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NHL Standings And Avalanche Schedule Preview, November 29

Colorado scuffled through the past week, going 1-2 against its division opponents, yet it still maintains its place atop the Northwest Division alongside Vancouver. Before we preview the next week's worth of Avalanche games, let's take a closer look at the Pacific Division race. By this point in the season, division races are usually starting to open up and the good teams have begun to create separation within their division. This year, the Pacific is breaking the mold.

Through a minimum of 22 games played, the Pacific Division looks like this:

Pacific Standings

Dallas 22 13 8 1 27
Phoenix 22 11 6 5 27
Los Angeles 22 13 9 0 26
San Jose 22 11 7 4 26
Anaheim 25 11 11 3 25

(updated 11.29.2010 at 7:29 AM MST)

Insanity. All five teams are separated by a total of two points (or one game). If Anaheim wins its home game against Los Angeles tonight -- and Dallas loses at Carolina -- you would have a three-way tie for first, with the remaining two teams one point behind and tied for second/last place. With the ultra-competitive nature of the Western Conference this season, only the top two teams in this division would make the playoffs, and those two teams could change several times per night.

San Jose has one of the top three lines in hockey. Phoenix has the best goaltender in the division. Los Angeles has the best offensive depth. Every single team in this division is playoff-worthy, but at best two are likely to make it into the tournament. Thankfully, the regular season between these five teams has become must-watch hockey as a single loss can drop you from first to last place.

Colorado Schedule Preview: Southeast Division Awaits

Colorado has three games on the schedule this week all against Southeast opponents. In fact, the next two weeks of the schedule is filled with nothing but teams from that division, the only time that Colorado will face them this season.

vs. Atlanta Thrashers, Nov. 30

Atlanta comes into Denver riding high on a five-game winning streak, by far its longest of the season (previous longest streak was two games). This streak has been against top-notch competition as well, including a 5-0 victory over Washington and a 5-1 victory over Detroit. The difference? Winger Dustin Byfuglien has been molten lately, scoring four goals and seven assists over that period.

at Carolina Hurricanes, Dec. 3

Colorado travels to Raleigh and faces off against a rebuilding Canes squad, one that has been rumored as a potential trade partner for the past week. Erik Cole, anyone? Aside from perennial stud Eric Staal, the Hurricanes have a solid (not yet spectacular) team, but have some work to do before they're ready to compete within their division.

at Tampa Bay Lightning, Dec. 4

The schedule just seems unfair sometimes. On the second night of a back-to-back, on an east coast road trip, and the Avalanche have to face the offensive juggernaut Tampa Bay Lightning? Tired legs may be a serious issue in this game, as resurgent Martin St. Louis and young superstar and NHL goals leader Steven Stamkos love to push the pace and crash the net. If you like offense, this has to be your game of the week; it could be a 6-5 game when all is said and done.