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NHL playoff picture: Battle for positioning in tight race continues

The NHL postseason is closer than we realize, with many teams still very much in the fight for the playoffs. We run down all of the important action on Monday.

Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

We are now well over the halfway mark in this shortened NHL season and with just 20 or 21 games remaining for most teams around the NHL, the postseason is race is starting to heat up. Here are the current playoff standings for each conference as of Monday morning:

East:

1. Pittsburgh Penguins, 44 pts (30GP)
2. Montreal Canadiens, 42 pts (28GP)
3. Winnipeg Jets, 32 pts (29GP)
4. Boston Bruins, 41 pts (27GP)
5. Ottawa Senators, 36 pts (29GP)
6. Toronto Maple Leafs, 32 pts (29GP)
7. New Jersey Devils, 32 pts, (29GP)
8. Carolina Hurricanes, 31 pts (27GP)

West:

1. Chicago Blackhawks, 49 pts (28GP)
2. Anaheim Ducks, 44 pts (27GP)
3. Minnesota Wild, 32 pts (27GP)
4. St. Louis Blues, 34 pts (28GP)
5. Detroit Red Wings, 33 pts (29GP)
6. Los Angeles Kings, 32 pts (27GP)
7. Vancouver Canucks, 32 pts (27GP)
8. San Jose Sharks, 30 pts (27GP)

Here are games from Monday that could have a direct effect on playoff positioning:

Carolina at New York, 7 p.m. ET
The Rangers' postseason hopes are still very much alive, as they sit three points back of the Hurricanes for the No. 8 spot in the East. Carolina, possessing a few games in hand on the teams above them, could start to leapfrog back up the standings with a big win on Monday.

Minnesota at Vancouver, 10 p.m. ET
The Canucks and Wild not only battle it out for the top spot in the Northwest division on Monday night but continue to jockey for the third spot in the West seedings.

San Jose at Anaheim, 10 p.m. ET
The Ducks have almost completely run away with the Pacific Division at this point, but the Sharks are still fighting for their postseason lives after an incredibly slow start to the season. The Sharks, who have just a three-point lead on the Dallas Stars in the difference between No. 8 and No. 13 in the West, will look to start building a buffer of their own.

Phoenix at Los Angeles, 10:30 p.m. ET
Same situation exists here, as the Kings will attempt to start to build some sort of buffer on their playoff position. The West, once again, consists of nine teams all within six points in the standings and every win to pull further ahead becomes more and more important.