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Drive to the Playoffs

Clinching update: Eights seeds set

Saturday, 04.07.2012 / 9:00 PM / Drive to the Playoffs

NHL.com

Latest playoff match-up update, reflecting Washington's 4-1 victory over NY Rangers:

* The Rangers failed to clinch the Presidents' Trophy. The Vancouver Canucks would capture the Presidents' Trophy if they get at least one point against Edmonton (10 pm start). If the Canucks lose in regulation, the Rangers win the trophy.

* The Capitals jumped to the No. 7 seed in the East, leapfrogging Ottawa. If the Florida Panthers earn at least one point against Carolina (in progress), Florida would capture the Southeast Division and the No. 3 seed, the Capitals would get the No. 7 seed and the Senators would take the No. 8 seed. If the Panthers lose to Carolina in regulation, the Capitals would win the division and the No. 3 seed, the Senators would get the No. 7 seed and the Panthers would take the No. 8 seed.

* Just two playoff match-ups are set, six are still TBD.

* Just eight conference seeds are locked, eight are still TBD.

Saturday's Scenarios: Division titles still up for grabs

Saturday, 04.07.2012 / 1:52 PM / Drive to the Playoffs

NHL.com

Presidents' Trophy

- The NY Rangers would capture the Presidents' Trophy if they defeat Washington in any fashion OR if they get one point against Washington AND Vancouver loses to Edmonton in any fashion OR if Vancouver loses to Edmonton in regulation.

- Vancouver would capture the Presidents' Trophy if it defeats Edmonton AND the NY Rangers lose to Washington in any fashion OR if it gets one point against Edmonton AND the NY Rangers lose to Washington in regulation.


Coyotes grab first place in Pacific Division

Friday, 04.06.2012 / 10:38 PM / Drive to the Playoffs

John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

Mike Smith's shutout streak ended Friday night. His winning streak is doing just fine, as are the Phoenix Coyotes' hopes of winning the Pacific Division.

The St. Louis Blues ended Smith's scoreless streak at 234 minutes and 25 seconds when Patrik Berglund popped in a second rebound at 14:26 of the first period. But that was the only goal Smith allowed as the Coyotes won 4-1 to move back into first place in the Pacific Division.

Radim Vrbata's 34th goal of the season 5:44 into the second period broke a 1-1 tie, and Shane Doan made it 3-1 when he beat Brian Elliott 2:10 later. Mikkel Boedker's goal midway through the third period ensured that the Coyotes would head to Minnesota for their season finale on top of the division. A win of any kind would give Phoenix the first division title in franchise history.

'Big Three' and potent power play keyed Sharks' rise

Friday, 04.06.2012 / 12:07 PM / Drive to the Playoffs

Brian Hunter - NHL.com Staff Writer

The San Jose Sharks are used to 100-point seasons and cruising into the Stanley Cup Playoffs as one of the favorites to contend for the Cup.

This season, the Sharks will post their lowest point total since 2002-03 -- the last time they failed to qualify for the postseason. Thanks to a three-game winning streak that continued with Thursday's thrilling 6-5 shootout win in Los Angeles, the Sharks will be in the round of 16 for the eighth straight season, and if they complete the home-and-home sweep against the Kings on Saturday, they can claim a fifth-straight Pacific Division crown and the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference.

Even though these Sharks haven't resembled the powerhouse regular-season squads of years past, they will get the opportunity to accomplish what those teams couldn't: Win three rounds in the playoffs and compete for the franchise's first championship.

Much remains at stake heading into final 2 days

Friday, 04.06.2012 / 11:26 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

NHL.com

While much was decided Thursday -- including the 16 teams that will play for the 2012 Stanley Cup -- as 28 of the League's 30 teams played, much remains to be decided across the season's final 16 games.

With just two days left in the 2011-12 regular season, two division titles, one conference title and the Presidents' Trophy are still to be decided.

The majority of the decisions will come during a wild Saturday that features all 30 teams playing for just the fourth time in League history. There's also a Friday game -- Phoenix at St. Louis (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2) -- that has huge playoff implications.

Coyotes led by Smith in net, age-defying Whitney

Friday, 04.06.2012 / 10:50 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

When goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov left the Phoenix Coyotes last summer, most hockey experts thought the team's success left with him. Instead, general manager Don Maloney and coach Dave Tippett proved this season that the team's accomplishments were built on solid team play rather than individual achievement.

Thanks to the Dallas' Stars 2-0 loss to the Nashville Predators on Thursday, the Coyotes clinched a playoff spot for the third straight season.

Here are six reasons they got to this point:

Kopitar's stick, Quick's brilliance got Kings in

Friday, 04.06.2012 / 10:43 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

When Darryl Sutter took over as coach of the Los Angeles Kings in December, the team many considered a lock to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs was fourth in the Pacific Division and 10th in the Western Conference.

Before Sutter began to turn things around, the Kings were 30th in the League in in goals per game, 30th in 5-on-5 scoring and 23rd on the power play. While All-Star goalie Jonathan Quick is good, he couldn't be relied upon night in and night out. But under Sutter's leadership, the club Kings made gradual offensive improvements, helping them go 25-13-10 under Sutter.

Reaching the playoffs is nothing new to Sutter, who had done it 10 times in 11 previous seasons as a coach in Chicago, San Jose and Calgary. He even helped the Flames to a Stanley Cup Final berth in 2004 and sports a 47-54 record in the postseason.

Fast start, success at home played into Caps' clinch

Friday, 04.06.2012 / 10:03 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

John Carlson
Defense - WSH
GOALS: 8 | ASST: 23 | PTS: 31
SOG: 150 | +/-: -15
When general manager George McPhee added Troy Brouwer, Joel Ward, Jeff Halpern, Roman Hamrlik and Tomas Vokoun in a span of a couple weeks last summer, the Washington Capitals appeared to be one of, if not the best team in the NHL … on paper.

The Capitals had just finished with the most points in the Eastern Conference in back-to-back seasons, and McPhee upgraded the talent on the roster. Combine the additions with the expected progression of young players like John Carlson, Marcus Johansson and Michal Neuvirth, and there were the makings of an obvious Stanley Cup contender in Washington.

16 teams set for Stanley Cup Playoffs

Friday, 04.06.2012 / 2:02 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

The participants for the Stanley Cup Playoffs are all set. The question of who plays whom in the opening round is still up in the air.

In the East, Florida wrapped up a playoff berth despite a 4-2 loss to Washington at Verizon Center. Both teams were assured of playoff berths when Philadelphia beat Buffalo 2-1. For the Panthers, it's their first trip to the postseason since 2000 and ends the longest playoff drought in NHL history. The win also assured the Caps of a playoff berth.

The field in the West was completed when Dallas lost 2-0 at Nashville and Colorado was beaten 5-3 at home by last-place Columbus. Those outcomes assured Los Angeles, San Jose and Phoenix of the final three openings in the West.

But while the 16 playoff teams are set, the only one of the eight pairings that's certain is in the East, where fourth-place Pittsburgh will play fifth-place Philadelphia in an all-Pennsylvania matchup. The others won't be settled until Saturday, when the Southeast Division winner will also be determined.

Fleischmann returns to D.C. with division title in sight

Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 2:21 PM / Drive to the Playoffs

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Tomas Fleischmann whiffed at his first chance and then was tripped as he deked, but he scored on the second try as he fell to ice in the first period April 5, 2008.

That was the first goal in a 3-1 victory for the Washington Capitals against the Florida Panthers. It was a victory that capped an incredible rally to first place and a playoff berth, and it began a Southeast Division dynasty.

Fleischmann is back in Washington on the fourth anniversary of that night, but he now is a member of the Panthers, and they are here to end that dynasty.

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Quote of the Day

(The tribute) was great, brought back a lot of memories. I felt I wanted to give them the thank you they deserved. I understand the booing and it was expected. They are great fans.

— Martin St. Louis after playing his first game in Tampa Bay since being traded to the Rangers last season
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