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Playoff Countdown: Lightning battle for home ice

Sunday, 04.13.2014 / 1:54 AM / Drive to the Playoffs
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Playoff Countdown: Lightning battle for home ice
It will require the final day of the regular season to determine whether the Lightning or Canadiens will have home-ice advantage in the first round.

Sunday marks the conclusion to 2013-14 NHL regular season. Yet, much remains to be decided in the frantic run to the finish line, including playoff positioning and numerous individual accomplishments and milestones. To celebrate the countdown to the end of the season and the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 16, NHL.com will provide a piece of playoff-related content each day.

The matchups in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs were finalized Saturday night.

The Columbus Blue Jackets secured the first wild card with a 3-2 win against the Florida Panthers and move on to face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening round of the playoffs. That meant the Detroit Red Wings landed the second wild card and will battle the Boston Bruins.

In the other Eastern Conference series, the New York Rangers, who finished second in the Metropolitan Division, will play the Philadelphia Flyers, who finished third. The second- and third-place finishers in the Atlantic Division -- the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens -- will also go head-to-head.

However, it will require the final day of the regular season to determine whether the Lightning or Canadiens will have home-ice advantage in the first round.

Tampa Bay can secure home ice with a victory against the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center on Sunday. If the Lightning fail to get the two points, the series will open at Bell Centre in Montreal.

The Anaheim Ducks, who beat the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 in a shootout Saturday, clinched the top seed in the Western Conference when they extended the game past regulation. Anaheim will face the Dallas Stars in the first round of the playoffs. It's the second and only other guaranteed matchup; the Kings will face the San Jose Sharks in another first-round series.

The Central Division title is still up for grabs and will be decided Sunday. The St. Louis Blues, who have lost five in a row, will host the Detroit Red Wings at Scottrade Center (12:30 p.m.; NBC, TSN). The Colorado Avalanche will know what they have to do before their game in Anaheim, which begins at 8 p.m. ET.

St. Louis and Colorado each have 111 points, but the Avalanche own the tiebreaker. The division winner will face the Minnesota Wild in the first round of the playoffs, while the loser finishes second and gets the Chicago Blackhawks.

Here's a closer look at the action Sunday:

Detroit Red Wings at St. Louis Blues (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, TSN)

Boston Bruins at New Jersey Devils (3 p.m. ET, NESN, MSG)

Carolina Hurricanes at Philadelphia Flyers (3 p.m. ET, SPSO, CSN-PH)

Tampa Bay Lightning at Washington Capitals (3 p.m. ET, FS-F, CSN-DC)

New York Islanders at Buffalo Sabres (5 p.m. ET, MSG PLUS, MSG-B, BELL TV)

Ottawa Senators at Pittsburgh Penguins (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN, TVA, ROOT)

Nashville Predators at Minnesota Wild (8 p.m. ET, FS-TN, FS-N)

Colorado Avalanche at Anaheim Ducks (8 p.m. ET, ALT, PRIME)

Calgary Flames at Vancouver Canucks (9 p.m. ET, SNET-W, SNET-CGY, SNET-P)

Dallas Stars at Phoenix Coyotes (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, FS-SW, FS-A)

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.

Quote of the Day

I didn't even know how to celebrate. I threw my hands up, they gave me a hug, so I guess that's all I needed.

— Sabres forward Tim Schaller on scoring his first NHL goal Sunday against the Bruins