NHL Schedule: 5 questions for Saturday

USA TODAY Sports

A daily feature which asks the five hardest-hitting questions imaginable about this day in the NHL. Will our quandaries be answered? (That doesn't count as one of the five questions.)

1. It's all come down to this: Who will get the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference? While a lot of games on Saturday's NHL slate will have a hand in determining what the first-round post-season matchups look like... let's face it, there's only three we really care about: Detroit vs. Dallas, Nashville vs. Columbus, Minnesota vs. Colorado. Detroit sits at 54 points, while Minnesota and Columbus have 53.

The easiest path into the playoffs belongs to the Red Wings, who just need one point and they're in. Minnesota needs a win to get in. Columbus needs a victory and either a Minnesota loss of any kind or a 60-minute Detroit loss. One wants to bank on the Blue Jackets, just because they'll be at home and they're probably the best story. But the Red Wings trying to hang on to their playoff streak and the Wild trying to come back from an embarrassing loss to Edmonton last night makes all three intriguing.

2. Who gets the last seed for home-ice advantage in the West? The Sharks and Kings play tonight at the Staples Center and it could determine the fourth seed in the Western Conference... or not, if the Blues can beat the Blackhawks at home earlier Saturday night. One of these three will get the No. 4 spot, the last home-ice seed in the conference. The Blues just need two points to guarantee starting off at Scottrade Center. The Kings get Games 1 and 2 at the Staples Center with a win over San Jose and any kind of St. Louis loss. The Sharks need to win and have St. Louis lose in 60 minutes.

3. How many of the Eastern Conference playoff seeds will be determined tonight? With Boston and Ottawa having to reschedule a game that would have taken place during the events at the Boston Marathon for Sunday, things may not be as down pat in the Eastern Conference as they will be in the West by the end of the night. A lot is still to be determined, especially the 6-8 seeds. Ottawa can get the spot if they win their last two games and do it in regulation. The Rangers get it with a win and some help from the opponents of the Senators. The Islanders -- one point ahead of both -- will have to wait it out, as they don't play Saturday or Sunday. They need Ottawa to lose twice and the Rangers once to get the No. 6 seed.

4. Will Boston finally lock down the Northeast Division crown? All season long, because of reschedulings, the Bruins have seemingly always had a game or two in hand on Montreal. Everyone assumed that eventually the Bruins would go on a run that cemented their Northeast Division title. Not so, as the Habs and B's are still tied headed into Saturday. A win and a Canadiens loss cements Boston as the second seed and forces Montreal to deal with Toronto. A loss, however, and that Sunday game against Ottawa will mean something. Maybe it'd be for the best if it didn't, in Boston's case.

5. Can Steven Stamkos overtake Martin St. Louis to win the Art Ross Trophy? Okay, this may not be as important as the other four, but it's worth looking out for. St. Louis is up 58 to 56 on Stamkos for the points lead, with both taking on the Florida Panthers in the last-ever Southeast Division game (hooray?!?), so it could get real weird for both of them. I'll be surprised if both aren't topping 60 by the end of the evening.

More in the NHL:

A day in the life of an off-ice official

On being wrong about the Blue Jackets

Six (!) outdoor games in 2014

The best of our hockey network

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