The conclusion to 2013-14 NHL regular season is fast approaching. After game play Thursday, the League is down to 26 games remaining on the schedule, with seven to be played Friday. Yet, much remains to be decided in the frantic run to the finish line, including playoff qualification, playoff positioning and numerous individual accomplishments and milestones. To celebrate the three-day countdown to the end of the season April 13 and the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 16, NHL.com will provide a piece of playoff-related content each day.
The Dallas Stars can end a five-year absence from the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Friday night.
The Stars can wrap up the final playoff berth in the Western Conference with a victory of any sort against the St. Louis Blues at American Airlines Center. The Phoenix Coyotes gave Dallas the chance to clinch their first trip to the postseason since 2008 when they lost 2-0 on the road to the Nashville Predators on Thursday.
A victory will give Dallas 91 points going into its season finale against the Coyotes in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday. The Coyotes could match the Stars' point total by beating the San Jose Sharks on Saturday and the Stars on Sunday, but Dallas would win the tiebreaker with its 35 non-shootout wins, five more than Phoenix.
The Blues, who lost 4-2 to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, need a win as they battle the Colorado Avalanche for first place in the Central Division. Each team has 111 points, but the Avalanche own the tiebreaker. Colorado plays its next-to-last game on the road against the San Jose Sharks (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN).
The Tampa Bay Lightning can move past the Montreal Canadiens for second place in the Atlantic Division with a win against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus, meanwhile, can move ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers and into third place in the Metropolitan Division by earning a point against the Canadiens.
Here's a list of all the action on the final Friday night of the regular season:Chicago Blackhawks at Washington Capitals (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CSN-CH, CSN-DC)
Carolina Hurricanes at Detroit Red Wings (7:30 p.m. ET, RDS, FS-CR, FS-D+)
Columbus Blue Jackets at Tampa Bay Lightning (7:30 p.m. ET, FS-O, FS-F)
New York Islanders at New Jersey Devils (7:30 p.m. ET, MSG PLUS 2, MSG PLUS)
St. Louis Blues at Dallas Stars (8:30 p.m. ET, FS-MW, FS-SW)
Winnipeg Jets at Calgary Flames (9 p.m. ET, TSN-JETS, SNET-W)
Colorado Avalanche at San Jose Sharks (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN, ALT, CSN-CA+)
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 just 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.