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Features

Daily Primer April 9: Last chance for Sharks

Wednesday, 04.09.2014 / 3:00 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

NHL.com

The San Jose Sharks will get one last crack at a possible Pacific Division title in the finale of the NHL's five-game schedule Wednesday night.

San Jose (49-21-9) can move within a point of first place in the Pacific when it visits the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center. Anaheim (51-20-8) is three points ahead of the Sharks and each team has three games remaining.

The Ducks would clinch the Pacific Division title if they defeat the Sharks in any fashion. That result also would clinch a first-round matchup between the Sharks and Los Angeles Kings, with the Sharks having home-ice advantage.

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Tale of the Tape: Red Wings visit Penguins

Wednesday, 04.09.2014 / 3:00 AM / Tale of the Tape

John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

The Detroit Red Wings make their only regular-season visit to Consol Energy Center when they face the Pittsburgh Penguins in this week's Wednesday Night Rivalry game (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN2). But it's not impossible that the Red Wings could be back next week for the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Pittsburgh has locked up the Metropolitan Division title and the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins' first-round opponent will be the first wild-card finisher, a position Detroit holds entering the game. The Red Wings begin the night with 90 points, one more than the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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Over the Boards: Alzner assesses Capitals' struggles

Wednesday, 04.09.2014 / 3:00 AM / Over the Boards

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Washington Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner believes honesty in the face of adversity is the best policy a player and a team can have. Alzner's problem is he doesn't think his team has fully bought into that policy.

"We don't always admit to our mistakes, own up to them and fix them," Alzner told NHL.com from Prudential Center last Friday. "We just push them under the rug and worry about it later."

The Capitals won't be able to push away their problems anymore.

After heading into the season thinking they could compete with the Pittsburgh Penguins for first place in the Metropolitan Division, the Capitals are now longshots to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs; they staved off elimination with a 4-1 win Tuesday against the St. Louis Blues and are four points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second and final Eastern Conference wild-card spot with three games left for each team.

The Washington organization has questions to answer as it nears the end of a disappointing regular season and what will likely be a longer-than-anticipated offseason.

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Union joins perennial powers in Frozen Four field

Wednesday, 04.09.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Boston College, Minnesota and North Dakota are three of the glory programs of NCAA men's hockey. They've combined for 65 Frozen Four appearances, and every year but one since 1997 at least one of them has been among the last four teams playing.

However, only one college hockey team this season won its regular-season and playoff conference championship: Union College. Though the Dutchmen might not have the cache of the other teams in Philadelphia for the 2014 Frozen Four, they have just as good a chance of adding an NCAA title to the school trophy case.

Union was the top-ranked team in the final USCHO.com poll, earning 31 of 50 first-place votes. They went 30-6-4 to finish first in the East Coast Athletic Conference and beat Colgate in the conference tournament final. Wins against Vermont and Providence in the East Regional earned Union its second trip to the Frozen Four in the past three years.

Union will play in the first semifinal Thursday, against Boston College (5 p.m. ET, ESPN2), with Minnesota facing North Dakota (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2) in the second game. The winners will play Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

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Rivalry Night Faceoff: Malkin vs. Datsyuk

Wednesday, 04.09.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

To help celebrate NBC Rivalry Night, NHL.com will look at a rivalry within the rivalry of the featured game on Wednesday nights. For this week, we are trying to determine which superstar Russian center will have the biggest effect on his team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins or Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings.

It's been a star-crossed season for Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings. Injuries have taken their toll on the superstar centers. But as the Stanley Cup Playoffs approach, each are doing what they can to positively impact their team.

Datsyuk returned to the lineup April 4 after a five-week absence to allow an injury to his right knee to heal and will use the last days of the regular season to fine-tune his game for the postseason.

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Chara's all-round efficiency makes him Norris choice

Wednesday, 04.09.2014 / 3:00 AM / Trophy Tracker

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

There are defensemen who contribute more on the score sheet than Zdeno Chara. There are defensemen who skate with the puck better than he does. All in all, there are defensemen who are just much flashier than the Boston Bruins' towering captain.

But this season there has not been a more effective defenseman in all areas of the ice than Chara, who should win the Norris Trophy for the second time in his career. He took over as the front runner for this award in March, when he helped the Bruins go 15-1-1.

Chara previously won the Norris Trophy in 2008-09, when he had 50 points, including a career-high 19 goals, in 80 games. He won't reach 50 points this season, but he has 17 goals, including a team-high 10 on the power play, and 37 points along with a plus-25 rating through 75 games (before playing Tuesday), so his offense is hardly a concern for the Bruins.

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Playoff Countdown: Five coaches with pedigree

Wednesday, 04.09.2014 / 3:00 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

The conclusion to 2013-14 NHL regular season is fast approaching. After game play Monday, the League is down to 52 games remaining on the schedule, with 10 to be played Tuesday. Yet, much remains to be decided in the frantic run to the finish line, including playoff qualification, playoff positioning and numerous individual accomplishments and milestones. To celebrate the six-day countdown to the end of the season April 13 and the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 16, NHL.com will provide a piece of playoff-related content each day.

The coaching profession offers no guarantees, unless you win the Stanley Cup. Do that and you're guaranteed a place in hockey history. Do that and your name will forever be etched on hockey's holy grail.

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Giroux's excellence, Berube's arrival guided Flyers

Tuesday, 04.08.2014 / 11:23 PM / Drive to the Playoffs

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

When the sun rose on the morning of March 15, the Philadelphia Flyers found themselves on the fringe of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They were in the second Eastern Conference wild-card spot based on a tiebreaker. They were coming off back-to-back one-goal losses and had in front of them a weekend home-and-home set with their bitter rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

It was a turning point of the season for the Flyers, as that weekend opened a stretch of 10 consecutive games against teams that, on March 15, all were in a playoff spot.

"We definitely, starting this weekend, have to play real good hockey and win hockey games," coach Craig Berube said heading into that March 15 game. "It's crunch time against real good teams. … Playing these games against good teams, with everything on the line, will prepare us for the playoffs."

Prepare them well it did. The Flyers swept the Penguins, starting a 6-2-2 run that solidified their hold on a playoff spot and allowed them to return to the postseason after a one-year absence.

Here are five more reasons the Flyers will have a chance to win the franchise's third Stanley Cup:

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The Front Line: Final forward ranks and a look ahead

Tuesday, 04.08.2014 / 12:00 PM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

Matt Cubeta - NHL.com Fantasy Insider

We are nearly at the finish line, and yet again it's been an incredible fantasy hockey season. Although NHL teams still are fighting to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs or battling for position, we fantasy owners are at the end of the road. Standard head-to-head leagues are now complete and though some rotisserie leagues might come down to the final game, most of those are likely locked up as well.

Hopefully our NHL.com fantasy hockey staff has helped you earn some bragging rights this season. Sadly, my advice to you comes to a close today. Now it's time to reflect and start looking ahead.

From Sidney Crosby staying healthy all season long to Steven Stamkos, John Tavares and Evgeni Malkin missing lengthy periods of time, we've seen plenty of surprises from the forward position. Patrick Sharp currently is the No. 3 forward in Yahoo leagues; who saw that coming? Jamie Benn, Joe Pavelski and Tyler Seguin are all top 10 overall players in Yahoo leagues, while both Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin are outside the top 100. Jaromir Jagr found the fountain of youth and has been a top-40 forward pretty much all season long, while 18-year-old Nathan MacKinnon has had one of the most prolific rookie seasons in recent memory.

It has been a season that overflowed with storylines, excitement and heroics, and while many things may change between now and the first fantasy hockey draft for the 2014-15 season, below is where I believe the forward position stands at this very moment.

A LOOK AT THE TOP

Who gets the honor of holding down the No. 1 ranking throughout the offseason? How about who's second and third? Let's have a look ...

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Stanley Cup Playoffs clinching scenarios: April 8

Tuesday, 04.08.2014 / 10:45 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

NHL.com

The Philadelphia Flyers and Minnesota Wild can secure a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Tuesday. Here are the scenarios:

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

The Flyers would clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs if they defeat the Florida Panthers in any fashion.

MINNESOTA WILD

The Wild would clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs if they get at least one point against the Boston Bruins OR if Phoenix Coyotes lose to the Columbus Blue Jackets in any fashion or defeat the Blue Jackets in a shootout OR if the Dallas Stars lose to the Nashville Predators in any fashion.

In the Eastern Conference, the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens, Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers have already qualified for the playoffs. The St. Louis Blues, Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche, San Jose Sharks, Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings have locked down a spot in the postseason from the Western Conference.

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Quote of the Day

We want to make sure that whoever makes our team really makes our team by earning it and not putting them in situations where they get preference because of their status as a first-round pick or whatever it might be. That's not going to happen. Everybody has to earn their way on our team.

— Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen on the team's prospects at development camp