Playoff watch: Thursday's key games

There were no games in the Western Conference last night, but there are key ones in the playoff race Thursday.

The Stars, of course, host San Jose. The Stars lead the Sharks by three points and these are big points for both. The Stars are on a roll with points in eight straight and the Sharks have been struggling recently, picking up just two wins in their last 11 games. The Stars’ lead over San Jose could be as high as five or as a low as one by the end of the night.

Phoenix, which is two points behind the Stars and has lost four in a row, plays Minnesota. The Wild are winless in five and have been outscored 23-5 during that stretch.

Los Angeles, three points behind Dallas and winners of three in a row plays at Columbus. The Blue Jackets have won three in a row, all of them against teams in the playoff hunt -- Phoenix (twice) and Colorado.

Colorado, which is three points behind the Stars, is at Nashville tonight. It’s a big test for the Avs, whose last two wins have come against the struggling Wild.

There’s still a great race for the top spot in the West between St. Louis, Vancouver and Detroit. St. Louis plays Anaheim and Vancouver plays Winnipeg tonight. Detroit is idle.

Western Conference Playoff Race

The Western Conference playoff race. ROW = Regulation/Overtime wins. DIFF = goal differential.