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Playoff Pulse: Stars, Sabres desperately seek wins

Tuesday, 04.03.2012 / 1:40 PM / Drive to the Playoffs

By Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Playoff Pulse: Stars, Sabres desperately seek wins
There are 10 games on the NHL schedule Tuesday night, and all of them involve a team either battling for a playoff spot or improved position in their conference.

There are 10 games on the NHL schedule Tuesday night, and all of them involve a team either battling for a playoff spot or improved position in their conference.

With five days remaining in the regular season, five playoff spots, three division titles, both conference titles and the Presidents' Trophy all remain up for grabs.

2011-2012 Standings

Eastern Conference
GP
P
ROW
1
79
107
46
2
79
98
39
3
79
91
31
4
79
102
39
5
79
101
42
6
79
96
33
7
79
92
35
8
80
88
36
9
79
86
31
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.
04/03/12 1:48PM

The marquee matchup features a Pacific Division showdown between the San Jose Sharks and Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center. The Sharks sit eighth in the Western Conference with 90 points; the Stars are in ninth with 89 points. A regulation loss could spell the end for the Stars, who could find themselves three points out of eighth place with just two games remaining.

Meanwhile, the Sharks wouldn't be much better off with a regulation loss. The Stars own the tiebreaker, and the seventh-place Phoenix Coyotes enter Tuesday night with a one-point lead on the Sharks and also have one more regulation/OT win.

Here's a look at the other nine games on the docket and what's at stake:

Toronto Maple Leafs at Buffalo Sabres-- The Tampa Bay Lightning did the Sabres a huge favor Monday night by beating the Washington Capitals in regulation. The Sabres can move into a tie for eighth in the East with a win against the Leafs, although the Caps own the tiebreaker. Both the Sabres and Caps will have two games remaining after Tuesday. If the Sabres lose in regulation against the Leafs, the Caps only need one win in their final two games to clinch the No. 8 spot.

Winnipeg Jets at Florida Panthers -- All the Panthers need is one win in their final three games to win the Southeast Division and secure the No. 3 seed in the East. If the Panthers lose in overtime or a shootout to the Jets, it would take a loss of any kind by the Sabres to clinch a playoff spot. If the Panthers lose in regulation, then the Sabres need to lose in regulation for Florida to clinch a playoff spot. The Panthers are 3-1-1 against the Jets this season, but lost 7-0 in Winnipeg in the most recent matchup.

New York Rangers at Philadelphia Flyers-- If the Rangers can push the Flyers to overtime, the No. 1 seed in the East is theirs. The Rangers can take command in the race for the Presidents' Trophy with a win and a loss by the Canucks, who are tied with the Rangers with 107 points. The Flyers are one point behind the Penguins for the No. 4 seed in the East with each team still having three games to play, including a head-to-head matchup in Pittsburgh on the final day of the season. The Rangers have beaten the Flyers in all five meetings this season in regulation.

Pittsburgh Penguins at Boston Bruins-- The Bruins are locked into the No. 2 seed in the East, one of the reasons backup goaltender Marty Turco will be between the pipes. The Penguins, however, can still win the East with victories in their final three games and regulation losses by the Rangers in their final three games. The Penguins would also like to hold off the Flyers for the No. 4 seed and home-ice advantage in a first-round series with their Pennsylvania rivals.

2011-2012 Standings

Western Conference
GP
P
ROW
1
79
107
42
2
79
106
44
3
80
93
34
4
79
99
39
5
79
98
41
6
80
98
38
7
79
91
33
8
79
90
32
9
79
89
35
10
80
88
32
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.
04/03/12 1:48PM

Columbus Blue Jackets at Phoenix Coyotes-- The Coyotes enter the night in seventh place, but can drop to ninth with a regulation loss and a win by the Stars against the Sharks. The 30th-place Jackets won't be a pushover, either -- they've won three straight against the Red Wings, Panthers and Blues. Even more concerning for the Coyotes -- the Jackets have won all three matchups this season, outscoring Phoenix 12-7.

Minnesota Wild at Nashville Predators-- Much like the Penguins/Flyers battle in the East, it's a Predators/Red Wings tussle for the No. 4 spot in the conference. A win would send the Predators past the Red Wings in the standings. Each team has three games remaining entering Tuesday, although the Wings have the night off. The Wild enter this game on a three-game winning streak.

Anaheim Ducks at Vancouver Canucks-- The Canucks are trying to stave off the St. Louis Blues, who are one point back in the chase for the top spot in the West. Vancouver is also tied with the Rangers in the chase for the Presidents' Trophy, and each team has three games remaining.

Carolina Hurricanes at Ottawa Senators -- The Sens appear to be locked into the No. 7 spot in the East, but they can still catch the New Jersey Devils for the No. 6 spot. By earning a point, the Sens can assure themselves no worse than the seventh seed. Should the Sens lose and the Devils earn a point, there would be no way to improve on their No. 7 spot.

New York Islanders at New Jersey Devils -- The Devils need three regulation wins and three regulation losses by the Flyers to climb to fifth in the East. The more realistic goal is solidifying the No. 6 seed and setting up a first-round matchup with the Southeast winner, who will very likely have fewer points than New Jersey. The Devils will be without David Clarkson (lower body) for Tuesday's game and Martin Brodeur gets a rest as Johan Hedberg will start in goal.

Quote of the Day

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres