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Bruins, Hawks can clinch playoff berths but need help

Friday, 03.30.2012 / 11:17 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

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Bruins, Hawks can clinch playoff berths but need help
Boston and Chicago can book places in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs even though neither team is playing Friday night -- both teams need a team they're competing with to lose to clinch.
In Boston, they'll be rooting loudly for the Penguins. And in Chicago, the city will turn into Oilers fans.

That's what happens when playoff spots are stake.

A Penguins regulation defeat of the red-hot Sabres would put the Bruins back in the playoffs, while an Oilers win against the Kings would hand the Blackhawks a playoff spot.

Those are just two of the games Friday that will have significant bearing on the playoff chase.

With 94 percent of the season played -- 1,160 of 1,230 games -- nine playoff spots, five division titles, both conference titles and the Presidents' Trophy remain up for grabs:

2011-2012 Standings

Western Conference
ROW = total number of regulation plus overtime wins. For tie-breaking purposes, wins obtained in a shootout are not counted. For full standings tiebreakers, click here.
03/30/12 11:20AM
Winnipeg Jets at Carolina Hurricanes -- It's win-or-else time for both these teams. Carolina's odds are the slimmest -- they need to win each of their five games and hope for lots of help. The Jets aren't far from that scenario.

Florida Panthers at Columbus Blue Jackets -- With the Capitals off Friday, the Panthers can stretch their Southeast Division lead to six points.

Montreal Canadiens at New York Rangers (7:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, TSN) -- The Rangers can extend their Eastern Conference lead on the Penguins to a nearly-insurmountable seven points with a win and a regulation loss by the Penguins.

Pittsburgh Penguins at Buffalo Sabres -- The hottest team in the League with five straight wins, the Sabres can shift their focus from the eighth spot to seventh place -- a victory would give them 88 points, the same as the team currently in the No. 7 spot, Ottawa. The Penguins, coming off back-to-back losses to the Islanders, need a victory not only to stay within striking distance of the Rangers for the conference title, but preserve their own lead on the Flyers for fourth place in the East.

Nashville Predators at Detroit Red Wings -- This will be the sixth meeting between the teams, and potentially the most important. This game could decide who has home-ice advantage in their likely first-round matchup. Entering the game, the Red Wings have a one-point lead.

Colorado Avalanche at Calgary Flames -- It is desperation time for both clubs. The Avs are 10th in the West, two points out of eighth place, but Friday will be their League-high 80th game, which is at least two more than any of the teams they're fighting with. The Flames are three points back, and time is running short for them as well.

Los Angeles Kings at Edmonton Oilers -- A Kings win could mean yet another change at the top of the Pacific Division, as a Los Angeles win and a Dallas loss would boost the Kings from eighth to third. Just gaining a point Friday would push them to seventh based on the third tie-breaker, as they have one more point (8-7) in the season series between the teams.

Dallas Stars at Vancouver Canucks (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN) -- The Stars need a victory -- or at worst the extra point for getting past regulation -- to stay atop the Pacific Division. A loss combined with a Kings win would knock the Stars to seventh and push the idle Coyotes to eighth. The Canucks, who have won four straight, can continue to put pressure on the West-leading Blues; a victory would pull them within one point of catching St. Louis.

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

Quote of the Day

It's not just going to happen on its own. We have to have guys commit to the areas we need to improve on. We're going to be better than last year but there is still a long way to go. But I really like the pieces and where we're headed.

— Sabres forward Tyler Ennis on the progress of Buffalo's rebuilding process