The Dallas Stars still have the inside track to the second Western Conference wild-card position in the Stanley Cup Playoffs because they have two games in hand on the Phoenix Coyotes. The challenge for the Stars is to turn those extra games into points, something they need to do Saturday night when they visit the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Dallas dropped one point behind Phoenix when the Coyotes lost 3-2 in a shootout to the Edmonton Oilers at home Friday. A victory against the Lightning would give the Stars a one-point lead with an extra game to play.
The Lightning are hungry for points as well. They are battling the Montreal Canadiens for second place in the Atlantic Division; the winner gets home ice when the teams meet in the First Round. The Canadiens defeated the Ottawa Senators 7-4 Friday to move two points ahead of the Lightning; Montreal hosts the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday (7 p.m.; NHLN-US, CBC, RDS).
The Boston Bruins, meanwhile, can clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference if any of the following occurs:
A. They defeat the Philadelphia Flyers in regulation or overtime.
C. They get one point against the Flyers AND the Penguins lose to the Wild in any fashion.
D. The Penguins lose to the Wild in regulation.
Also, the New York Rangers can clinch a playoff berth if they get at least one point against the Senators or if both the Toronto Maple Leafs and New Jersey Devils lose in any fashion to the Winnipeg Jets and Carolina Hurricanes, respectively.
Here is all the action on the next-to-last Saturday of the regular season:
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.