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Much remains at stake with slate of Saturday games

Saturday, 04.27.2013 / 12:37 PM / Drive to the Playoffs

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Much remains at stake with slate of Saturday games
Much remains at stake with heavy slate of Saturday games

While the final regular-season game Sunday night between the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators could be what determines the Northeast Division winner as well as some Eastern Conference first-round matchups, much of what fans want to know about the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs will become clear by the end of a 13-game Saturday marathon.

Let's start in the Western Conference, where the final two playoff berths will be locked up by night's end.

The Detroit Red Wings and Minnesota Wild still have the inside track -- if they both win, there's nothing the Columbus Blue Jackets can do to move up from their current position in ninth.

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However, the Blue Jackets could leap both of those teams if they beat the Nashville Predators and the Red Wings and Wild both lose. They only require one of those scenarios in order to get in, though -- either the Red Wings losing to the Dallas Stars in regulation, or the Wild losing to the Colorado Avalanche in any fashion. The Blue Jackets could even get in with a post-regulation loss if the Wild lose to the Avalanche in regulation and don't pick up any points.

Besides the battle for the remaining playoff spots, there's also a fight out west for the No. 4 seed and home ice in the first round.

The St. Louis Blues can clinch fourth if they defeat the Chicago Blackhawks in any fashion, or if they earn at least a point and the Los Angeles Kings lose to the San Jose Sharks.

If the Blues don't pick up any points, however, the winner of the Kings-Sharks game will move past them into the No. 4 spot.

The only definite seeds in the West are the three division winners: the Chicago Blackhawks (No. 1), the Anaheim Ducks (No. 2) and the Vancouver Canucks (No. 3).

There's plenty of drama left in the East as well, even though all eight playoff berths have been clinched. The only teams that know for sure where they'll be seeded are the division-winning Pittsburgh Penguins (No. 1) and Washington Capitals (No. 3).

Saturday's early result, which saw the New York Rangers blank the New Jersey Devils, 4-0, moves the Rangers into the sixth seed with 56 points, with the New York Islanders (55 points) seventh and the Senators (54 points) eighth.

However, the Rangers and Islanders are both done with the regular season while the Senators have games left Saturday and Sunday night. By gaining at least three points from those games, the Senators could claim the sixth seed, pushing the Rangers to seventh and the Islanders to eighth. If the Senators get two points, in any fashion, from the two remaining games, they would finish seventh because of tie breakers.

The only way the Islanders can avoid finishing eighth is if Ottawa gets no points from the two games. The Senators could finish as high as fifth if they get four points from the two games and Toronto loses in regulation tonight.

The No. 2 seed, which will go to the Northeast champion, is still up for grabs between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens. The teams are tied in points and the Bruins have the advantage of two games remaining to just one for the Canadiens; however, if they finish the season tied in points, the Canadiens will win the division by virtue of having more regulation/OT wins.

Either team could wrap up the division Saturday if the dominoes fall in their favor. The Bruins would clinch if they defeat the Washington Capitals in any fashion and the Canadiens lose to the Toronto Maple Leafs in any fashion. They would also be division champs if they earn one point against the Capitals and the Canadiens lose in regulation to the Maple Leafs.

On the other hand, the Canadiens would complete their worst-to-first turnaround from a season ago and win the Northeast if they defeat the Maple Leafs in any fashion and the Capitals defeat the Bruins in regulation.

There are currently 32 possible scenarios for the first round of the playoffs -- 17 in the East and 15 in the West.

Check back with NHL.com throughout the weekend as the playoff picture continues to take shape.

Quote of the Day

It was the look in his eyes. Hockey is the most important thing in his life. He wants to be a hockey player, and nothing's going to stop him from being a hockey player.

— Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin on forward Alex Galchenyuk's potential