Chicago hopes to build momentum

With 25 days left in the regular season, the playoff races in each conference simply are on fire. Almost every game has added significance, with points at such a premium, as teams jockey for positioning. is here to give you a Down the Stretch daily that will highlight what you need to know about the games that directly can impact the playoff races.

Here is the installment for Thursday, March 17:

CHICAGO (38-24-8, 84 points) at DALLAS (37-25-8, 82 points)

Where they stand: Chicago is sixth in the Western Conference; Dallas is seventh in the West.

What's at stake: Chicago could move into fourth with a win and regulation losses by Phoenix and Los Angeles. Dallas would move past the Blackhawks (by tiebreaker) with a win, but a regulation loss could drop the Stars behind Calgary.

How it's going: The Blackhawks ended a three-game winless streak with a 6-3 win Monday against San Jose.

The Stars are 1-2-1 on their current seven-game homestand, including back-to-back regulation losses to San Jose and Los Angeles.

Upcoming: Chicago only has two games in the next eight days -- at Phoenix on Sunday and home Wednesday against Florida. Dallas has the final two games of its homestand -- Saturday against Philadelphia and Wednesday against Anaheim.

BOSTON (39-21-9, 87 points) at NASHVILLE (35-25-10, 80 points)

Where they stand: Boston is third in the Eastern Conference; Nashville is 10th in the West.

What's at stake: The Bruins actually are closer to Montreal than the top two teams in the East, but they have three games in hand on Washington and can move within three points of the Capitals with two games in hand. The Predators can climb as high as eighth in the West with a win and a loss by Calgary.

How it's going: Boston ended a four-game winless streak with a 3-2 win in Columbus on Tuesday.

Nashville has wins against Minnesota and Colorado and a loss to Los Angeles to start its current five-game homestand.

Upcoming: The Bruins travel to Toronto on Saturday and then starts a three-game homestand that includes visits from New Jersey, Montreal and the N.Y. Rangers. The Predators have five of their next six games at home, with a trip to Buffalo on Sunday mixed in.

TAMPA BAY (39-22-9, 87 points) at MONTREAL (38-25-7, 83 points)

Where they stand: Tampa Bay is fifth in the East; Montreal is sixth in the East.

What's at stake: Tampa Bay can get within three points of Washington for first in the Southeast Division, with a game in hand. Montreal could close the gap on Boston for first in the Northeast Division and Tampa Bay with a regulation win and a regulation Bruins loss.

How it's going: The Lightning have wins against Toronto and Chicago sandwiched around losses to Ottawa and Florida.

The Canadiens had won six of seven before a home loss to Washington on Tuesday.

Upcoming: Tampa Bay has five straight games against teams outside the top eight in the East -- two against Carolina, two against Ottawa and one against the N.Y. Islanders. Montreal travels to New York to play the Rangers on Friday and then to Minnesota on Sunday.

PHILADELPHIA (43-19-7, 93 points) at ATLANTA (29-29-12, 70 points)

Where they stand: Philadelphia is first in the East; Atlanta is 12th in the East

What's at stake: Philadelphia can extend its lead in the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division. Atlanta could pass Toronto and New Jersey with a win and losses by the Maple Leafs and Devils (a regulation loss for the Leafs).

How's it going: The Flyers got back on track Tuesday after their dismal overtime loss to Atlanta over the weekend, when they blew a three-goal third-period lead and lost 5-4 in overtime. They won at Florida on Tuesday and have a 3-0-1 record in their last four games to keep a slim distance between them and the Capitals and Penguins.

The Thrashers suffered a crushing loss Tuesday when New Jersey came back from a 2-0 deficit with four unanswered goals. The loss dropped the Thrashers into 12th place with only 12 games left to play.

Upcoming: The Flyers head to Dallas on Saturday and then come home for two huge games next week, against Washington and Pittsburgh. The Thrashers play at Buffalo on Saturday and then don't play again until Thursday at the Islanders. Seven of their last 12 games are on the road.

MINNESOTA (35-28-7, 77 points) at SAN JOSE (40-23-8, 88 points)

Where they stand: San Jose is third in the West; Minnesota is 11th in the West.

What's at stake: Minnesota could be within two points of a playoff spot with a win and the right teams losing, but most importantly the Wild just need to collect wins. San Jose could close the gap on Detroit to two points with a win and a regulation loss for the Red Wings.

How it's going: The Wild have dropped three straight games to teams in front of them in the West.

The Sharks were winless in three straight prior to Tuesday's 6-3 victory in Dallas.

Upcoming: Minnesota has five of its next six games against teams currently behind them in the NHL standings, including five of those contests at home. San Jose has a home game against St. Louis on Saturday before a three-day break leading into a home game against Calgary.

COLORADO (26-35-8, 60 points) at CALGARY (36-27-9, 81 points)

Where they stand: Calgary is ninth in the West; Colorado is 14th in the West.

What's at stake: Calgary can move past idle Anaheim with a point, but two would keep the Flames ahead of Nashville and could push them past Dallas into seventh place with a regulation loss for the Stars.

How it's going: The Flames have lost three straight games, including two to Phoenix (the Coyotes are four points ahead of them).

Upcoming: Calgary starts a four-game road trip Sunday, including a three-game swing through California. The Flames have lost a combined six straight games to those three teams.

TORONTO (31-30-10, 72 points) at FLORIDA (28-33-9, 65 points)

Where they stand: Toronto is 10th in the East; Florida is 13th in the East.

What's at stake: The Maple Leafs could climb within two points of a playoff spot with a win, even though they'll still be in 10th in the conference.

How it's going: The Maple Leafs secured a huge win again against the Hurricanes on Wednesday.

Upcoming: Toronto welcomes Boston to Air Canada Centre on Saturday and then has a three-game road trip, to Minnesota, Colorado and Detroit.

NEW JERSEY (33-32-4, 70 points) at OTTAWA (25-36-9, 59 points)

Where they stand: New Jersey is 11th in the East; Ottawa is 15th in the East.

What's at stake: The Devils will be four points out of eighth place with a victory, and could pass Toronto for 10th place with a Maple Leafs regulation loss.

How it's going: The Devils have won three in a row since a loss to Ottawa and have lost just twice since Feb. 4.

Upcoming: New Jersey welcomes Washington to Prudential Center on Friday, followed by a four-game road trip, to Columbus, Boston, Pittsburgh and Buffalo.

ST. LOUIS (31-30-9, 71 points) at LOS ANGELES (40-25-5, 85 points)

Where they stand: Los Angeles is fourth in the West; St. Louis is 13th in the West.

What's at stake: Los Angeles will stay in fourth place with a win, but the Kings could move within a point of San Jose for the Pacific Division lead with a win and a regulation loss by the Sharks.

How it's going: The Kings just completed a 4-0-0 road trip, with victories in Detroit, Columbus, Dallas and Nashville.

Upcoming: This is the first of five straight at home for Los Angeles -- the next three are against Anaheim, Calgary and San Jose.

DETROIT (42-20-8, 92 points) at COLUMBUS (32-27-10, 74 points)

Where they stand: Detroit is second in the West; Columbus is 12th in the West

What's at stake: Detroit appears pretty well locked into a top-three seed for now, but a win could give the Red Wings a little separation from the San Jose Sharks, who also are in action. Columbus is seven points out of a playoff spot, so it just needs to win and get lucky in the process.

How's it going: The Red Wings have won three in a row, including a 3-2 victory Wednesday against Washington.

The Blue Jackets have fallen to the fringes of the playoff race, with only one win in their last nine games (1-4-4).

Upcoming: The Red Wings head to Nashville on Saturday and come home next week to start a five-game homestand. Columbus is starting a stretch of five games in eight nights. The Jackets go to Minnesota on Saturday and return home to face New Jersey on Sunday.

PHOENIX (37-23-11, 85 points) at EDMONTON (23-38-9, 55 points)

Where they stand: Phoenix is fifth in the West; Edmonton is 15th in the West.

What's at stake: Phoenix could move into fourth place with a win and a Los Angeles loss. Like the Kings, the Coyotes could be one point shy of San Jose if the Sharks lose in regulation.

How it's going: The Coyotes have won three straight, including games at Anaheim and Calgary.

Upcoming: Phoenix finishes its Western Canada swing in Vancouver on Friday and then heads home for six straight games in the desert.