The Boston Bruins are on the verge of securing the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Chicago Blackhawks are battling just to have home-ice advantage in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Original Six franchises will get together in a rematch of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final as part of the NHL's 10-game schedule Thursday (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US). Thanks to its recent 12-game winning streak, Boston (49-17-6) has built a seven-point lead on the Pittsburgh Penguins atop the East; Chicago (42-16-15) trails the St. Louis Blues by six points in the Central Division but is three points ahead of the Colorado Avalanche for second place; Colorado has a game in hand.
The Bruins can win the Atlantic Division and clinch at least a top-two spot in the Eastern Conference for the Stanley Cup Playoffs if they beat the Blackhawks in any fashion and have the Tampa Bay Lightning lose to the New York Islanders in any way.
Boston also can win the division if they get one point against the Blackhawks and the Lightning lose to the Islanders in regulation.
The Detroit Red Wings continue their pursuit of a 23rd consecutive postseason appearance Thursday when they host the Montreal Canadiens (7 p.m. ET, TSN, RDS). Detroit (33-25-14) is one of four teams in the East with 80 points; Montreal is in second place in the Atlantic Division, two points ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning host the New York Islanders on Thursday.
Later Thursday the Vancouver Canucks aim for their fourth straight win when they face the Avalanche at Pepsi Center. The surging Canucks have moved within four points of the Phoenix Coyotes for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference. The Avalanche will play in the postseason if they beat the Canucks in any fashion and the Coyotes lose to the Devils in any fashion.
Here's a closer look at the action Thursday:
The Stanley Cup Playoffs consist of 16 teams, eight in each conference, but it is now division-based and a wild-card system has been added.
The top three teams in each division will make up the first 12 teams in the playoffs. The remaining four spots will be filled by the next two highest-placed finishers in each conference, based on regular-season points and regardless of division. It is possible for one division to send five teams to the postseason while the other sends three.
Seeding of the wild-card teams within each divisional playoff will be determined on the basis of regular-season points. The division winner with the most points in the conference will be matched against the wild-card team with the fewest points; the division winner with the second-most points in the conference will play the wild-card team with the second-fewest points.
The teams finishing second and third in each division will play in the first round of the playoffs. There is no reseeding as the tournament moves to the second round and winners of that series advance to the conference championship series and the right to play in the Stanley Cup Final.