The defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins can officially punch their ticket to the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Friday night without even stepping on the ice. If their Northeast Division rival Buffalo Sabres defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins in regulation, the Bruins will officially clinch a spot in the postseason.
Buffalo, of course, is desperate for points. They sit tied in points with the Washington Capitals, and Friday's game vs. Pittsburgh is the lone game in hand they hold over their ninth-place foes. A loss in regulation puts the Sabres right back outside the playoff picture since Washington holds the tiebreaker over them.
The Penguins are losers of two straight while the Sabres have been red hot for ... well, basically over a month now. Pittsburgh needs the points too, however, as they are embroiled in a heated battle with the Philadelphia Flyers for home-ice in what will likely be a first-round battle between those two rivals.
Out West, the Chicago Blackhawks can also clinch on Friday night without taking the ice. Should the Los Angeles Kings lose to the Edmonton Oilers, whether that be in regulation, overtime or a shootout, the 2010 Cup Champs will also clinch a playoff spot. The Kings enter the evening needing a win to stay a step ahead of the San Jose Sharks for the eighth-seed in the Western Conference.