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Coyotes grab first place in Pacific Division

Friday, 04.06.2012 / 10:38 PM / Drive to the Playoffs

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

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Coyotes grab first place in Pacific Division
Mike Smith's shutout streak ended Friday night. His winning streak is doing just fine, as are the Phoenix Coyotes' hopes of winning the Pacific Division.

Mike Smith's shutout streak ended Friday night. His winning streak is doing just fine, as are the Phoenix Coyotes' hopes of winning the Pacific Division.

The St. Louis Blues ended Smith's scoreless streak at 234 minutes and 25 seconds when Patrik Berglund popped in a second rebound at 14:26 of the first period. But that was the only goal Smith allowed as the Coyotes won 4-1 to move back into first place in the Pacific Division.

Radim Vrbata's 34th goal of the season 5:44 into the second period broke a 1-1 tie, and Shane Doan made it 3-1 when he beat Brian Elliott 2:10 later. Mikkel Boedker's goal midway through the third period ensured that the Coyotes would head to Minnesota for their season finale on top of the division. A win of any kind would give Phoenix the first division title in franchise history.

Friday was a night off for everyone except the Coyotes and Blues. All 30 teams hit the ice Saturday as the regular season ends with the fourth 15-game day in NHL history. Here's a look at how the races in both conferences shape up entering the final day.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Division leaders:

New York Rangers (109 points)

Clinched: Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference titles

Still winnable: Presidents' Trophy

Saturday's game: Washington (6:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN)

Possible playoff opponents: Washington, Florida, Ottawa

Final day: The Rangers can assure themselves of finishing first in the overall standings with a victory against the Caps -- and doing so would assure a rematch with Washington in the first round of the playoffs.

Boston (100 points)

Clinched: Northeast Division title

Still winnable: Nothing more -- they're locked into the second seed

Saturday's game: Buffalo

Possible playoff opponents: Washington, Florida, Ottawa

Final day: Defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Adam McQuaid are likely to sit as the Bruins tune up for the defense of their Stanley Cup championship.

Florida (92 points)

Clinched: A playoff berth

Still winnable: Southeast Division title

Saturday's game: Carolina

Possible playoff opponents: New Jersey, New York Rangers, Boston

Final day: The Panthers, back in the playoffs for the first time since 2000, have struggled down the stretch but need just one point against Carolina to wrap up the first division title in franchise history.

The next five:

Pittsburgh (106 points)

Clinched: Fourth place in Eastern Conference

Still winnable: Nothing in the standings

Saturday's game: Philadelphia (4 p.m. ET; NBCSN)

Playoff opponent: Philadelphia

Final day: With nothing at stake except pride, the Penguins may opt to rest goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and some of their top players against their in-state rival and first-round opponent, though coach Dan Bylsma wasn't saying much after Friday's practice.

Philadelphia (103 points)

Clinched: Fifth place in Eastern Conference

Still winnable: Nothing in the standings

Saturday's game: At Pittsburgh (4 p.m. ET; NBCSN)

Playoff opponent: Pittsburgh

Final day: Like the Penguins, the Flyers say they'll play hard in the season finale -- but don't expect anyone with any kind of injury to see much (if any) ice time.

New Jersey (100 points)

Clinched: Sixth place in Eastern Conference

Still winnable: Nothing in the standings

Saturday's game: Ottawa

Possible playoff opponents: Washington or Florida -- whichever team wins the Southeast Division

Final day: New Jersey enters its season final having won five in a row; a six-game streak would be the Devils' longest of the season. David Clarkson (lower body), a surprise 30-goal scorer this season, might sit out to get healthy for the playoffs.

Ottawa (92 points)

Clinched: A playoff berth

Still winnable: Seventh place

Saturday's game: At New Jersey

Possible playoff opponents: Boston, New York Rangers

Final day: The Senators need a point to assure themselves of finishing seventh. They'll be playing without forward Chris Neil, who crashed headfirst into the boards during a drill at Friday's practice and didn't make the trip to New Jersey.

Washington (90 points)

Clinched: A playoff berth

Still winnable: Southeast Division title or seventh place

Saturday's game: At New York Rangers (6:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN)

Possible playoff opponents: New York Rangers, Boston, New Jersey

Final day: A loss of any kind means the Caps will be back at Madison Square Garden next week for their playoff opener. They need a win and a regulation loss by Florida to win the Southeast Division, or a win and a regulation loss by Ottawa to jump into seventh.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Division leaders:

Vancouver (109 points)

Clinched: Northwest Division title

Still winnable: First place in Western Conference and Presidents' Trophy

Saturday's game: Edmonton (10 p.m. ET; CBC)

Possible playoff opponents: San Jose, Los Angeles, Phoenix

Final day: After a sloppy third period in Calgary on Thursday ended their seven-game winning streak, the Canucks need one point to clinch the West; they would need to finish with one more point than the Rangers to win the Presidents' Trophy.

St. Louis (107 points after Friday's 4-1 loss to Phoenix)

Clinched: Central Division title

Still winnable: First place in Western Conference

Saturday's game: At Dallas

Possible playoff opponents: Phoenix, San Jose, Los Angeles

Final day: The loss to the Coyotes in their home finale cost the Blues a chance to finish first overall. They can still finish No. 1 in the West by beating Dallas if Vancouver loses in regulation.

Phoenix (95 points after Friday's 4-1 win at St. Louis)

Clinched: A playoff berth

Still winnable: Pacific Division title

Saturday's game: At Minnesota

Possible playoff opponents: Vancouver, St. Louis, Chicago

Final day: The Coyotes are a win away from winning a division title for the first time since the franchise entered the NHL as the Winnipeg Jets in 1979. The Coyotes are 1-1-1 against Minnesota this season but won their only previous visit to St. Paul.

The next five:

Nashville (102 points)

Clinched: A playoff berth

Still winnable: Fourth place in the West and the final home-ice advantage in the first round

Saturday's game: At Colorado

Possible playoff opponents: Detroit, Chicago

Final day: The Predators will know well before the opening faceoff whether they need to get a point against the Avs to wrap up fourth place. They've won their first three meetings with Colorado this season.

Detroit (101 points)

Clinched: A playoff berth

Still winnable: Fourth place in the West and the final home-ice advantage in the first round

Saturday's game: Chicago (1 p.m. ET; NBC/TSN2)

Possible playoff opponents: Nashville, Chicago

Final day: A win gives the Wings a chance to finish fourth and open the playoffs against Nashville in Detroit; a regulation loss would drop them behind the Hawks into sixth.

Chicago (99 points)

Clinched: A playoff berth

Still winnable: Fifth place in the West

Saturday's game: At Detroit (1 p.m. ET; NBC/TSN2)

Possible playoff opponents: Nashville, Los Angeles, San Jose, Phoenix

Final day: Captain Jonathan Toews will sit out again, though the Hawks hope he'll be ready for the playoffs. A regulation win means they finish fifth and will open the playoffs in Nashville; anything else will send Chicago to the home of the Pacific Division winner next week.

Los Angeles (94 points)

Clinched: A playoff berth

Still winnable: Pacific Division title

Saturday's game: At San Jose (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN)

Possible playoff opponents: Chicago, Vancouver, St. Louis

Final day: The Kings missed a chance to control their own fate when they blew a 3-1 lead to the Sharks at home on Thursday and lost 6-5 in a shootout. Saturday's winner finishes ahead of the loser and could go home with the division title, depending on how the Coyotes fare at Minnesota.

San Jose (94 points)

Clinched: A playoff berth

Still winnable: Pacific Division title

Saturday's game: Los Angeles (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN)

Possible playoff opponents: St. Louis, Vancouver, Chicago

Final day: The Sharks and Kings will know exactly where they stand in terms of winning the division title by the time they face off in the 1,230th and final game on the NHL schedule. The loser is assured of finishing eighth.

Quote of the Day

I'm sure [my father] was going crazy up there. I hope all of my friends were celebrating in the crowd. Coming back here and all of my friends and family are here, getting a goal in front of them is special.

— Blues forward Ryan Reaves on scoring the game-winning goal Sunday against the Jets in his hometown of Winnipeg
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