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Drive to the Playoffs

Nothing changes for Sabres, who need a win in Philly

Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 1:49 PM / Drive to the Playoffs

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

2011-2012 Standings

Eastern Conference

ROW = total number of regulation plus overtime wins. For tie-breaking purposes, wins obtained in a shootout are not counted. For full standings tiebreakers, click here.
04/05/12 1:53PM

PHILADELPHIA -- Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said the game here Thursday against the Flyers isn't a whole lot different than most of the games his team has played the past two months.

"I think the players all understand," Ruff said. "I don't have to go talk to them and say listen, we've got to win a game tonight. We know that. We've said that for two months, we've got to win a game."

The Philadelphia game isn't an absolute must-win for the Sabres, but leaving Philadelphia without two points would make any hope of reaching the postseason a long shot.

The Sabres need to win at least one of their final two games -- Thursday against the Flyers and Saturday at the Bruins -- and hope for help from the Capitals and Panthers.

Final playoff spots could all be claimed Thursday

Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 11:49 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

The playoff picture could be a lot clearer after 28 teams play Thursday.

With just three days left in the 2011-12 regular season, the race for playoff seeds remains wide open. Five playoff berths are still up for grabs, and two division titles, one conference title and the Presidents' Trophy also are still to be decided.

The final five playoff spots could all be claimed Thursday. It's also possible for the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal-round matchups to be set.

But a lot will have to happen.

Thursday's heavy slate could provide playoff clarity

Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 10:55 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

All 16 playoff spots -- if not the actual seedings -- could be decided at the conclusion of Thursday's games.

The biggest game of the night will take place at Verizon Center between the Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers. All the Panthers have to do to secure the Southeast Division and the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference is earn a point. Florida can clinch a playoff berth -- but not the division title -- if they lose in regulation to Washington and if the Buffalo Sabres lose to the Philadelphia Flyers in a game that will take place at the same time.

The Capitals still have an outside chance at claiming their fifth straight division title, but they will need to win their final two games and have the Panthers lose their final two games in regulation to make it happen. More important to the Caps is staving off the Sabres for the No. 8 seed. If the Caps win and the Sabres lose in Philadelphia on Thursday night, the Caps will secure a playoff spot.

Red Wings grab fourth by overtaking Blues

Wednesday, 04.04.2012 / 11:07 PM / Drive to the Playoffs

John Kreiser - Columnist

A two-goal lead for the St. Louis Blues is usually money in the bank. Wednesday was one of the exceptions.

St. Louis scored twice in a 3:01 span of the third period to grab a 2-0 lead against Detroit with less than 10 minutes remaining. It looked like the Blues were on the way to their 31st victory in 40 games at Scottrade Center -- until the Wings finally solved goaltender Brian Elliott, who was closing in on his fourth straight shutout.

Johan Franzen ended Elliott's shutout streak at 240:28 when he scored with 6:05 remaining, then beat him again with 3:50 to play to force overtime. After five scoreless minutes, the game went to a shootout -- something that's been an Achilles heel for the Blues this season. Todd Bertuzzi scored the only goal of the tiebreaker to give Detroit a stunning 3-2 win.

Season's final three days should be a wild ride

Wednesday, 04.04.2012 / 1:34 PM / Drive to the Playoffs

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

The regular season has come down to the final three days and 30 games. There still is so much that is to be determined.

Who will win the Pacific Division? Can the Stars get back into the top eight in the Western Conference?

Will the Panthers hang on to win the Southeast? If they do, will Washington still be able to clinch a playoff berth? Can the Sabres finish their miraculous second-half run with a playoff spot?

Will the Flyers and Penguins meet in the first round? If they do, where will that series start?

Who will win the Presidents' Trophy?

All these questions and many more will be answered between now and late Saturday (or early Sunday, depending on where you live). However, to better understand all that can happen before the final answers are revealed, we have put together this little survival guide to help you prepare for the final four frantic days of the 2011-12 NHL regular season.

Playoff Pulse: Wings-Blues a battle for positioning

Wednesday, 04.04.2012 / 10:48 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

There are just two games on the NHL schedule Wednesday night, and one involves two teams in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.

With four days remaining in the regular season, three playoff spots, two division titles, one conference title and the Presidents' Trophy all remain up for grabs.

The only matchup that holds any playoff significance is the one that features the Detroit Red Wings traveling to Scottrade Center to battle the St. Louis Blues in a Central Division showdown. The fifth-seeded Red Wings (99 points) could leapfrog No. 4 Nashville (100 points) while creating more space between themselves and sixth-seeded Chicago (98 points). In the race for the Presidents' Trophy, the Blues could move within one point of the New York Rangers and Vancouver atop the League standings.

Playoff Pulse: Stars, Sabres desperately seek wins

Tuesday, 04.03.2012 / 1:40 PM / Drive to the Playoffs

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

There are 10 games on the NHL schedule Tuesday night, and all of them involve a team either battling for a playoff spot or improved position in their conference.

With five days remaining in the regular season, five playoff spots, three division titles, both conference titles and the Presidents' Trophy all remain up for grabs.

The marquee matchup features a Pacific Division showdown between the San Jose Sharks and Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center. The Sharks sit eighth in the Western Conference with 90 points; the Stars are in ninth with 89 points. A regulation loss could spell the end for the Stars, who could find themselves three points out of eighth place with just two games remaining.

Meanwhile, the Sharks wouldn't be much better off with a regulation loss. The Stars own the tiebreaker, and the seventh-place Phoenix Coyotes enter Tuesday night with a one-point lead on the Sharks and also have one more regulation/OT win.

Clinching scenarios: NYR eye first; Panthers eye berth

Tuesday, 04.03.2012 / 12:33 PM / Drive to the Playoffs

2011-2012 Standings

Eastern Conference
ROW = total number of regulation plus overtime wins. For tie-breaking purposes, wins obtained in a shootout are not counted. For full standings tiebreakers, click here.
04/03/12 12:47PM

While much will remain undecided until the final weekend of the regular season, a few Stanley Cup Playoff spots can be decided Tuesday.

With five days remaining in the regular season, five playoff spots, three division titles, both conference titles and the Presidents' Trophy all remain up for grabs.

Those numbers, though, could change by Wednesday morning

The New York Rangers, who sit in first place in the East, can clinch the Atlantic Division and the top seed in the East if they get one point Tuesday against the Flyers or if Pittsburgh loses to Boston in any fashion.

Two other notable developments could take place Tuesday night in the East. Buffalo, with a victory, can tie No. 8 Washington in points, but remain in ninth because of tiebreakers. Philadelphia, with a win against the Rangers, can leapfrog Pittsburgh in a number of scenarios if the Penguins lose to Boston in regulation.

Kings earn two big points with 2-0 win

Tuesday, 04.03.2012 / 2:04 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

The Los Angeles Kings have only two games remaining, yet they still have a ways to go before they can be crowned Pacific Division champions.

But the club took a big step towards its goal Monday night, as Jonathan Quick stopped all 19 shots he faced and Slava Voynov and Dwight King each scored in the third period in a 2-0 victory against the Edmonton Oilers at the Staples Center.

The win gives Los Angeles (40-27-13) 93 points, two more than Phoenix, which currently resides in seventh place but now has a game in hand on the Kings. L.A. also moved three points ahead of eighth-place San Jose just three nights before the teams will collide for the start of a home-and-home series at Staples Center.

"It was a tough game for our team, to come back from a long trip," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "Tough game. Give them credit for hanging in there, especially the first period. They hit two posts and had a lot of chances. They could have backed off a little, but they didn't."

Sweet 16: Must-watch games heading into playoffs

Monday, 04.02.2012 / 1:04 PM / Drive to the Playoffs

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

With six days left in the 2011-12 regular season, nine teams are mathematically alive for the five remaining playoff spots. The Atlantic, Southeast and Pacific Division titles have not been claimed. Three teams are within one point of each other in the Presidents' Trophy race. The top spots in each conference are still up for grabs.


Watch all the action of the playoff chase this week on the NHL's national broadcast partners:


This has the potential to be a photo finish across the board.

In fact, it's possible that the quarterfinal-round matchups for the Stanley Cup Playoffs won't be decided until the final game of the season, No. 1,230, is played Saturday in San Jose between the Kings and Sharks. That will also be the last game of a full day in which all 30 NHL teams are in action.

Including the two games on tap Monday, both with playoff implications, there are 44 games left in the regular season. Twenty-one of those games involve at least one of the nine teams that are still mathematically alive but have yet to clinch.
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