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Posted On Monday, 04.02.2012 / 9:47 AM

By Craig Button -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - On the Playoff Button blog

Updated playoff projections: April 2nd

NHL Network's Craig Button has been tracking playoff positioning -- using a variety of statistical categories -- for several years now. His formula, while not a true probability exercise, has proven to be very effective at predicting the cutoff number to secure a Stanley Cup Playoffs berth.

In its simplest terms, Button's formula uses a team's current winning percentage, factoring in games remaining, to arrive at the number of wins -- and points -- each team will finish the season with. From that exercise, the formula can extrapolate the magic number for qualification and which teams currently in the race will reach that number. This equation will also determine tiebreakers should they become necessary.

Still not convinced? Check out the full explanation of Button's formula

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Current
Position
NHL
Team
Games
Played
Current
Points
Games
Remaining
Projected
Points
Wins to
earn 8th
7th 79 92 3 95
8th 79 88 3 91 2

9th 79 86 3 89 3
 
WESTERN CONFERENCE
Current
Position
NHL
Team
Games
Played
Current
Points
Games
Remaining
Projected
Points
Wins to
earn 8th
6th 80 98 2 100
7th 79 91 3 94 2
8th 79 90 3 93 2

9th 79 89 3 92 3
The skinny: The Washington Capitals visit the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday with an opportunity to apply enormous pressure to the Buffalo Sabres.

A win by the Caps and the end will be near in Buffalo on Tuesday when the Sabres put their Stanley Cup Playoff hopes on the line against the Maple Leafs, who already beat Buffalo this past weekend to put the Sabres in such a precarious position. If the Caps win Monday, Buffalo will be four points out, and on the losing end of the tiebreaker. With just three games remaining, and a maximum of six points on offer, the Sabres realistically would need to win out just to have a chance.

Whoever runs the music in the Washington dressing room might want to crank up Bachman-Turner Overdrive's "Takin' Care of Business" throughout the day because that is what this game is all about for the Caps. Washington is 3-1-1 against the already-eliminated Lightning this season, so there are no "mental" hurdles to overcome for the Caps. I'm a big believer that when teams have an opportunity to put themselves in an advantageous position, it best get done. Washington has already beaten the Bruins and Canadiens in shootouts to get a leg up in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Amazingly, they still have an outside chance to win the Southeast Division as the Florida Panthers stumble to the finish line. Washington and Florida meet Thursday in a game that could have huge seeding implications. But first, Washington must take care of business Monday.

Moving to the West Coast, the Kings are in an almost identical situation to the Caps.

With a win Monday against the Edmonton Oilers, the Kings can move three points up on the Sharks and four on the Stars before those two teams meet on Tuesday in Dallas. However, both the Sharks and Stars will have played one less game than the Kings, who sit in the Pacific Division lead at the moment. Phoenix is also in the mix with 91 points.

With the projection in the West being 93 points to qualify, Los Angeles will feel good reaching that total with a victory on Monday, but little will be decided. If the Kings win, the Avalanche, who have two games remaining, will not be able to catch Los Angeles and the loser of Tuesday's Sharks-Stars game will begin to "look smaller" in the Kings' rear-view mirror. But if the Kings fail to win, they will find themselves in a real fight for a playoff spot as they conclude the season with two games against the Sharks.

A team with playoff designs has to beat teams below it in the standings at this point of the season, and with the Oilers far below the Kings, this is a must-have two points for Los Angeles. The Kings can't take the Oilers lightly, though, as Edmonton has reeled off three consecutive road victories and has a record of 5-0-2 in its past seven road games.

The teams not playing on a light Monday schedule will likely be glued to TVs across North America. You can bet the Sabres will be watching the game in Tampa, as will the Panthers. The Sharks, Stars, Coyotes and Avalanche will have a keen eye on Los Angeles and might even break into chants of "Let's go Oilers" as Stanley Cup Playoff hopes will rise and fall throughout the night.

The standings will tell the story at the end of the night, so be sure to check NHL.com for the definitive word. Six days to go in the regular season and the race is intensifying.
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Posted On Monday, 04.02.2012 / 9:00 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Prospecting with Central Scouting

Central Scouting pleased with final top 10

I caught up with most of the scouts prior to calling it a day on Sunday and they all agree that the top 5 of the 2012 rankings of North American skaters is as solid as it can get at this stage in the season.

Here's a wrap-up of NHL.com's four days at the final Central Scouting meetings.

"Right now you have to be pleased," Central Scouting's Peter Sullivan told NHL.com. "We'll go back and hum and haw. It's never finished until it's finished [on Wednesday] and we have that luxury to go back, but we're pleased overall."

Sullivan and B.J. MacDonald are the lead scouts of the Western Hockey League, which is stocked with many talented defensemen this year. Making the decisions are never easy, but they both feel confident in the placement of players.

"We all have our individual lists and after the area groups are put in order [read here], we have to have respect for our part-time guys who do a lot of work for us," Sullivan said. "If my player isn't where I want him, I have to respect the rest of the group. If they've seen them as much as I have, and if they feel a player is better than my own personal player, so be it. We are here as a team, and that's the way we operate.
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Posted On Monday, 04.02.2012 / 8:01 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Prospecting with Central Scouting

NHL Combine

The next big NHL event following the Draft Lottery in two weeks is the NHL Combine held in Toronto from May 28 through June 2.

While there is no confirmation to the number of North American and European invites at the Combine just yet, the 2011 Combine had the top 75 North American skaters and 18 international standouts. Head goalie scout Al Jensen has traditionally had the top eight goalies attend.
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Posted On Sunday, 04.01.2012 / 10:11 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

EDM @ ANA - 3:18 of the Third Period

At  3:18 of the third period in the Ducks/Oilers game, Nick Schultz received an interference penalty on the basis of rule 56.2 "a minor penalty shall be imposed on any identifiable player on the players' bench or penalty bench who, by means of his stick or his body, interferes with the movements of the puck or any opponent on the ice during the progress of the play. In addition, should a player about to come onto the ice, play the puck while one or both skates are still on the players' or penalty bench, a minor penalty for interference shall be assessed."
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Posted On Sunday, 04.01.2012 / 9:37 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

EDM @ ANA - End of Second Period



At the end of the second period in the Ducks/Oilers game, the official timekeeper determined that Ryan Getzlaf's shot crossed the goal line after time had expired in the second period. No Goal Anaheim.
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Posted On Sunday, 04.01.2012 / 5:19 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected Bruins-Rangers lineups

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers coach John Tortorella doesn't care that his team can clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference on Sunday night.

When asked if it means anything to get it done immediately against the Boston Bruins and if he discussed the situation with his team, he answered in the negative three times before walking out of the media room at Madison Square Garden.

Henrik Lundqvist will make his season-high ninth consecutive start for the Rangers.

The Rangers need just one point after the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-3 on Sunday afternoon at Consol Energy Center. In order for the Penguins to catch the Rangers, the Penguins must win their final three games and the Rangers must lose their final four all in regulation.

The Bruins can clinch the Northeast Division with a victory. With a win, the Bruins will guarantee themselves the second seed in the East.

Lundqvist stumbled a bit during March, dropping three of four starts before going 6-1-0 in his last seven starts with a 2.11 goals-against average and .912 save percentage.

Tim Thomas will make the start for the Bruins. Much like Lundqvist, he too has found his game of late, going 4-1-1 in his last six starts and hasn’t allowed more than two goals in any of those starts.

Here are the likely lineups for tonight's game, which will be aired on NBCSN and TSN2:

BRUINS

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Tyler Seguin
Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Rich Peverley
Benoit Pouliot - Chris Kelly - Brian Rolston
Shawn Thornton - Gregory Campbell - Jordan Caron

Zdeno Chara - Johnny Boychuk
Andrew Ference - Greg Zanon
Mike Mottau - Joe Corvo

Tim Thomas
Marty Turco

RANGERS

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky - Brian Boyle - Ryan Callahan
Ruslan Fedotenko - Derek Stepan - Artem Anisimov
Mike Rupp - John Mitchell - Brandon Prust

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto - Stu Bickel

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Sunday, 04.01.2012 / 3:32 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

OTT @ NYI - 7:55 of the First Period

At 7:55 of the first period in the Senators/Islanders game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that John Tavares centering pass deflected off Mark Streit's left skate and into the Senators net. According to rule 49.2 "A puck that deflects into the net off an attacking player's skate who does not use a distinct kicking motion is a legitimate goal."  Good Goal Islanders.
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Posted On Sunday, 04.01.2012 / 3:07 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

PHI @ PIT - 15:18 of the Third Period

At 15:18 of the third period in the Penguins/Flyers, video review conclusively determined that Steve Sullivan's shot crossed the goal line. The penalty on the Flyers that was to be called is negated because according to rule 78.6 "any penalties signaled during the period of time between the apparent goal and the next stoppage of play shall be assessed in the normal manner, except when a minor penalty is to be assessed to the team scored upon, and is therefore nullified by the scoring of the goal". Good Goal Pittsburgh and No Penalty on Philadelphia.
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Posted On Sunday, 04.01.2012 / 2:01 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers-Red Wings projected lineups

DETROIT -- The regular season is winding to a close this week and as it does, there are some in the Motor City who are starting to look at possible first-round matchups and hoping for the most favorable opponent for the Detroit Red Wings.

The Red Wings, however, are not among those sizing up the opposition in the Western Conference. They know whichever team they face first will pose a tough challenge, which means the only thing they care about now is trying to secure at least one round of home-ice advantage.

Some fans have even hoped the Wings -- currently fifth in the West -- would slip into the sixth seed to avoid playing the well-balanced, defense-oriented Nashville Predators first.

"You know what, with that you're flirting with danger there when you're trying to pick your matchups," Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard said after Saturday's practice at Joe Jouis Arena. "You want to be playing your best and you want to go in there feeling like no matter who you're playing, you'll beat. You don't want to be flirting with disaster there by trying to pick your opponent."

The Red Wings host the Florida Panthers on Sunday afternoon at the "Joe" in a big game for both teams in terms of the postseason. Florida is trying to hang onto first place in the Southeast Division and the third seed in the Eastern Conference that comes with it, while Detroit will try to surpass the West's fourth-place Predators and surging Chicago Blackhawks.

Nashville lost at home on Saturday night to the Blackhawks, which pulled Chicago even in points (97) with the Red Wings. Detroit is technically ahead because of tie-breakers, but Chicago could pass both the Wings and Preds with a Panthers win on Sunday in the Motor City and a Blackhawks win on Sunday night in the Windy City.

Why are the remaining games and the points at stake still more important to all three Central Division rivals than who they face in the quarterfinal round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

"Because home ice advantage, even if it's only for one round ... can be vital in the playoffs in a series," Howard said. "By no means can we just coast in there. We've got to be playing and all be on our game."

Neither Florida nor Detroit skated on Sunday morning, but here is a look at how both teams could line up when the puck is dropped:

PANTHERS

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Scottie Upshall
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Wojtek Wolski - Shawn Matthias - Kris Versteeg
Krys Barch - John Madden - Tomas Kopecky

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Eric Gudbranson

Scott Clemmensen
Jose Theodore


RED WINGS

Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Gustav Nyquist - Pavel Datsyuk - Johan Franzen
Danny Cleary - Justin Abdelkader - Todd Bertuzzi
Drew Miller - Cory Emmerton - Tomas Holmstrom

Nicklas Lidstrom - Jonathan Ericsson
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Kyle Quincey - Jakub Kindl

Jimmy Howard
Ty Conklin
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Posted On Sunday, 04.01.2012 / 1:17 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Letang makes surprise return to the lineup

PITTSBURGH -- Penguins defenseman Kris Letang made a surprise return to the lineup for a key Atlantic Division game Sunday against Philadelphia.

Letang missed three consecutive games with a lower body injury that resulted from him slamming feet first into the boards after he was tripped last Sunday against New Jersey. Letang did not accompany the Penguins on a two-game road trip in which they played the Islanders Thursday and the Sabres Friday.

The Penguins also did not practice Saturday -- coach Dan Bylsma called off a scheduled practice -- but Letang returned to play Sunday despite not being on the ice with the team for a week.

Letang, one of the NHL's premier two-way defensemen, has nine goals and 27 assists in 47 games, missing nearly two months with a concussion earlier in the season.

Letang has 20 points, including three goals, in 26 games against the Flyers, who went into the game trailing Pittsburgh by three points in the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division standings.
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Quote of the Day

My job was to get that puck and put it on net, and his job was not letting me do it. I got the best of that, but that game's over and to be honest I already forgot about it.

— Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk on his late game-tying goal in Montreal's 2-1 OT win
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