Push for the Playoffs: Stars look to solidify playoff position

Joey Alfieri
NBC Sports

Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2018-19 NHL season. We’ll highlight the current playoff picture in both conferences, take a look at what the first-round matchups might look like, see who’s leading the race for the best odds in the draft lottery and more.

As you can tell from the list below, the Winnipeg Jets and Dallas Stars would meet in the first round if the playoffs started today. There’s still a long way to go before that happens though and they’ll have to start by going head-to-head tonight.

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The Jets have already locked up a playoff spot, but they’ll want to make sure that they finish at the top of the division. For Dallas, this will be about solidifying the playoff spot they’re clinging to at this time. The Stars just finished up a five-game home stand that saw them collect just three of a possible 10 points. Yeah, that’s not good. And the schedule is about to become a lot more difficult.

The Stars will kick off a four-game Western Canadian road trip starting tonight. After their game against the Jets, they’ll take on Calgary and Edmonton on Wednesday and Thursday before finishing the trip in Vancouver on Saturday night. Even though the Oilers and Canucks are out of the playoffs picture, playing four games in six games is less than ideal at this time of year.

“We could be sitting in a really comfortable position if we win three of five,” Stars coach Jim Montgomery said after Saturday’s loss to Pittsburgh, per NHL.com. “But we haven’t done that, so we look ahead now. And we’ve got to go and earn it on the road. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

One of the big issues for them lately, is that their offense has dried up. In their last five contests, they found the back of the net just 10 times.

“It’s disappointing for sure, but I feel like we still have a lot of confidence in this team and in this room,” defenseman John Klingberg said on Saturday night.

TODAY’S GAMES WITH PLAYOFF CONTENDERS 
Panthers vs. Maple Leafs, 7 p.m. ET
Sabres vs. Devils, 7 p.m. ET
Penguins vs. Rangers, 7 p.m. ET
Bruins vs. Lightning, 7:30 p.m. ET
Golden Knights vs. Blues, 8 p.m. ET
Predators vs. Wild, 8 p.m. ET (NBC Sports, live stream)
Stars vs. Jets, 8 p.m. ET
Kings vs. Flames, 9 p.m. ET
Red Wings vs. Sharks, 10:30 p.m. ET

TODAY’S CLINCHING SCENARIOS
The Golden Knights will clinch a playoff berth:
• If they get at least one point against the Blues.

The Nashville Predators will clinch a playoff berth:
• If they defeat Wild in any fashion

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)
Lightning — Clinched
Bruins — Clinched
Capitals — 100 percent
Maple Leafs — 99.9 percent
Islanders — 99.9 percent
Penguins — 99.4 percent
Hurricanes — 97.5 percent
Canadiens — 52.7 percent
Blue Jackets — 50.6 percent
Flyers — Out
Panthers — Out
Sabres — Eliminated
Rangers — Eliminated
Devils — Eliminated
Red Wings — Eliminated
Senators — Eliminated

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)
Flames — Clinched
Sharks — Clinched
Jets — Clinched
Predators — 100 percent
Golden Knights — 100 percent
Blues — 100 percent
Stars — 87.5 percent
Avalanche — 64.2 percent
Coyotes — 23.2 percent
Wild — 19.1 percent
Blackhawks — 5.5 percent
Oilers — 0.5 percent
Canucks — Out
Ducks — Out
Kings — Eliminated

JACK OR KAAPO? THE DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE
Senators — 18.5 percent*
Kings — 13.5 percent
Red Wings — 11.5 percent
Devils — 9.5 percent
Ducks — 8.5 percent
Rangers — 7.5 percent
Sabres — 6.5 percent
Canucks — 6 percent
Oilers — 5 percent
Blackhawks — 3.5 percent
Coyotes — 3 percent
Wild — 2.5 percent
Panthers — 2 percent
Flyers — 1.5 percent
Blue Jackets — 1 percent**
(*COL owns OTT’s 2019 first-round pick)
(**OTT owns CBJ’s 2019 first-round pick)

ART ROSS RACE
Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning — 120 points
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers — 108 points
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks — 102 points
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers — 95 points
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins — 93 points

ROCKET RICHARD RACE
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals — 48 goals
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers — 43 goals
John Tavares, Toronto Maple Leafs — 41 goals
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks — 41 goals
Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning — 40 goals

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

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