NHL playoff picture: Red Wings need a win to jump back in eighth

Jonathan Daniel

After getting passed by Dallas last night, Detroit badly needs a point.

Saturday night was a pretty great night of hockey, with many games affecting the playoff race. In the Eastern Conference, the New York derby ended in a three-point game, with the Rangers gaining two points on the Jets, while the Isles stayed one point up on the Rangers. Toronto beat Montreal, but Carolina beat Boston, so the three Northeast Division playoff teams stayed put, and the Bruins didn't clinch a spot. The Capitals won in overtime, so they put their lead over the Jets for top seed in the Southeast to four points with six games to go for both.

Out in the Western Conference, the Kings beat the Ducks, putting the Kings solely in fourth place by three points over the Sharks, and within seven points of the Ducks, albeit with only six games to go. The Sharks lost, so they risk falling out of fifth today. The Wild lost, so they're only two points short of the nine line. Finally, Dallas and Columbus both won, so there's now a three-way tie for eighth place in the West, with the Stars holding the regulation/overtime wins tiebreaker. The Wings hold both relevant tiebreakers over the Blue Jackets.

Here's a look at the playoff standings after Saturday night's games.

Eastern Conference

Clinched Playoff Spot:

1. Pittsburgh Penguins, 64 points (42 games played)

2. Montreal Canadiens, 57 points (41 GP)

Currently in Playoff Position:

3. Washington Capitals, 48 points (42 GP)

4. Boston Bruins, 56 points (41 GP)

5. Toronto Maple Leafs, 51 points (41 GP)

6. Ottawa Senators, 48 points (41 GP)

7. New York Islanders, 47 points (42 GP)

8. New York Rangers, 46 points (41 GP)

On the Bubble:

9. Winnipeg Jets, 44 points (42 GP)

Western Conference

Clinched Playoff Spot:

1. Chicago Blackhawks, 66 points (40 GP)

2. Anaheim Ducks, 59 points (42 GP)

Currently in Playoff Position:

3. Vancouver Canucks, 52 points (41 GP)

4. Los Angeles Kings, 52 points (42 GP)

5. San Jose Sharks, 49 points (41 GP)

6. St. Louis Blues, 48 points (40 GP)

7. Minnesota Wild, 47 points (41 GP)

8. Dallas Stars, 45 points (41 GP)

On the Bubble:

9. Detroit Red Wings, 45 points (41 GP)

10. Columbus Blue Jackets, 45 points (42 GP)

11. Phoenix Coyotes, 43 points (41 GP)

Here are Sunday's matchups that could directly affect playoff positioning.

Chicago vs. St. Louis, 12:30 p.m. ET

A battle of the two teams that have played the fewest games to this point in the season. The Blues could really use a win to solidify their playoff standing. A victory jumps them into fifth place in the Western Conference. Even a point gives them a regulation/overtime win tiebreaker over the Sharks for the No. 5 seed. A loss, and that puts St. Louis three points short of the nine line with seven games to go. As for Chicago, a victory puts their magic number for clinching the top seed in the Western Conference at three points.

Detroit vs. Nashville, 7:30 p.m. ET

The Red Wings probably need a road win tonight more than they have all season. This might be their biggest game to date of 2012-13. The fact is that they are out of the playoff race if you drew the line today. A win makes everything better and puts you back in the top eight (for now), but they really need that win in Nashville. If they don't, not only do they stay in ninth because Dallas holds the regulation/overtime wins tiebreaker, they give Dallas back a game in hand and a chance to make more ground on Detroit when they visit the Blackhawks (never a team known for doing the Wings a favor) on Monday. A win soothes everyone though, for the time being.

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