The Chicago Blackhawks didn't play Saturday, but their ticket to the Stanley Cup Playoffs was punched when the Phoenix Coyotes lost to the Minnesota Wild. Now that they know for sure they will have a chance to defend their crown, the Blackhawks will attempt to secure home-ice advantage in the opening round.
Chicago (42-18-15) enters its game Sunday against the Pittsburgh Penguins (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, RDS2) in third place in the Central Division, one point behind the Colorado Avalanche. The Blackhawks can move ahead of the idle Avalanche with a victory against the Penguins (47-22-5), who have four wins in their past 10 games.
The Blackhawks aren't the only team fighting for home ice. The Tampa Bay Lightning, who have earned at least one point in 11 straight games, sit two points behind the second-place Montreal Canadiens in the Atlantic Division. The Lightning (41-24-9) will visit the Detroit Red Wings, who have a two-point edge on the Washington Capitals for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. Detroit (34-26-14) is opening a three-game homestand.
Here's a closer look at the action Sunday:
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.