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Posted On Thursday, 03.03.2011 / 10:51 AM

By Darryl Haberman -  NHL.com Director, Production /NHL.com - Countdown to the Playoffs

If the playoffs started today ...

The defending champs are a force to be reckoned with after spending most of the season outside the playoff picture. The roar is back in the Windy City as the Blackhawks are now in fourth place in the West following Wednesday night's 6-4 win vs. Calgary. A 7-1-2 stretch, including six straight victories, has Chicago in position to secure home-ice advantage in the first round -- if the playoffs started today.

In the East, the red-hot New Jersey Devils are fighting to stay alive in the playoff race. A magical 18-2-2 run has them within nine points of the eighth and final playoff spot with only 19 games remaining. Remember, it wasn't too long ago that the Devils were 27 points out and had the worst record in hockey.

For the latest on the playoff race and what potential first-round matchups would be, check out our enhanced playoff standings.


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You don't see many. The [Drew] Doughtys, the [P.K.] Subbans, those are guys that create offense from the back and then on top of that ability, the size that he has. In the West you play against some pretty big players, and being able to clear the crease and contain the [Ryan] Getzlafs and the [Corey] Perrys and [Anze] Kopitars and players like that, we're excited about him going back there.

— Sharks general manager Doug Wilson on Brent Burns returning back to defense