the Stars

Dallas Stars v Washington Capitals

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 20: Goalie Kari Lehtonen #32 of the Dallas Stars looks on after giving up a second period goal against the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on March 20, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

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A little over a month ago the Dallas Stars were sitting in a pretty good position in the Western Conference playoff race. They were 34-20-4 on the season, had won six out of seven games, and looking like a team that was going to be one of the eight teams to punch their ticket for the playoffs.

Since then the bottom has completely fallen out on their season.

In the 17 games since they have posted a 4-9-4 record and enter Sunday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks riding a seven-game losing streak. That streak was extended on Friday night when they entered the third period of their game against the Boston Bruins (at home!) with a two-goal lead, only to then give up three consecutive goals.

That loss, combined with the rest of the action around the Western Conference over the weekend, leaves them in 10th place in the playoff race, five points back of the suddenly surging St. Louis Blues. Even worse for the Stars, they don’t even own the tiebreaker over any of the teams they are competing with because they only have 34 regulation/overtime wins.

With only seven games remaining in the season, these are certainly desperate times in Dallas. And they don’t exactly have an easy schedule the rest of the way. After Sunday’s game against Vancouver their remaining games are against Minnesota (two), San Jose, Philadelphia, Anaheim and Los Angeles. Minnesota, Philadelphia and San Jose are all playoff teams, while the Ducks and Kings are two of the teams they are competing with for a playoff spot in the West.

Here is a look at how the standings sit as of Sunday.

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The other big games in the West on Sunday...

The Winnipeg Jets can make the Central Division race a little bit more interesting if they can beat the Nashville Predators. A Jets win in regulation would cut the deficit to four points with seven games remaining for both teams after Sunday. A Predators win, however, would make their lead eight points and probably unofficially secure the division crown.

The Wild look to solidify their playoff position with a win over the Boston Bruins. Minnesota is currently two points ahead of the Colorado Avalanche for the No. 3 playoff spot in the Central Division. If they should happen to fall out of that spot it puts them in that wild card mix with Los Angeles or Anaheim and maybe Dallas.
[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

Speaking of the Ducks, they are on the road on Sunday night to take on Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers did the Ducks a huge favor on Saturday night by knocking off the Los Angeles Kings thanks to two more goals from McDavid, helping him to move into the NHL scoring lead as he goes for his second consecutive scoring title. The Oilers are 7-2-1 in their past 10 games, thanks in large part to McDavid going crazy offensively down the stretch.

Meanwhile, in the Eastern Conference on Sunday...

Screen Shot 2018-03-25 at 11.36.09 AM

The Pittsburgh Penguins are hosting the Philadelphia Flyers in the afternoon (that game is on NBC, watch it on our Live Stream or on NBC) in a huge game in the Metropolitan Division race. Those two teams, along with Columbus and New Jersey, are all in a fight for the second and third spots in the Metropolitan Division and home-ice advantage in the first round.

The only other big game in the Eastern Conference is when Boston takes on Minnesota. The Bruins can close the gap in the Atlantic Division race with the Tampa Bay Lightning to only two points if they can defeat the Minnesota Wild.

If the Playoffs Started Today

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New Jersey Devils
Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues
Vegas Golden Knights vs. Colorado Avalanche
Winnipeg Jets vs. Minnesota Wild
San Jose Sharks vs. Anaheim Ducks

Sunday’s Games That Matter

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers, 12:30 p.m ET
Vancouver Canucks vs. Dallas Stars, 7 p.m. ET
Nashville Predators vs. Winnipeg Jets, 7 p.m. ET
Boston Bruins vs. Minnesota Wild, 7:30 p.m ET
Anaheim Ducks vs. Edmonton Oilers, 9:30 p.m. ET