NHL playoff picture: Devils, Rangers fighting for postseason lives

Jared Wickerham

A number of big games on the slate tonight in the NHL as the Devils and Rangers both separately fight for their postseason lives against two of the tougher teams in the East.

The playoff picture is starting to round into form a bit, especially in the East, as teams like the Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers saw their slim playoff hopes fad with tough losses. The New York Islanders managed to skip ahead of the Rangers, while the Ottawa Senators have lost five straight and fans are starting to panic that their team could be the one that slips out of the top eight in the conference.

Out West, the Dallas Stars used a big 5-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings to move within two points of the Detroit Red Wings, with Columbus keeping pace thanks a shutout win over the San Jose Sharks.

Here's a look at the playoff picture:

Eastern Conference

1. Pittsburgh Penguins, 60 points (40 games played) *
2. Montreal Canadiens, 55 points (39 GP)
3. Washington Capitals, 44 points (40 GP)
4. Boston Bruins, 54 points (38 GP)
5. Toronto Maple Leafs, 48 points (39 GP)
6. Ottawa Senators, 44 points (39 GP)
7. New York Islander, 44 points (40 GP)
8. New York Rangers, 42 points (39 GP)
-----
9. Winnipeg Jets, 42 points (41 GP)
10.New Jersey Devils, 40 points (39 GP)

Western Conference

1. Chicago Blackhawks, 64 points (39 GP) *
2. Anaheim Ducks, 59 points (40 GP)
3. Vancouver Canucks, 50 points (39 GP)
4. Los Angeles Kings, 48 points (40 GP)
5. San Jose Sharks, 47 points (39 GP)
6. St. Louis Blues, 47 points (38 GP)
7. Minnesota Wild, 46 points (39 GP)
8. Detroit Red Wings, 43 points (39 GP)
------
9. Dallas Stars, 41 points (39 GP)
10. Columbus Blue Jackets, 41 points (40 GP)
11. Phoenix Coyotes, 40 points (40 GP)

* Denotes playoff berth locked up

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

Toronto Maple Leafs at New York Rangers - 7 p.m. ET

The Rangers desperately need wins down the stretch and now face one of the stronger teams in the East on Wednesday night. New York is just 4-4-2 in their past ten games and could potentially miss the postseason in a year that the Rangers were supposed Cup favorites when the year began.

Boston Bruins at New Jersey Devils - 7:30 p.m. ET

Here's another big game, with the Devils fighting for their postseason lives against a very good Bruins hockey team. Boston has been the stingiest hockey team in the league this season and with New Jersey once again struggling to score goals, could be a tough task for a desperate Devils hockey team.

Phoenix Coyotes at Edmonton Oilers - 9:30 p.m. ET

Technically, the Oilers and Coyotes are still very much alive -- only problem is just one team can win the game tonight. Both sit within striking distance of the No. 8 seed yet need to go on a serious run the final weeks of the season to have a chance.

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An NHL rink broken down: Sens edition

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