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Pacific Division Round-Up: The playoff race tightens up

Plus a scary hit sidelines a Calder Trophy candidate.

Mar 3, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar (11) and Chicago Blackhawks left wing Anthony Duclair (91) chase down the puck as Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick (32) defends the net in the third period at Staples Center. Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The playoff race is heating up. The Vegas Golden Knights are still holding on firmly to first place in the Pacific Division, but the San Jose Sharks, Calgary Flames, Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks are all battling it out for those last two spots. With the wildcard race just as cutthroat with the powerhouse Central Division, the best chance for all the teams involved is to secure a spot in the division race.

Time to take a look at how all the Pacific Division teams are faring, including what some of the non-contenders are doing to make sure they’re positioned for next season’s playoff race.

Anaheim Ducks (32-21-12)

While the Sharks spent the last four days on the practice rink, the Ducks took advantage and leap-frogged San Jose for the second spot in the Pacific Division. Anaheim is undefeated in March and is scoring in droves. The Ducks shutout the Washington Capitals on Tuesday behind a 36 save performance by goaltender John Gibson. Anaheim beat the Chicago Blackhawks 6-3 on Sunday and the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 on Friday.

The Ducks pay a visit to Nashville tonight to take on the Predators. Game time is 5:00 PT.

Arizona Coyotes (21-34-11)

It’s a case of too little, too late for the Coyotes, who have looked solid this week. Arizona beat the Vancouver Canucks 2-1 on Wednesday night. Arizona lost in overtime 4-3 to the Edmonton Oilers on Monday, but beat the Ottawa Senators 2-1 on Saturday and the Minnesota Wild 5-3 on Thursday.

Coyotes starting goaltender Antti Raanta has missed two games due to what the team is calling tightness. Defenseman Alex Goligoski has also missed two games while awaiting the birth of his second child.

The Coyotes take a trip to Colorado on Saturday. They play the Avalanche at 12:00 PT.

Calgary Flames (33-25-10)

There’s some good news for the Flames as they enter the stretch run for the playoffs — goaltender Mike Smith is practicing with the team. Smith was on the ice Tuesday for the first time since he was injured on February 11. Jon Gillies and David Rittich have shared goaltending duties in Smith’s absence.

Rittich started in last night’s game against the Buffalo Sabres. He made 25 saves in the team’s 5-1 win. Former Shark Danny O’Regan was called up by the Sabres for the game, but he did not make it into the lineup.

The Flames win snapped a three game losing streak. Calgary lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 in overtime on Monday. The Flames also lost 3-1 to the New York Rangers on Friday.

Calgary next plays in Ottawa at 4:30 PT on Friday.

Edmonton Oilers (28-34-4)

The Oilers are out of the playoffs this season and appear to be looking toward the future. The team made a few small signings this week. Edmonton inked college player Colin Larkin, the brother of Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin, to a one-year, entry-level contract on Monday. The center played four seasons with UMass-Boston. And over the weekend, the team signed winger Ostap Safin to a three-year, entry-level deal. Edmonton drafted Safin in the fourth round of last year’s draft. He currently plays for the Saint John Sea Dogs in the QMJHL.

On Monday, Milan Lucic snapped a 29-game goal drought, scoring in the first period of the team’s 4-3 overtime win over the Coyotes. The Oilers lost to the Rangers 3-2 on Saturday and the Predators 4-2 on Thursday.

Edmonton plays the New York Islanders tonight at 6:00 PT.

Los Angeles Kings (36-25-5)

The Kings are just barely holding onto the second and final wildcard spot in the Western Conference, but they’re also just barely behind the Sharks for the third spot in the Pacific Division. Los Angeles hasn’t played since Saturday, so the Kings are relatively healthy. The only player sidelined is Trevor Lewis, who hasn’t played since early February when he suffered a concussion. Other than that, all the top players are in the lineup.

LA lost to Chicago 5-3 on Saturday, and beat the Blue Jackets 5-2 on Thursday.

The Kings host the Washington Capitals tonight at 7:30 PT.

Vancouver Canucks (25-33-9)

A tough loss for the Canucks, potential Calder Trophy finalist Brock Boeser is out for the rest of the season. The rookie was hit at just the wrong time during Monday’s 4-3 overtime win over the New York Islanders. He hit the boards awkwardly when someone opened the door on the Canucks bench. Boeser went to the hospital and is expected to be out for 4-6 weeks.

The Canucks lost 2-1 to the Coyotes on Wednesday and lost to the Predators 4-3 in overtime on Friday.

Vancouver plays Friday at 7:00 PT against the Minnesota Wild.

Vegas Golden Knights (42-19-5)

The Golden Knights are still 10 points up on the closest competition in the Pacific, but that lead could evaporate quickly. Vegas is 1-2 in the past week. The lone win came on Sunday, a 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils. The Golden Knights lost to Columbus 4-1 on Tuesday and the Senators 5-4 on Friday.

Las Vegas is in the middle of a five game road trip. The next stop is today in Detroit. The Knights play the Red Wings at 4:30 PT.