Saturday night saw the NHL's Eastern Conference stay relatively tight. The Rangers moved within two points of the sixth seeded Senators, while the Islanders are firmly entrenched in eighth, tied but down on the games played tiebreaker to their New York rivals. Washington and Winnipeg both won, but the Caps remain in the Southeast penthouse due to the games played tiebreaker. The Devils were forced to the brink, losing for the sixth straight game, while the Leafs passed the idle Sens and moved into fifth.
Out in the Western Conference, Saturday saw the Kings move back up into fourth and the Canucks back into third with wins against teams currently outside the Western top eight. The Coyotes moved within two points of eighth place, and ahead of the rest of the pack trying to get inside position on chasing that eight spot, with a win over Colorado. Nashville fell a little further with a loss.
Let's take a look at the current standings.
Currently in Playoff Position:
1. Pittsburgh Penguins, 58 points (39 games played)
2. Montreal Canadiens, 55 points (38 GP)
3. Washington Capitals, 40 points (38 GP)
4. Boston Bruins, 52 points (37 GP)
5. Toronto Maple Leafs, 46 points (38 GP)
6. Ottawa Senators, 44 points (37 GP)
7. New York Rangers, 42 points (38 GP)
8. New York Islanders, 42 points (39 GP)
On the Bubble:
9. Winnipeg Jets, 40 points (40 GP)
10. New Jersey Devils, 39 points (39 GP)
Currently in Playoff Position:
1. Chicago Blackhawks, 60 points (37 GP)
2. Anaheim Ducks, 55 points (38 GP)
3. Vancouver Canucks, 48 points (38 GP)
4. Los Angeles Kings, 47 points (38 GP)
5. San Jose Sharks, 46 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. Phoenix Coyotes, 40 points (38 GP)
10. Edmonton Oilers, 39 points (38 GP)
11. Columbus Blue Jackets, 38 points (38 GP)
Here are some of tonight's games that will directly impact playoff positioning.
St. Louis vs. Detroit, 12:30 p.m. ET
St. Louis' first regular season appearance on NBC since 2007 is a big one. The Blues or Red Wings could end up in sixth place at the end of the day with a victory. St. Louis winning would put the line between eighth and ninth at at least three points, we could prove discouraging for some of the bubble teams. The loser of this one, however, will not be free of the bubble by any stretch.
Dallas vs. San Jose, 4 p.m. ET
Simple one here: San Jose can take over fourth place in the Western Conference with a victory. All three teams directly beneath them play today, so they'll also look to fight off the Wings, Blues and Wild. It's last gasp time for the mostly sold off Stars, who stand five points within eighth, a total that may increase by the time they even start play on Sunday.
Minnesota vs. Columbus, 6 p.m. ET
Minnesota would take fifth place on the regulation/overtime wins tiebreaker over San Jose if the Wild win and the Sharks lose in 60 minutes. Meanwhile, it's a must-win game for Columbus, who like Dallas, will likely see the point total between themselves and eighth place increase before they start playing.
Tampa Bay vs. Washington, 7 p.m. ET
Washington gets one of their games in hand over the Winnipeg Jets tonight. A win gives them first place in the division and third seed exclusively. A loss doesn't throw them out of third, but it is a wasted opportunity. Tampa Bay is six points back of Washington for the division lead, and a divisional victory to put them within four points of the Caps would go a long way toward determining whether the Ben Bishop trade might actually help them pull this off.
Nashville vs. Chicago, 7 p.m. ET
It's getting late in Nashville, where the Predators have lost their last two and gone 4-4-2 in their last ten. They sit four points behind eighth, and it's worth pointing out one more time that seven and eight in the Western Conference play each other today. A win could help them leapfrog into tenth, and two points back of eighth if Detroit loses. Chicago just looks to clinch a playoff spot today, as a point will get the job done.
New Jersey vs. Buffalo, 7:30 p.m. ET
The Devils have gone 0-3-3 without Ilya Kovalchuk, and the record has pushed them three points outside of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. Tonight they use up a game in hand they have on the eighth place New York Islanders, and they really need a win to stay in, as three points back with nine games left looks very bleak. Buffalo's six points back with 10 games left, making tonight more or less must-win if they want a prayer of a miracle run down the stretch.
Los Angeles vs. Anaheim, 9 p.m. ET
Remember when a game like this might be a battle for a bubble spot in the Western Conference? The LA-Anaheim rivalry features two elite NHL clubs nowadays. The Kings can move within six points of the Ducks and give themselves a prayer (however unlikely to be answered) at chasing a Pacific Division title. The Ducks can look toward trying to get their mojo back (4-5-1 in their last 10) and getting back to chasing the Blackhawks for the No. 1 seed.