Dallas Stars v Phoenix Coyotes

Race for the Playoffs: Stars-Coyotes highlights a night of tests for West teams

With the season winding down and the playoff picture sorting itself out, we’ll be taking a look at the night’s games and how they’ll potentially affect the playoff races. This is ProHockeyTalk’s “Race for the Playoffs.”

For the Eastern Conference breakdown, click here. Now let’s get to the West’s biggest games.

Western Conference

1. Vancouver – 109 pts (76 Games Played)
2. Detroit – 98 pts (76 GP)
3. San Jose – 97 pts (76 GP)
4. Phoenix – 93 pts (77 GP)
5. Los Angeles – 92 pts (75 GP)
6. Nashville – 92 pts (76 GP)
7. Anaheim – 91 pts (76 GP)
8. Chicago – 90 pts (75 GP)
9. Calgary – 87 pts (77 GP)
10. Dallas – 86 pts (74 GP)

7:30 pm ET

Chicago @ Boston

This is the tough second half of challenging back-to-back games for the Blackhawks, who beat the Red Wings on the road last night. They might have earned two points last night, but this is just another game in a must-win stretch for the team. Dallas is four points behind them right now, but the Stars have a game in hand and play a game late tonight. If Chicago loses, that cushion could get dangerously small in one night.

8:00 pm ET

Vancouver @ Nashville

The Predators are currently on a six-game winning streak and the Canucks don’t have much at stake in this game, but Vancouver is never an easy out. This team built a nice lead by beating the Stars and Ducks last week, but cannot rest on their laurels just yet. They play four of their last six games in Nashville, so maybe the Preds could move up the ladder a bit?

9:30 pm ET

Los Angeles @ Edmonton

The Kings begin life without Anze Kopitar in this game, while Dustin Penner gets to play against his former pals in the Oilers. Los Angeles has a great chance to earn the fourth seed and an outside shot at winning the Pacific Division, but it won’t be easy for them to reach that objective without their leading scorer, though.

10:00 pm ET

Dallas @ Phoenix

The Stars hope to close the gap between themselves and the Blackhawks while the Coyotes only have five games left to make sure that they don’t fall to one of the West’s lower seeds. Surely Dave Tippett would like to make life difficult for his former team by beating them in this big game tonight. It’s a more desperate situation for Dallas, but the Yotes still have plenty to play for too.

Jason Demers tweets #FreeTorres, gets mocked

Los Angeles Kings v San Jose Sharks - Game One

Following his stunning 41-game suspension, it looks like Raffi Torres has at least one former teammate in his corner.

We haven’t yet seen how the San Jose Sharks or the NHLPA are reacting to the league’s hammer-dropping decision to punish Torres for his Torres-like hit on Jakob Silfverberg, but Jason Demers decided to put in a good word for Torres tonight.

It was a simple message: “#FreeTorres.”

Demers, now of the Dallas Stars, was once with Torres and the Sharks. (In case this post’s main image didn’t make that clear enough already.)

Perhaps this will become “a thing” at some point.

So far, it seems like it’s instead “a thing (that people are making fun of).”

… You get the idea.

The bottom line is that there are some who either a) blindly support Torres because they’re Sharks fans or b) simply think that the punishment was excessive.

The most important statement came from the Department of Player Safety, though.

Bruins list Chara on IR, for now

Zdeno Chara

Those who feel as though the Boston Bruins may rebound – John Tortorella, maybe? – likely rest some of their optimism on the back of a healthy Zdeno Chara.

It’s possible that he’s merely limping into what may otherwise be a healthy 2015-16 season, but it’s definitely looking like a slow start thanks to a lower-body injury.

The latest sign of a bumpy beginning came on Monday, as several onlookers (including CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty) pointed out that Chara was listed on injured reserve.

As Haggerty notes, that move is retroactive to Sept. 24, so his status really just opens up options for the Bruins.

Still … it’s a little unsettling, isn’t it?

The Bruins likely realize that they need to transition away from their generational behemoth, but last season provided a stark suggestion that may not be ready yet. Trading Dougie Hamilton and losing Dennis Seidenberg to injury only make them more dependent on the towering 38-year-old.

This isn’t really something to panic about, yet it might leave a few extra seats open on the Bruins’ bandwagon.