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Drive to the Playoffs

Injuries couldn't keep Senators out of playoffs

Friday, 04.26.2013 / 12:30 PM / Drive to the Playoffs

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

No one will ever say the Ottawa Senators didn't earn their rightful place among the top eight in the Eastern Conference in 2012-13.

The Senators advanced to the Stanley Cup Playoffs despite missing No. 1 center Jason Spezza for almost all of the regular season, missing Norris Trophy defenseman Erik Karlsson for more than two months, and playing without No. 1 goaltender Craig Anderson and high-scoring forward Milan Michalek for lengthy periods because of injuries.

"It's a tremendous credit to our players, first of all, and their perseverance through quite a bit of adversity this season," Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said. "For us to make the playoffs under the circumstances that we were put under early in the season, I think is a great accomplishment by the group, and the players deserve all of the credit because they came out and played real hard."

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Islanders loss would lock in matchup with Penguins

Friday, 04.26.2013 / 11:15 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

The only potential certainty in the Eastern Conference on Friday involves a negative for the one playoff team in action.

The New York Islanders will lock themselves into eighth place and a first-round matchup with the top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins if they lose in regulation to the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center.

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Wild, Red Wings, Blue Jackets vie for last two spots

Friday, 04.26.2013 / 11:11 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

The positive early returns the Minnesota Wild were hoping for when they signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to long-term contracts could come Friday night in the form of a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Wild will clinch their first trip to the postseason since 2009 with a win over the Edmonton Oilers at Xcel Energy Center.

However, if the Oilers play well enough to stop their own three-game losing streak, then there is still the possibility that the Wild miss the playoffs, giving way instead to the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets.

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Nash, Stepan big reasons for Rangers' success

Friday, 04.26.2013 / 11:00 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer

The New York Rangers didn't run away with the Eastern Conference like they did a season ago, but they will take part in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a third straight year.

By virtue of their 4-3 overtime victory against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday, the Rangers clinched one of the final spots in the postseason.

Here are five reasons the Rangers are entering the playoffs on a hot streak after an ice-cold start:

1. Rick Nash kept them afloat early: His numbers weren't flashy in the early going, but when the Rangers were at their most anemic offensively, Nash was carrying the load. He had four goals in his first 15 games, but he continuously generated chances for linemates with his speed and size and when he did score, it was usually a big goal. He has been terrific overall as well, with 19 goals and 40 points in 43 games.

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Playoff Primer April 26: Wild wrap up spot with win

Friday, 04.26.2013 / 9:50 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

The 2012-13 NHL season is racing toward the finish line. In fact, the regular season ends Sunday, April 28. Although the Stanley Cup Playoffs are clearly in sight, the qualification picture is not as clear. To help make sense of the numerous permutations that exist, NHL.com's Playoff Push Primer looks at some of the biggest movers and shakers among the postseason hopefuls.

PLAYOFF PRIMER

  • For a complete look at the current playoff matchups and breakdown of remaining games, click here.
  • video Join the Twitter conversation: #StanleyCup

Teams that clinched Thursday: The New York Rangers assured themselves of a playoff berth when they rallied to beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 in overtime. The Ottawa Senators completed the field in the Eastern Conference when they beat the Washington Capitals 2-1 in OT. The victories by the Rangers and Senators eliminated the Winnipeg Jets, who wound up losing 4-2 to the Montreal Canadiens anyway.

Teams that can clinch Friday: The Minnesota Wild will clinch a playoff berth if they beat the Edmonton Oilers in any fashion.

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Thursday pivotal with final playoff berths up for grabs

Thursday, 04.25.2013 / 1:19 PM / Drive to the Playoffs

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

With 11 games on the NHL schedule Thursday, it's a pivotal day for many of the teams either in Stanley Cup Playoff hunt or looking to keep their postseason hopes alive.

All eight teams in the Eastern Conference could be decided by the end of games Thursday, as the Ottawa Senators and New York Rangers both can clinch their playoff spots with victories Thursday -- the Senators at the Winnipeg Jets, the Rangers at the Carolina Hurricanes.

If either of those teams fails to get two points, the Winnipeg Jets' flickering playoff hopes could remain alive. The Jets, who host the Montreal Canadiens Thursday, will be the first team to play all 48 games. For them to get into the playoffs, they need to gain more points against the Canadiens than the Rangers do in their final two games (Thursday at Carolina, Saturday at home against the New Jersey Devils) or the Senators do in their final three (Thursday at Washington, at home Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers, Sunday at the Boston Bruins).

If the Jets lose in regulation, the Rangers and Senators would clinch playoff spots regardless of whether they win or not Thursday.

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Playoff Primer April 25: Final spots can be wrapped up

Thursday, 04.25.2013 / 12:18 PM / Drive to the Playoffs

John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

The 2012-13 NHL season is racing toward the finish line. In fact, the regular season ends Sunday, April 28. Although the Stanley Cup Playoffs are clearly in sight, the qualification picture is not as clear. To help make sense of the numerous permutations that exist, NHL.com's Playoff Push Primer looks at some of the biggest movers and shakers among the postseason hopefuls.

Teams that clinched Wednesday: The Chicago Blackhawks scratched the Presidents' Trophy off their regular-season to-do list by beating the Edmonton Oilers 4-1. The Blackhawks are assured of the home-ice advantage for as far as they go in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Teams that can clinch Thursday: In the Eastern Conference, the Ottawa Senators will clinch a playoff berth if they defeat the Washington Capitals in any fashion, OR if they earn one point and the Montreal Canadiens defeat the Winnipeg Jets in any fashion, OR if the Canadiens defeat the Jets in regulation. The New York Rangers will clinch a playoff berth if they defeat the Carolina Hurricanes in any fashion, OR if they earn one point and the Canadiens defeat the Jets in any fashion, OR if the Canadiens defeat the Jets in regulation.

In the Western Conference, the idle Minnesota Wild will clinch a playoff berth if the Dallas Stars defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets in regulation. The Detroit Red Wings will clinch a playoff berth if they defeat the Nashville Predators in any fashion and the Stars defeat the Blue Jackets in any fashion, OR if they earn one point and the Stars defeat the Blue Jackets in regulation.

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Ovechkin, Oates lead Capitals back to playoffs

Wednesday, 04.24.2013 / 12:35 PM / Drive to the Playoffs

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

At so many points during the 2012-13 season, there were opportunities to count the Washington Capitals out.

There was a new coach and a new system, and the shortened training camp meant little time for everything to come together. None of the team's defensemen played during the lockout. A key forward, Brooks Laich, was injured during it.

It all added up to an awful start. The Capitals started 1-5-1, then 2-8-1, then 5-10-1 and finally a three-game skid after it looked like things were getting better left Washington at 10-14-1. Three weeks into the season, the website sportsclubstats.com listed the Capitals' odds at 2.16 percent. Five weeks later, their odds were still only at 9.58 percent.

Since that point, the Capitals have been one of the hottest teams in the League, racking up points at a rate reminiscent to the dominance seen in Chicago and Pittsburgh. Washington is 16-4-1 since a 4-0 loss March 12 to Carolina left them at 10-14-1, and 14-2-1 since arriving in Winnipeg for back-to-back games at MTS Centre in late March.

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Penalty kill, position changes sparked Sharks' run

Wednesday, 04.24.2013 / 12:30 PM / Drive to the Playoffs

Eric Gilmore - NHL.com Correspondent

SAN JOSE -- When the San Jose Sharks opened the 2012-13 season with seven straight wins, they looked ready to cruise to their ninth straight berth in Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Not so fast.

The Sharks had three regulation wins in their next 21 games and needed a late-season surge that included another seven-game winning streak to secure their spot.

The Sharks have faced playoff-like games for weeks, which should have them well-prepared for the pressure and intensity of the postseason.

Here are five reasons why the Sharks are in the playoffs yet again:

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Playoff Primer April 24: Wings can regain eighth seed

Wednesday, 04.24.2013 / 12:00 PM / Drive to the Playoffs

John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

The 2012-13 NHL season is racing toward the finish line. In fact, the regular season ends Sunday, April 28. Although the Stanley Cup Playoffs are clearly in sight, the qualification picture is far less clear. To help make sense of the numerous permutations that exist, NHL.com's Playoff Push Primer looks at some of the biggest movers and shakers among the postseason hopefuls.

PLAYOFF PRIMER

  • For a complete look at the current playoff matchups and breakdown of remaining games, click here.
  • video Join the Twitter conversation: #StanleyCup

Teams that clinched Tuesday: In the Eastern Conference, the Washington Capitals clinched the Southeast Division and the No. 3 seed by beating the Winnipeg Jets 5-3. The Jets' regulation loss enabled the New York Islanders to clinch their first playoff berth since 2007 by getting a point in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. In the Western Conference, the San Jose Sharks clinched a playoff berth by rallying to beat the Dallas Stars 3-2, and the St. Louis Blues also locked up a berth by beating the Colorado Avalanche 3-1.

Teams that can clinch Wednesday: The Chicago Blackhawks can clinch the Presidents' Trophy if they defeat the Edmonton Oilers in any fashion.

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Quote of the Day

I don't know how he does it. I don't know how he gets his body parallel with the player and pulls it through his legs like that. I know he's tried it a couple times in practice and it's never worked, so how he does it in a game, it's incredible.

— Capitals defenseman Mike Green on teammate Alex Ovechkin's highlight-reel goal against the Devils on Saturday