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Updated playoff projections: April 3rd

Tuesday, 04.03.2012 / 9:35 AM

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

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On the Playoff Button blog
Updated playoff projections: April 3rd
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 80 88 2 90 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: Every day brings new opportunity in the quest for Stanley Cup Playoffs qualification.

For the Florida Panthers, Tuesday brings the opportunity to end the longest current playoff drought in the NHL. The Panthers have not participated in a playoff game since 2000, but that can end with a win Tuesday night. Not only would the Panthers be in, but they would clinch the Southeast Division after the Capitals opened that possibility with a loss to Tampa Bay on Monday. Heck, the Panthers don't even have to beat Winnipeg to get in. IF the Panthers lose in overtime or a shootout, they would clinch if Buffalo losses to Toronto in any fashion. If the Panthers lose in regulation, they would clinch a playoff berth if Buffalo loses in reegulation. In either of those two latter scenarios, the Southeast Division title would remain in play.

Speraking of Buffalo, the Sabres are also trying to take advantage of the generosity shown by the Caps in dropping Monday night's game. The Sabres can't rely on anybody to help them, they must help themselves. With a victory, Buffalo would jump back into a points tie with the Capitals, who play Florida on Thursday.

So, this is how Tuesday looks in the East; Florida needs to win but can hope for a regulation loss by the Sabres to clinch a playoff spot. Buffalo is cheering for Winnipeg to beat the Panthers just as it cheered for the Lightning to beat the Capitials. Washington is cheering for the Jets and Maple Leafs to win. If the Sabres lose at home to the Maple Leafs, Buffalo's playoff hopes would be on life support. Needless to say, the Jets and Maple Leafs have big says in the role of spoilers as to how the Eastern Conference playoff race finishes.

In the West, San Jose visits Dallas with both teams controlling their playoff destinies. The Stars hold the tie breaker with more ROW (regulation and overtime) wins so a victory by any means benefits them. A loss to the Sharks, however, forgeits the ability of Dallas to control its own destiny.

San Jose can still win the Pacific Division as it meets the Kings, the current first-place team, in its final two games of the season. Losing to Dallas is no loss of playoff destiny, but the road becomes a lot more difficult.

Sitting pretty are the Phoenix Coyotes. They're playing the League's worst team in Phoenix and the Stars and Sharks game can deliver two points to one team. It's even better, though, if there is no third point, courtesy of overtime or a shootout. But, to realize the potential for benefits, Phoenix must win its game  -- and that is no easy feat as the Blue Jackets have  won three in a row, including wins against St. Louis and Detroit.

There is a scenario where the Coyotes, Sharks and Stars could all end the night tied with 91. If that is the case, the Stars would move to No. 7, the Coyotes to No. 8 and the Sharks would be on the outside looking in.
Quote of the Day

I'm just excited about the opportunity. I've been on the ice earlier than usual and in the weight room, pushing around a little more weights than usual. Every day I go into a workout with a smile on my face and ready to go. When you do have a little more responsibility, you want to take your lunch pail and get ready to work.

— Brian Elliott to Jeremy Rutherford of the Post-Dispatch on being the Blues' No. 1 goalie