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Several teams gain ground in playoff race

Monday, 02.28.2011 / 12:00 AM / Countdown to the Playoffs

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Several teams gain ground in playoff race
The trade deadline is just hours away, and while general managers across the NHL were likely busy working the phones, 16 teams were on the ice Sunday participating in a heated race to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Here's a look at how the races in each conference shape up after Sunday night's games:

Eastern Conference

Division leaders

Philadelphia (86 points) was idle. The Flyers do not return to the ice until Thursday, when they'll host Toronto at the Wells Fargo Center.

Tampa Bay (81 points)
increased its Southeast Division lead to five points with a 2-1 win against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. The Bolts play the second of a three-game road trip on Wednesday at New Jersey.

Boston (79 points after a 3-2 win at Edmonton) continues to shine on the road. The victory against the Oilers was the Bruins' fifth in as many games on their current trip. They'll look to close out this remarkable trip with a win at Ottawa on Tuesday.

The next five:

Pittsburgh (80 points) did not play Sunday. The Penguins return to the ice on Wednesday at Toronto.
 
Washington (76 points) was also off Sunday. The Capitals conclude a home-and-home series with the Islanders on Tuesday night at the Verizon Center.
 
Montreal (73 points) was idle Sunday and remains in sixth place in the Eastern Conference. The Canadiens face Atlanta on Tuesday at Philips Arena.

New York Rangers (70 points) had Bryan McCabe in the lineup, but they failed to pick up any points in the standings due to a 2-1 loss to Tampa Bay. The Blueshirts, who could be active on deadline day, host Buffalo on Tuesday.

Carolina (67 points) was off on Sunday. The Hurricanes host the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night at the RBC Center.

On the outside looking in:

Buffalo (65 points) was also off Sunday. The Sabres face the Rangers in Manhattan on Tuesday night. They'll have a new face in the lineup -- Buffalo acquired winger Brad Boyes from St. Louis on Sunday night for a second-round pick.
 
Toronto (63 points) blew a 2-0 lead on Sunday, but still managed to earn a point in the standings with a 3-2 overtime loss at Atlanta. With points in nine of their last 10 games (5-1-4), the Maple Leafs host Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
 
Atlanta (63 points) managed to pull even with the Leafs by rallying for a 3-2 overtime win against Toronto at Philips Arena. The Thrashers play the third match of their five-game homestand on Tuesday against Montreal.

Florida (59 points) failed to earn any points Sunday with a 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils at the BankAtlantic Center. The Panthers visit Carolina on Tuesday night.

New Jersey (58 points) is back to within single digits of a playoff spot thanks to Sunday's 2-1 victory at Florida. The Devils host Tampa Bay on Wednesday.

Western Conference

Division leaders:

Vancouver (87 points) was idle on Sunday. The Canucks host Columbus on Tuesday in the fifth of a six-game homestand.

Detroit (82 points) was also off Sunday. The Red Wings will be in Los Angeles to face the Kings on Monday night in a game that can be seen on the NHL Network, both in the U.S. and Canada.

San Jose (78 points) had the weekend off and doesn't play again until Tuesday. The Sharks are home for their next six games and 13 of their last 19.

The next five:

Phoenix (76 points) moved within two points of first-place San Jose in the Pacific Division with a 4-3 shootout loss at Chicago. The Coyotes host Dallas on Tuesday night after going 2-2-1 on a five-game trip.

Los Angeles (74 points) was idle on Sunday. The Kings return to the ice Monday night, when they'll host Detroit at the Staples Center.

Calgary (73 points) gained sole possession of sixth place in the Western Conference with a 1-0 win against St. Louis at Scotiabank Saddledome on Sunday night. The Flames head to the Midwest for games in St. Louis on Tuesday and Chicago on Wednesday.

Minnesota (72 points) was idle on Sunday. The Wild return to the ice on Monday as they host the Chicago Blackhawks in a game that can be seen on Versus in the U.S. and TSN2 in Canada.

Dallas (72 points) has won back-to-back games after a 1-8-1 slide dropped them out of the top eight in the West. The Stars were off Sunday and return to the ice Tuesday to face Phoenix at Jobing.com Arena.


On the outside looking in:

Chicago (72 points) made it four in a row Sunday with a 4-3 shootout win against Phoenix at the United Center. The surging Blackhawks get right back at it Monday night at Minnesota.

Nashville (72 points) pulled even with Minnesota, Dallas and Chicago thanks to Sunday's 3-2 win against Columbus at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators, who scored all of their goals in the third period, start a Western Canada trip in Edmonton on Tuesday. 

Anaheim (71 points) ended a five-game skid Sunday night with a 3-2 win against Colorado at the Honda Center. The Ducks return to action Wednesday against Detroit.

Columbus (68 points) began a five-game trip in losing fashion Sunday in a 3-2 loss at Nashville. The Blue Jackets now head to Western Canada for the next three, beginning with Tuesday's match at Vancouver.

St. Louis (65 points) failed to pick up any points Sunday as it dropped a 1-0 decision at Calgary. The Blues conclude their home-and-home series with the Flames on Tuesday at the Scottrade Center.
Quote of the Day

What we expected is what we got. Very mature young individual that's focused. He is on the right track. He's not only a great hockey individual, but he's a good person off the ice. He seemed to take a leadership role with this group right off the hop and ran away with it, and was vocal, was respectful, was everything it takes to be a Panther. His future looks bright.

— Florida Panthers director of player development Brian Skrudland on defenseman Aaron Ekblad's performance at development camp