NHL Playoff Picture 2011: Kings Clinch As Ducks, Blackhawks Eliminate Flames

Wednesday was a big night in the Western Conference playoff picture, as one team clinched, two teams seriously helped their cause and one team officially fell off the map despite a huge win over a big rival.

With their shootout win over the Phoenix Coyotes, the Los Angeles Kings didn't just take control of the West's No. 4 seed. They also finally clinched a playoff berth after a long several months of wondering whether or not that would happen. The two points gave the Kings a one point edge over No. 5 Nashville and No. 6 Phoenix.

All three teams have two games remaining in that race for the final home-ice position. The Preds and Coyotes have magic numbers of just one point to clinch berths in the playoffs, which could happen tonight if the Dallas Stars fail to earn two points at home against the Colorado Avalanche.

Speaking of Dallas, Wednesday wasn't a great night for them. They were idle and sitting by their televisions, but wins by No. 7 Anaheim and No. 8 Chicago trimmed their playoff hopes a bit. Had even one of those teams lost, the Stars would have been in a position to pull even with them in the standings Thursday.

Instead, as they enter that game in Colorado, they need a win just to keep pace. Dallas is the only team alive in the Western race that's played less than 80 games. Tonight is that 80th game.

For the Calgary Flames, who technically sit ahead of Dallas in the standings, the playoff dream is over. They stomped all over Edmonton on Wednesday night, but the wins by the Blackhawks and Ducks officially ended their hopes of returning to the postseason.

The Flames are the sole team in the Western playoff race who have just one game left to play, while all the other kids get to play two more times, and as a result, they won't be able to pass either team. 

We're almost there in the West. Everything looks locked up except those final three seeds, aside from some shifting a little north in the standings. A whole lot depends on Dallas vs. Colorado game on Thursday night. 

For all the news on the NHL's wild playoff picture as we enter the final weekend, be sure to stick around this StoryStream.

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