The Western Conference continued to tighten up last night. The Dallas Stars and Columbus Blue Jackets both won moving them to 35 points, one short of the eighth seed currently owned by St. Louis. Of course, the problem is that neither team plays today, so they could find themselves down three again at the end of the day. Meanwhile, Anaheim drew closer to Chicago at the top of the West with a win at United Center.
The lone game in the Eastern Conference featured the Devils getting a point, but they squandered a good opportunity as the Lightning came back late in the third and won in a shootout. New Jersey now has a three-point lead on the two New York teams for the seventh spot. All three are in action today, however, so the Devils need to get more out of their weekend trip to Florida.
Here are the current playoff standings after Friday's games:
Currently in Playoff Position:
1. Pittsburgh Penguins, 54 points (35 games played)
2. Montreal Canadiens, 47 points (33 GP)
3. Winnipeg Jets, 38 points (35 GP)
4. Boston Bruins, 46 points (32 GP)
5. Ottawa Senators, 44 points (35 GP)
6. Toronto Maple Leafs, 42 points (35 GP)
7. New Jersey Devils, 38 points (34 GP)
8. New York Rangers, 35 points (33 GP)
On the Bubble:
9. New York Islanders, 35 points (34 GP)
10. Carolina Hurricanes, 32 points (32 GP)
Currently in Playoff Position:
1. Chicago Blackhawks, 53 points (33 GP)
2. Anaheim Ducks, 50 points (34 GP)
3. Vancouver Canucks, 44 points (34 GP)
4. Minnesota Wild, 42 points (33 GP)
5. Los Angeles Kings, 40 points (33 GP)
6. Detroit Red Wings, 39 points (34 GP)
7. San Jose Sharks, 38 points (33 GP)
8. St. Louis Blues, 36 points (33 GP)
On the Bubble:
9. Dallas Stars, 35 points (33 GP)
10. Columbus Blue Jackets, 35 points (35 GP)
11. Nashville Predators, 34 points (34 GP)
12. Edmonton Oilers, 33 points (34 GP)
13. Phoenix Coyotes, 33 points (34 GP)
Here are the games scheduled for Saturday that could directly affect playoff positioning:
Boston vs. Philadelphia, 1 p.m. ET
The Bruins can put themselves back in first in the Northeast Division with a win in Philly today. The Flyers are in 14th, with teams No. 11 and 13 (Washington, Buffalo) playing each other and already two points ahead of Philadelphia. So today is pretty much win or go home, for the last time, for Philly. There is a good chance that, should they lose to Boston, they'll be seven points out of eighth with 14 games left and six teams to jump. If they want to make the playoffs, they have to go on a run right now.
NY Islanders vs. Pittsburgh, 1 p.m. ET
Here it is for the Islanders. A win and a Rangers loss and they are in eighth place, and depending on what the Devils do, they can set up a showdown in Newark on Monday night that could get them up to seventh. A loss against the Penguins -- a team that, after an early season Isles win at Consol Energy Center, has owned them -- and they wait out the Rangers game tonight to see if they stick around tied for eighth and hope the Panthers get a result from New Jersey. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh just wants to keep their winning streak alive and stay way ahead atop the Eastern Conference.
Carolina vs. Winnipeg, 3 p.m. ET
The Hurricanes have three games in hand over the Jets heading into today's showdown in Manitoba, so there are two really big points out there for Carolina. With a win, they have three games to make up four points, essentially. With a loss they essentially have to win all three of those games in hand as the Jets would gain an eight-point lead. With teams Nos. 4-9 and 11 and 13 in action, this is probably as much of a must win for Carolina as they've had all season.
Nashville vs. Colorado, 3 p.m. ET
The Avalanche are 10 points out with 15 to go, so there is not much left for them to play for aside from the pole position for the Draft Lottery. Nashville, however, can tie themselves for eighth with a victory today, though the St. Louis Blues would have two games in hand as the tiebreaker. A loss, and the wrong results elsewhere, and the Preds could be stuck in 13th by the end of tonight, so two points is pretty huge.
NY Rangers vs. Montreal, 7 p.m. ET
The Blueshirts haven't won a game in Montreal since March 17, 2009. Chris Drury (!) got the shootout winner for the Rangers. Alex Kovalev was with the Canadiens, while Nik Antropov and Nik Zherdev were both with the Rangers. New York has scored one goal in their last four trips to Bell Centre combined. So this is probably not the right place for them to have a pivotal game. A positive result from the Rangers tonight and a negative one from the Islanders and they stay in eighth. If they Isles win, the Rangers need to keep pace or they will fall out of eighth spot. Montreal just needs two points to stay atop the Northeast Division.
Toronto vs. Ottawa, 7 p.m. ET
This is the biggest Leafs-Sens game since when, Ontarians? A Sens win and a 60-minute Bruins loss and Boston is tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference. If the Leafs get a 60-minute win, they tie the Senators for the fifth seed. The Bruins would have the tiebreaker on games played over the Senators and the Senators would have that same privilege over the Maple Leafs.
New Jersey vs. Florida, 7:30 p.m. ET
That loss to Tampa in the shootout last night was a straight-up giveaway of an extra point. The Devils could really have used that. Instead, they put an unnecessary onus on a game against the worst team in the league, points-wise, with Martin Brodeur playing two games in two nights for just the second time in the past two seasons. That said, two points and a Toronto loss puts the Devils two back of the Maple Leafs for sixth. With the Islanders and Rangers both playing teams they've struggled against, two points tonight would likely go a long way to keeping New Jersey safe.
Los Angeles vs. Minnesota, 8 p.m. ET
Here's an interesting one. Los Angeles is two points behind Minnesota with the same number of games played. The Kings hold the tiebreaker, however, with 18 regulation or overtime wins to the Kings' 17. A win in St. Paul tonight gives the Kings the fourth seed. A Wild winner, and a 60-minute Canucks loss, puts them back in the third seed of the Western Conference.
Vancouver vs. Edmonton, 10 p.m. ET
We just explained what Vancouver's terms are, essentially, so let's look at Edmonton. A win ties them for ninth place, though Dallas would hold the games-played tiebreaker. A loss and a positive result, points-wise, for Phoenix puts them three points back, with five teams to climb and 14 games left in the season. On home ice, this is pretty much a must-win game for the Oilers.
Phoenix vs. San Jose, 10:30 p.m. ET
The Sharks are playing about as well as they have since their season-opening winning streak when we all stupidly thought it would be San Jose and the Blackhawks going back and forth on top the Western Conference this season. Ah, were we ever that young? A Sharks victory would, at worst, put them in sole possession of sixth place, and at best it would tie them for fifth with the Kings should Los Angeles lose in 60 minutes. Phoenix is in pretty much the same spot as Edmonton. A win is a tie for tenth place, a loss and you're stuck in 13th with 13 games left.