NHL playoff picture: Red Wings look to keep pace with the Blues, get sweep in Anaheim


A lot of today's games feature one team decidedly in the playoff race and one decidedly out. Who will play spoiler? Who will get the two points they desperately need?

Everybody largely kept pace in the Eastern Conference on Saturday. Ottawa, Toronto and New Jersey kept their current playoff positions by winning games at home. In the Northeast Division race, Montreal and Boston both lost to fellow Northeast opponents beneath them in the standings. Buffalo moved within two points of a postseason spot, though the eighth and ninth-place teams in the East both have two games in hand on the Sabres.

Out in the Western Conference, Minnesota and Vancouver both got wins, keeping Minnesota in the top spot, while the Canucks moved up to fourth. St. Louis passed Los Angeles on the games played tiebreaker and pushed into fifth. Dallas entered the top eight after beating Colorado, while San Jose fell out after losing to the Wild. Everyone else either lost or did not play.

Here are the current playoff standings after Saturday's games:

Eastern Conference

Currently in Playoff Position

1. Pittsburgh Penguins, 48 points (32 games played)

2. Montreal Canadiens, 45 points (31 GP)

3. Winnipeg Jets, 34 points (32 GP)

4. Boston Bruins, 43 points (30 GP)

5. Ottawa Senators, 40 points (32 GP)

6. Toronto Maple Leafs, 37 points (32 GP)

7. New Jersey Devils, 36 points (32 GP)

8. Carolina Hurricanes, 32 points (30 GP)

On the Bubble

9. New York Rangers, 32 points (30 GP)

10. Buffalo Sabres, 30 points (32 GP)

11. Washington Capitals, 29 points (31 GP)

12. New York Islanders, 29 points (31 GP)

Western Conference

Currently in Playoff Position

1. Chicago Blackhawks, 51 points (30 GP)

2. Anaheim Ducks, 48 points (30 GP)

3. Minnesota Wild, 38 points (30 GP)

4. Vancouver Canucks, 38 points (31 GP)

5. St. Louis Blues, 36 points (30 GP)

6. Los Angeles Kings, 36 points (31 GP)

7. Detroit Red Wings, 35 points (31 GP)

8. Dallas Stars, 33 points (31 GP)

On the Bubble

9. San Jose Sharks, 32 points (30 GP)

10. Nashville Predators, 32 points (32 GP)

11. Columbus Blue Jackets, 32 points (32 GP)

12. Phoenix Coyotes, 30 points (31 GP)

Here are games scheduled for Sunday that could directly affect playoff positioning:

Florida vs. NY Islanders, 5 p.m. ET

This is kind of a last gasp for the Islanders. They've gone 0-3 on a four-game home stand where they've given up leads all three times. The Isles, quite honestly, could (and maybe should) have gotten four or five points out of the first three games. If they had, they would be in eighth right now, but blown leads and bad third periods have kept them out. The Florida Panthers beat the Rangers at MSG and gave the Devils a battle at The Rock. Can the Islanders take care of business? If they don't, it could be time to pack it in on the island.

Washington vs. NY Rangers, 7 p.m. ET

This could be a pivotal game one way or another on the Eastern Conference bubble. The Capitals got two huge wins in Winnipeg on Thursday and Friday, putting them within three points of a playoff spot and five of their division's lead. A win at Madison Square Garden tonight vaults the Caps into 10th place. A 60-minute win puts them one point short of eighth. On the other hand, a Rangers win puts them back into the top eight and two points clear of the Hurricanes.

Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh, 7:30 p.m. ET

Hey, remember the Flyers? They haven't played since a loss in Tampa Bay on Monday. They're currently tied with the Lightning in 13th place with 27 points, but you know the Eastern Conference: a win and all of a sudden you can start rationalizing a way to get back in this. A win coupled with a Rangers loss and you're within three points again. If there's a team for them to do it against, it's most certainly the Penguins, whom the Flyers have handled well in recent seasons. The Pens still have a three-point cushion in the East's top spot, so they'll look to really gain ground tonight.

Tampa Bay vs. Winnipeg, 8 p.m. ET

The Lightning have lost two in a row and fired their head coach, so you wonder if the idea isn't a quick turnaround to get to the postseason or a complete melt down, try to catch Florida at the bottom, win the Draft Lottery and start anew next year. Regardless, the Jets really need a win to start making some ground over the Hurricanes and Capitals. If Winnipeg loses, their lead on second place (in the division) Carolina stays at two points, but gives the Hurricanes three games in hand.

Vancouver vs. Colorado, 8 p.m. ET

Things are probably over with in Denver for the season, but Vancouver is -- surprisingly, some would say -- in a Divisional chase with the Wild. A win puts them in front and in the third seed in the Western Conference. A loss keeps them at fourth in the West, but depending on what St. Louis does, they could drop as far as fifth.

St. Louis vs. Calgary, 8 p.m. ET

Oh, there you are St. Louis. The Blues are looking for a sweep of Alberta after beating the Oilers last night, and there is a decent amount at stake. A win and a Canucks loss in 60 minutes puts them in fourth place out West. A loss and they move down to sixth on the Regulation/Overtime Wins tiebreaker with Los Angeles. A loss and a Detroit win and the Blues fall all the way back to seventh place.

Detroit vs. Anaheim, 8 p.m. ET

This is one of these rare two-game series we've had during this lockout-shortened NHL season. Detroit roughed up the Ducks pretty good on Friday night and can climb the Western Conference standings with a victory. A Red Wings win and a Blues loss catapults Detroit into fifth place. A win and a one-point loss for the Blues and Detroit passes the Kings and moves into sixth. Meanwhile, the Ducks just look to salvage two points to keep pace with the Chicago Blackhawks.

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