After 81 hard-fought games by both Chicago and Dallas, it will take the final day of the regular season to settle the final standings in the wild Western Conference.
The key game will be Sunday's clash between the Detroit Red Wings
the Blackhawks (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, TSN) at the United Center. The Hawks can clinch a playoff spot and avoid becoming the fifth team in the expansion era to miss the postseason one season after winning the Stanley Cup by picking up a point against the Wings, or having the Dallas Stars
lose to the Minnesota Wild
(6 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, NHLN-CA) in the final game of the 2010-11 season.
Two points for the Blackhawks also could move them all the way to fifth place in the conference. How long it takes them to get that win, though, will be significant.
A win in regulation or overtime would give the Blackhawks 99 points, the same as fourth-place Anaheim, fifth-place Nashville and sixth-place Phoenix. However, the Ducks would remain fourth based on their 43 regulation/overtime wins, the first tiebreaker in the final standings. A regulation/overtime win for the Hawks on Sunday would give them 39 regulation and overtime wins, one more than Nashville and Phoenix, and place the Hawks fifth.