No team can clinch a Stanley Cup Playoffs berth Thursday, but much remains at stake for several clubs. Below are some playoff implications for games Thursday:
* The Blues could leapfrog the Anaheim Ducks for the top record in the Western Conference.
* The Montreal Canadiens could clinch the No. 2 seed in the Atlantic Division and home-ice advantage in the first round against the Tampa Bay Lightning with a win of any kind against the New York Islanders AND a loss of any kind by Tampa Bay against Philadelphia. The Canadiens would clinch the No. 2 seed in the Atlantic with an overtime or shootout loss AND a regulation loss by Tampa Bay.
* Tampa Bay could move within one point of Montreal for the No. 2 seed in the Atlantic Division.
IF THE PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY ...
Two first-round matchups have been determined through games played April 9. The Sharks will face the Los Angeles Kings in the first round with San Jose having home-ice advantage. The Canadiens will face the Lightning in the first round with home-ice advantage to be determined.
The eight teams that will compete for the Stanley Cup in the Eastern Conference are: Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens, Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings. Seven teams in the Western Conference have clinched postseason berths: St. Louis Blues, Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche, San Jose Sharks, Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings and Minnesota Wild.
As has been the case since 1979-80, 16 teams will qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This season, however, the format is a set bracket that is largely division-based with wild cards.
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 record and regardless of division. It is possible for one division in each conference to send five teams to the postseason while the other sends just three.
In the First Round, the division winner with the best record in each conference will be matched against the wild-card team with the lesser record; the wild card team with the better record will play the other division winner.
The teams finishing second and third in each division will meet in the First Round within the bracket headed by their respective division winners. First-round winners within each bracket play one another in the Second Round to determine the four participants in the Conference Finals.
Home-ice advantage through the first two rounds goes to the team that placed higher in the regular-season standings. In the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final, home-ice advantage goes to the team that had the better regular-season record -- regardless of the teams' final standing in their respective divisions.