It's April 6 and we're down to the final five days of the regular season. Still, the playoff races in each conference have not come to the finish line. Plenty of games still have added meaning with points at such a premium. NHL.com is here to give you a Down the Stretch daily that will highlight what you need to know about the games that directly impact the playoff races.
Here is the installment for Wednesday, April 6:
ST. LOUIS (37-33-10, 84 points) at CHICAGO (42-28-9, 93 points)
Where they stand: St. Louis is 11th in the West; Chicago is eighth in the West. (8 p.m., Versus)
What's at stake: No matter what happens Chicago can't drop out of the top eight Wednesday; but the Blackhawks potentially can move into seventh. They currently are tied with Anaheim with 93 points, but the Ducks have four more non-shootout wins. The only way the Blackhawks move into seventh Wednesday is if they get more points than Anaheim, which hosts San Jose.
How's it going: The Blackhawks are skating on thin ice, but they still control their own playoff destiny. They picked up a point in Montreal on Tuesday to extend their cushion on Calgary and Dallas to two points. The Flames can't take over the eighth spot Wednesday because even if they beat Edmonton and the Blackhawks lose in regulation, the Hawks own the tiebreaker with a game in hand. Dallas will have a game in hand on the Blackhawks after Wednesday, but the Hawks can extend their lead on the Stars to four points with a win.
The Blues beat Colorado on Tuesday. They've won three of their past four and five of their past seven.
Upcoming: The Blackhawks close the regular season with a home-and-home against the Red Wings starting Friday in Detroit. They finish up Sunday in Chicago. The Blues regular-season finale is at home against Nashville on Saturday.
EDMONTON (25-43-11, 61 points) at CALGARY (40-29-11, 91 points)
Where they stand: Edmonton is 15th in the West; Calgary is 10th in the West
What's at stake: Calgary has to win and hope for some help. The Flames would be eliminated from playoff contention with a regulation loss or a Chicago victory.
How's it going: The Flames are making a strong final push but it might not be enough. They've won two in a row and three of their past four to stay alive in the Western Conference race, but it could end Wednesday. If the Flames finish the night two points behind Chicago they will be eliminated. Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay have 2 goals apiece in the past two games and Miikka Kiprusoff has stopped 59 of the past 62 shots he's faced. Kiprusoff's 34 saves were a huge reason why the Flames beat Colorado, 2-1, this past Sunday.
The Oilers could finish as the 30th-place team in the NHL for the second consecutive season, but they picked up a morale-boosting win Tuesday by blanking Vancouver by a 2-0 margin.
Upcoming: The Flames' regular-season finale is Saturday against the Presidents' Trophy-winning Canucks. The Oilers can't have an influence on the playoff race after Wednesday with games against Minnesota and Colorado left on their schedule.
DETROIT (46-23-10, 102 points) at CAROLINA (38-30-11, 87 points)
Where they stand: Detroit is third in the West; Carolina is ninth in the East
What's at stake: This game means everything to Carolina, and it would behoove the Hurricanes to win in either regulation or overtime. The Hurricanes are four points behind the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference race but they have a game in hand and just one fewer non-shootout win. If the 'Canes can beat the Red Wings in regulation or overtime, they would pull even in non-shootout wins and within two points of the idle Rangers for the final playoff spot. The Sabres are watching closely because they will clinch a playoff berth if the Hurricanes lose in any fashion.
How's it going: The Hurricanes had their three-game winning streak come to an end Sunday when Buffalo beat them in overtime, 2-1. However, Carolina's 3-0-1 record in the past four games has allowed it to stay alive in the playoff race. Eric Staal was held out of practice Tuesday, but he'll be in the lineup against Detroit.
The Red Wings have won two in a row since getting blown out by St. Louis in their own building by a 10-3 margin. Niklas Kronwall will miss his third straight game Wednesday with an upper-body injury. He remains day-to-day.
Upcoming: The 'Canes go to Atlanta on Friday and finish up at home Saturday against Tampa Bay. The Red Wings host the Blackhawks on Friday and play them again Sunday in Chicago.
SAN JOSE (47-23-9, 103 points) at ANAHEIM (44-30-5, 93 points)
Where they stand: San Jose is second in the West; Anaheim is seventh in the West
What's at stake: Anaheim will stay ahead of Chicago with a win but could finish the night in eighth with a loss and a Blackhawks win. San Jose is trying to stay ahead of Detroit for the second seed.
How's it going: The Ducks have lost two in a row to move right back on the playoff bubble. They were beaten by the Sharks and Stars during the weekend, getting outscored 8-5 in the process. Anaheim went 11-3 in March to move into the top eight in the West but it has not clinched anything yet.
The Sharks are the hottest team in the NHL. They've scored 20 goals during their current four-game winning streak and have 43 goals during an 8-0-1 run. Joe Thornton is one point away from reaching 1,000 for his career. Wednesday will be career game No. 993 for him. Patrick Marleau has paced the offense during the hot streak with 10 goals and 9 assists during the past 10 games. Marleau is up to a team-high 37 goals and 71 points.
Upcoming: The Sharks close up shop for the 2010-11 regular season with a home-and-home against the Coyotes starting Friday in Glendale. The Ducks have a similar home-and-home against Los Angeles starting Friday at home.
PHOENIX (42-25-12, 96 points) at LOS ANGELES (45-28-6, 96 points)
Where they stand: Phoenix is fifth in the West; Los Angeles is sixth in the West
What's at stake: The winner will clinch a playoff berth and move into fourth place in the Western Conference. The loser will finish the night in sixth place and still won't have a playoff berth locked up.
How's it going: The Coyotes are 3-2-1 since their five-game winning streak ended March 18. They haven't played since losing to Colorado in a shootout last Friday. The Coyotes expect to get some key players back Wednesday. Defenseman Ed Jovanovski might play for the first time since Feb. 18 and Lauri Korpikoski, who is tied for second on the team with 18 goals, will likely get back into the lineup for the first time since March 24. Taylor Pyatt might also be ready to return after missing last Friday's game.
The Kings had a forgettable performance Monday in San Jose, losing 6-1 to the red-hot Sharks. This might sound like a broken record, but the Kings have scored only seven goals in four games since Anze Kopitar went down with a season-ending ankle injury. They're 2-2 in those games and one of the wins came against the last-place Oilers.
Upcoming: Phoenix starts a season-ending home-and-home against San Jose Friday at home while the Kings start a season-ending home-and-home against the Ducks in Anaheim.
FLORIDA (29-38-12, 70 points) at WASHINGTON (47-22-11, 105 points)
Where they stand: Florida is 15th in the East; Washington is first in the East
What's at stake: Washington clinched the Southeast Division title on Tuesday and now has its sights set on clinching the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Capitals hold a two-point lead on the Flyers and each team has two games left. The Capitals can't clinch the top spot Wednesday because the Flyers still have one more non-shootout win and two games left.
How's it going: The Capitals might get All-Star defenseman Mike Green back Wednesday. GM George McPhee told the Washington Post on Tuesday that Green would be able to play Wednesday, but the Capitals are erring on the side of caution and will not make a decision on Green's availability until the morning. Green has missed 18 straight games since reportedly suffering a concussion on Feb. 25. The Capitals ran their winning streak to three games on Tuesday with a 3-2 shootout win. They're 17-3-1 in their past 21 games. Alexander Semin stayed home due to an undisclosed injury. His availability for Wednesday's game is not yet known.
The Panthers are winless in their last eight games, going 0-5-3 in the stretch.
Upcoming: The Capitals finish the regular season Saturday in Florida while the Panthers will play in Tampa on Friday before hosting Washington.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS (30-37-12, 72 points) at BOSTON (44-24-11, 99 points)
Where they stand: New York is 13th in the East; Boston is third in the East
What's at stake: Not a whole lot, actually. The Bruins still have an outside shot at moving up from third place in the Eastern Conference, but it seems more likely that they'll stay right where they are. They're probably more interested at what's going on at the bottom of the playoff race because their first-round opponent is still very much undecided.
How's it going: The Bruins were guilty of playing about 31 minutes of a 60-minute game Monday and they paid the price by giving up five unanswered goals to the Rangers in a losing effort. Boston jumped out to a 3-0 lead but let the Rangers back in it and then gave up three goals in the final four minutes to fall 5-3. Coach Claude Julien said it should serve as a learning experience to his club that they have to play a complete game in order to win.
The Islanders are coming off a 4-2 loss to the Hurricanes and they won't have defensemen Frans Nielsen (concussion) or Milan Jurcina (hip) for the final few games of the season.
Upcoming: The Bruins host the Senators on Saturday at TD Garden and play at New Jersey on Sunday. The Islanders host the Penguins on Friday at Nassau Coliseum and play at Philadelphia on Saturday.
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