NHL playoff picture: Busy day for close postseason races

Jesse D. Garrabrant

There are ten games on the schedule for the NHL on Saturday and nearly each one has a direct bearing on the NHL postseason races.

Not a whole lot of shuffling happened in the NHL playoff picture on Friday night, other than the San Jose Sharks leapfrogging the Los Angeles Kings to No. 4 in the Western Conference. The Buffalo Sabres kept their thin postseason hopes alive, as did the Dallas Stars, although pushing into the playoffs is still a very slim chance for both teams.

While the New York Rangers lost in the shootout to the Penguins, the extra point gained in the game allowed New York to at least try and build some space between a playoff spot and the teams chasing the Eastern Conference bubble.

Here are the standings on Saturday morning.

Eastern Conference

Currently in Playoff Position:

1. Pittsburgh Penguins, 58 points (39 games played)

2. Montreal Canadiens, 53 points (37 GP)

3. Washington Capitals, 38 points (37 GP)

4. Boston Bruins, 52 points (36 GP)

5. Ottawa Senators, 44 points (37 GP)

6. Toronto Maple Leafs, 44 points (37 GP)

7. New York Ramgers, 40 points (37 GP)

8. New York Islanders, 40 points (39 GP)

On the Bubble:

9. New Jersey Devils, 39 points (37 GP)

10. Winnipeg Jets, 38 points (39 GP)

11. Philadelphia Flyers, 37 points (37 GP)

Western Conference

Currently in Playoff Position:

1. Chicago Blackhawks, 58 points (36 GP)

2. Anaheim Ducks, 55 points (38 GP)

3. Vancouver Canucks, 46 points (37 GP)

4. San Jose Sharks, 46 points (37 GP)

5. Los Angeles Kings, 45 points (37 GP)

6. Minnesota Wild, 44 points (37 GP)

7. Detroit Red Wings, 43 points (38 GP)

8. St. Louis Blues, 42 points (36 GP)

On the Bubble:

9. Edmonton Oilers, 39 points (37 GP)

10. Columbus Blue Jackets, 39 points (38 GP)

11. Phoenix Coyotes, 38 points (37 GP)

12. Nashville Predators, 38 points (38 GP)

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

Philadelphia Flyers at Winnipeg Jets - 3 p.m. ET

The Flyers and Jets both sit outside the current Eastern Conference playoff picture and with just nine games remaining for Winnipeg, the chances of fighting their way into the postseason become slimmer with each loss. While the Jets have been in freefall with just three wins in their past ten games, the Flyers have fought back into the race with four straight wins and now sit just three points behind No. 8 in the East.

Chicago Blackhawks at Nashville Predators - 3 p.m. ET

The Predators are one of those teams barely hanging onto postseason hopes and a loss tonight could spell disaster. Five points out of a playoff spot, the Predators have just ten games remaining in the season to leap four other teams to get back into the postseason, a tough reality to face for a team that had nothing but momentum for the franchise a season ago.

Edmonton Oilers at Los Angeles Kings - 4 p.m. ET

The Oilers have suddenly earned points in seven of ten games and could, finally, fight into a playoff spot. They're still three points back of St. Louis for the final spot in the West and have played one more game this season; the young Oilers are now finding out what a true playoff race is all about.

Toronto Maple Leafs at New Jersey Devils - 7 p.m. ET

At one point, the New Jersey Devils were sitting on top of the Eastern Conference yet have fallen into a freefall the second half of the season. The Devils have a chance to get back into the playoff picture, however, with a big game on Saturday evening against the Leafs. New Jersey has lost two straight, however, and have won just twice in ten games -- is it too late to turn things around?

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