The countdown to the playoffs is on! There are just a handful of games left on the regular season schedule. And, as you know, there are some pretty big ones.
Tonight, for example, the Dallas Stars face a critical road test against the San Jose Sharks. Plain and simple, Marc Crawford's team needs the W. Anything less would put a deep dent into their playoff hopes.
It'll be interesting to see how the game unfolds. Remember, the last time these two teams met (in Dallas on March 15) there were some nasty doings. Sharks sniper Dany Heatley ended up getting a two-game suspension for elbowing Stars pest Steve Ott in the head. Ouch!
Tonight, the Stars need to stay focused on the task at hand. The Sharks, meanwhile, could slide past the Detroit Red Wings into the second spot in the Conference playoff chase. If they could get to that spot and hold onto it, the Sharks would insure home ice advantage in a possible second- or third-round playoff matchup against the Wings. Having that edge certainly helped them last spring.
With the season coming to an end, you've had a lot of questions. Here are a few of them in this week's mailbag:
Corey Perry had another two goals last night to up his season total to 46. If he gets to 50, do you think he'll win the Hart Trophy? --Brett, Irvine, Calif.
I don't think he needs to get to the 50-goal plateau to win the Hart. Let's face it, when Sidney Crosby went down for an extended period of time, the MVP race opened up to everyone else. For me, Perry is a top two or three candidate right now. In fact, if I were voting today, I might have his name at the top of my ballot.
In the last several weeks, when the games have been most important, Perry has been clutch. In the 25 games since the All-Star break, the 25-year-old power forward has 21 goals and 17 assists (38 points). More recently, he has 15 goals in his last 11 games.
I don't know if he can hit the 50-goal plateau -- he needs four goals in his last five games -- but that shouldn't impact whether or not he wins the Hart. Perry is absolutely a deserving candidate.
To read the rest of E.J. Hradek's mailbag, including his take on the state of the Detroit Red Wings heading into the playoffs, become an ESPN Insider today.