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Blackhawks move into fourth place in West

Thursday, 03.03.2011 / 1:08 AM / Countdown to the Playoffs

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Blackhawks move into fourth place in West
The Chicago Blackhawks continue to climb up the Western Conference standings.

The defending Stanley Cup champs are now in fourth place in the West following Wednesday night's 6-4 win against the Calgary Flames at the United Center. Chicago and Phoenix now each have 76 points, but the Blackhawks have two more victories than the Coyotes.

In the East, the Toronto Maple Leafs moved within four points of a playoff spot, while the New Jersey Devils also pulled back within single digits. New Jersey is now nine behind Carolina with a game in hand.

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

Eastern Conference

Division leaders

Philadelphia (86 points) has been off since Saturday but returns to the ice on Thursday night against Toronto at the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers have been spending their free time working on their struggling power play, which is in a 2-for-27 slump.

Tampa Bay (81 points) returned to the ice Wednesday, but failed to come away with any points due to a 2-1 loss at New Jersey. The Bolts get right back at it on Thursday night at Boston.

Boston (81 points) was idle Wednesday, enjoying a well-deserved day off after going 6-0-0 on a six-game road trip. It marked the first time the Bruins have accomplished such a feat since 1972 -- coincidentally, that's the last time the B's hoisted the Stanley Cup. Boston returns to TD Garden on Thursday to face the Lightning.

The next five:

Pittsburgh (81 points) managed to get another point on Wednesday night in a 3-2 overtime loss at Toronto. It was the Pens' second game in a row at the Air Canada Centre -- they earned a 6-5 shootout win there on Saturday. Pittsburgh returns to the ice on Friday at New Jersey.

Washington (78 points) was off on Wednesday night. They're now three points behind No. 4 Pittsburgh following the latter's overtime loss at Toronto. The Caps return to action on Thursday night against St. Louis at the Verizon Center.

Montreal (75 points) was also idle Wednesday. The Habs are somewhat comfortable in sixth place considering their five-point lead on the Rangers. Montreal visits Florida on Thursday night.

New York Rangers (70 points) have just a one-point lead on No. 8 Carolina and just a three-point edge on No. 9 Buffalo, which has three games in hand on the Blueshirts. The Rangers will be somewhat desperate for points Thursday night, when they'll host Minnesota at Madison Square Garden.

Carolina (69 points) did not play on Wednesday. The Hurricanes host Buffalo on Thursday night in a huge game for both teams.

On the outside looking in:

Buffalo (67 points) began its seven-game road trip by beating the Rangers on Tuesday night. The trip continues Thursday at Carolina, where the Sabres will have a chance to pull even with the eighth-place 'Canes.

Toronto (65 points) improved to 5-1-4 in its last 10 games Wednesday night with its 3-2 overtime victory against Pittsburgh at the Air Canada Centre. Now just four points back of Carolina, the Maple Leafs visit Philadelphia on Thursday.

Atlanta (63 points) did not play Wednesday night. The Thrashers host Ottawa on Thursday night in the fourth of a five-game homestand.

New Jersey (60 points) moved ahead of Florida with Wednesday's 2-1 win against Tampa Bay at the Prudential Center. Now nine points behind Carolina, the Devils host Pittsburgh on Friday.

Western Conference

Division leaders:

Vancouver (89 points) was idle on Wednesday night, although its lead for the No. 1 seed was trimmed to four points thanks to Detroit's overtime loss at Anaheim. The Canucks return to the ice Thursday night against Nashville at Rogers Arena.

Detroit (85 points) managed to get another point in California on Wednesday night in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center. Now just four points behind Vancouver for the Western Conference lead, the Red Wings now head to San Jose to face the Sharks on Thursday.

San Jose (80 points) did not play on Wednesday. The Sharks, who have a four-point lead atop the Pacific Division, host Detroit on Thursday at HP Pavilion.

The next five:

Chicago (74 points) moved into fourth place in the West with Wednesday's 6-4 win against the Calgary Flames at the United Center. Chicago, which has two more victories than No. 5 Phoenix, hosts Carolina on Friday night.

Phoenix (76 points) was idle on Wednesday, but fell into fifth place thanks to Chicago's win against Calgary. The Coyotes, who have lost four straight, visit Los Angeles on Thursday night.

Calgary (75 points) failed to come away with any points in Wednesday's 6-4 loss at Chicago. The Flames return home to face Columbus on Friday night at Scotiabank Saddledome.

Dallas (74 points) was off on Wednesday. The Stars play the three California teams in a four-day span, starting Friday night at Anaheim.

Los Angeles (74 points) did not play Wednesday night. Newcomer Dustin Penner, who was acquired from Edmonton on Monday, is expected to be in the lineup when Phoenix comes to the Staples Center on Thursday.

On the outside looking in:

Anaheim (73 points) moved into ninth place in the West when Bobby Ryan beat Jimmy Howard on a penalty shot in overtime. The Ducks, who have two more victories than No. 10 Nashville, continue their seven-game homestand on Friday against Dallas.

Nashville (73 points) was idle on Wednesday night. The Predators, who have lost five of their last six games, play the second of their four-game road trip on Thursday at Vancouver.

Minnesota (72 points) failed to pick up any points on Wednesday night in a 4-1 loss to the New York Islanders at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Wild play their second game in New York in as many nights on Thursday against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Columbus (69 points) did not play Wednesday night. The Blue Jackets return to action on Thursday night at Edmonton.

St. Louis (65 points) was also off on Wednesday. The Blues begin a two-game road trip on Thursday at Washington before heading to Long Island for a Saturday matinee against the Isles.
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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