NHL playoff picture: Capitals, Bruins poised to take over division leads

USA TODAY Sports

The NHL postseason is on the horizon, with many teams still in the fight for playoff seeding.

Now that the NHL trade deadline has come to pass, the next key date on the NHL calendar will be the start of the playoffs.

Some teams are closing in on their final 10 games of the season, while others are nearing the mark. With several teams vying for playoff qualification, the final days of the season should prove to be intense.

Here are the current playoff standings entering competition on Thursday:

Eastern Conference

1. Pittsburgh Penguins, 56 points (38 games played)
2. Montreal Canadiens, 51 points (36 GP)
3. Winnipeg Jets, 38 points (38 GP)
4. Boston Bruins, 50 points (35 GP)
5. Toronto Maple Leafs, 44 points (36 GP)
6. Ottawa Senators, 44 points (36 GP)
7. New York Rangers, 39 points (36 GP)
8. New Jersey Devils, 39 points (36 GP)

Western Conference

1. Chicago Blackhawks, 57 points (35 GP)
2. Anaheim Ducks, 55 points (37 GP)
3. Minnesota Wild, 44 points (36 GP)
4. Vancouver Canucks, 44 points (36 GP)
5. San Jose Sharks, 44 points (36 GP)
6. Los Angeles Kings, 43 points (36 GP)
7. Detroit Red Wings, 41 points (36 GP)
8. Edmonton Oilers, 39 points (36 GP)

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

Flyers vs. Maple Leafs, 7 p.m. ET

Philadelphia sits four points back of a playoff spot and has won three straight.

Devils vs. Bruins, 7 p.m. ET

New Jersey currently holds the eighth seed in the East and has several competitors on its heels. Boston has the potential to jump the Canadiens for the Northeast lead.

Islanders vs. Capitals, 7p.m. ET

New York is in a three-way tie with the Rangers and Devils, but has played one extra game. In turn, the Islanders are on the outside looking in. Washington is three points back of a playoff spot and two points away from the Southeast lead, which would catapult them into third place in the East with a win and a Jets loss.

Jets vs. Canadiens, 7:30 p.m. ET

Both teams could lose their division leads with a loss.

Lightning vs. Hurricanes, 7:30 p.m. ET

Carolina is four points back in the Southeast, but has played one fewer game than both Washington and Winnipeg.

Blues vs. Blackhawks, 8:30 p.m. ET

St. Louis can take over eighth place with a win and any kind of loss by Edmonton.

Oilers vs. Canucks, 10:30 p.m. ET

Edmonton stands to lose the eighth seed without a win on Thursday night. Vancouver can take over the Northwest Division lead with a win and a Minnesota loss against the Los Angeles Kings.

More in the NHL:

Every deadline day trade

Grading the trading

Pitkanen injury renews hybrid icing debate

Why puck possession matters

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