NHL Playoff Picture 2011: Buffalo, Carolina Battle For East's Final Playoff Spot

ALREADY IN

East: No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers (73 GP, 98 pts), No. 2 Washington Capitals (75 GP, 96 pts)

West: No. 1 Vancouver Canucks (75 GP, 107 pts)

ALMOST THERE

East:  The Boston Bruins look just about locked into at least the third seed since they're all but certain to clinch the Northeast Division now. Montreal sits five points behind them in that division and the B's have two games in hand. Montreal has just seven games left in their season. 

The struggling Tampa Bay Lightning need just three wins to clinch a spot, while the Habs are seven points up on ninth place and seem pretty comfortable.

West: The Red Wings, second-place in the West, are technically not really all that comfortable in terms of a playoff spot. They're nine points up with eight games remaining, so it's not like Detroit fans should panic or are panicking, but well... it's not wrapped up. Still, it's pretty fair to call them "almost there." We can included San Jose and Phoenix in that bunch as well. 

ON THE BUBBLE

East: The East is really starting to sort itself out. The top six seeds seem basically set, aside for some jockeying for positioning, and the seventh seed seems relatively safe as well. We'll put the Rangers and their five-point lead on the bubble for now, but rest assured that it's at the very tip of the bubble. The fact that ninth-place Carolina has a game in hand over them doesn't help the cause.

Buffalo, meanwhile, is less than safe. The Hurricanes are still right on their heels, three points back of that final spot with eight games left in the season. The Sabres control their destiny but Carolina is ready to pounce should they slip up. We can call Toronto a bubble team still, technically, but in reality it's going to be tough for them. They have only seven games remaining in the season and sit five points back of eighth place.

West: Los Angeles and Nashville are right up at the top of the bubble with 90 points a piece, four ahead of ninth-place Dallas. The Chicago Blackhawks are firmly on the bubble with 88 points, while Anaheim stits at 87 points. Calgary still has a chance, just two points back of the last playoff spot, but they've played three games less than ninth-place Dallas. Doesn't help.

BOOKIN' TEE TIMES

East: No. 11 Atlanta Thrashers (74 points), No. 12 New Jersey Devils (73 points), No. 13 New York Islanders (70 points), No. 14 Florida Panthers (68 points), No. 15 Ottawa Senators (67 points)

West: No. 11 Minnesota Wild (78 points), No. 12 Columbus Blue Jackets (77 points), No. 13 Columbus Blue Jackets (77 points), No. 14 Colorado Avalanche (64 points), No. 15 Edmonton Oilers (56 points)

Much of the data used comes via PlayoffStatus.com.

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