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Drive to the Playoffs

Playoff Pulse: Sharks go from ninth to third in West

Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 1:27 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

The San Jose Sharks woke up Monday morning on the outside looking in with only a handful of games remaining in this pulsating race to the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. On Monday night, they went to sleep atop the Pacific Division.

With the help of the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks, the Sharks moved back into first place in the Pacific for the first time since Feb. 25 with a 5-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche at HP Pavilion. San Jose, which now has 88 points, will be seeking its fourth straight win Wednesday night at Anaheim.

While the Sharks still have a ways to go before they can rest comfortably, the Detroit Red Wings clinched a playoff berth for a 21st consecutive year with Monday's 7-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Joe Louis Arena. Remarkably, the Wings -- who moved back into fourth place with the victory -- are still eight years shy of matching the Boston Bruins' record of 29 consecutive playoff appearances (1968-1996). 

Six reasons the Wings have clinched

Monday, 03.26.2012 / 10:48 PM / Drive to the Playoffs

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

The beat goes on for the Detroit Red Wings, who for the 21st straight season have clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Detroit became the sixth team to punch its ticket into the postseason with a 7-2 thrashing of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday at Joe Louis Arena. How did the Wings do it? We can think of at least six reasons, and they're listed below.

Playoff Pulse: Fringe teams fight to keep hopes alive

Monday, 03.26.2012 / 11:09 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

The race for the Stanley Cup Playoffs is not unlike a game of musical chairs. With 13 days left in the regular season, the music is about ready to stop.

There are still 11 postseason berths available with 21 teams technically alive for those bids and only four mathematically eliminated. There are two teams that can clinch Monday on a night when all six games on the docket carry some sort of meaning for at least one of the teams involved.

Tampa Bay Lightning at Philadelphia Flyers -- The nationally-televised game (7:30 pm. NBCSN) features one team hanging onto its playoff dreams by a fraying thread and the other trying to make a push for home-ice advantage. The Lightning are nine points back of eighth with eight games remaining, meaning they would likely have to win out to reach the postseason. The fifth-place Flyers have already clinched and are four points back of fourth-place Pittsburgh and five points back of the first-place Rangers.

Columbus Blue Jackets at Detroit Red Wings -- Here's our first clinching scenario of the night: If the Red Wings win in any way, shape or form, they wrap up a playoff berth. Also, if the Red Wings earn a consolation point, they would clinch with regulation losses by San Jose and Los Angeles tonight. Despite their recent slump, the Red Wings can still climb to the fourth spot in the West and get home-ice in the first round.

Predators, Red Wings can clinch berths Monday

Monday, 03.26.2012 / 10:11 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

Nashville and Detroit can claim two of the remaining 11 playoff spots by the end of Monday's action.

The Predators are not in action, but they can clinch a berth in the postseason for the third straight season if both San Jose and Los Angeles lose in regulation. The Sharks are hosting Colorado at HP Pavilion while the Kings are in Vancouver at Rogers Arena.

Nashville beat Chicago, 6-1, on Sunday to put itself in position to clinch without even playing Monday.

Playoff Pulse: Caps move back into eighth

Sunday, 03.25.2012 / 11:50 PM / Drive to the Playoffs

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

The Washington Capitals still have a ways to go before they can secure a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but they picked up two huge points Sunday night.

Rookie goaltender Braden Holtby stopped all 28 shots he faced and Jason Chimera, Mathieu Perreault and Alex Ovechkin all found the back of the net in a 3-0 win against the Minnesota Wild at the Verizon Center.

The win moved Washington (38-30-8) back into playoff position, as the Caps have six more regulation/overtime victories than ninth-place Buffalo. Those teams will clash on Tuesday night in the U.S. capital.

"It's going to be the biggest game of the year, for sure," Perrault said, "and we're going to be ready for it."

Playoff Pulse: Busy Sunday will have big impact

Sunday, 03.25.2012 / 10:52 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

Shawn P. Roarke - Senior Managing Editor

The stretch drive is officially upon us.

Sunday night, the schedule will trickle down to just 100 games remaining. In fact, after the Blues and Coyotes finish their dust-up in the desert, which has all kinds Of implications on the Western standings, their will be just a dozen days and 97 games remaining in what has been an unforgettable 2011-12 season.

If teams are going to make moves in the standings -- and their are plenty of moves that can be made -- the time is now as time is running short.

Sunday, six of the seven games feature teams looking to make some sort of playoff statement, which means it will be an interesting 10 hour stretch of hockey as the night plays out for interested fans and teams across North America.

Canucks clinch Northwest, inch closer to top seed

Sunday, 03.25.2012 / 1:55 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

The Vancouver Canucks had clinched the Northwest Division before they took the ice at the Pepsi Center on Saturday night. But their 3-2 overtime win against the Colorado Avalanche shows that Alain Vigneault's club is aiming for more.

When Chris Higgins scored his second goal of the night at 1:40 of overtime, the Canucks moved within two points of the St. Louis Blues for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. Vancouver has only seven games remaining on its regular-season schedule, but six of them will be played at Rogers Arena.

"We have our sights set on catching them," Higgins said of the Blues. 

Core players, rookies spur Flyers' return to playoffs

Saturday, 03.24.2012 / 9:54 PM / Drive to the Playoffs

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

The Philadelphia Flyers were one of the biggest question marks in the League entering the season after a massive roster overhaul that saw them lose three top-six forwards while adding an expensive goalie and a 39-year-old KHL expatriate. No one was sure just where they would finish in the standings.
But following a 4-1 win against the Canadiens on Saturday, the Flyers earned a playoff spot, and they still remain in the hunt for the top spot in the conference.

Canucks clinch berth with Flames loss to Stars

Saturday, 03.24.2012 / 7:22 PM / Drive to the Playoffs

The Vancouver Canucks confirmed their dominance in the Northwest Division well before meeting the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night.

Vancouver captured the Northwest for the fourth straight season and fifth time in six campaigns when the second-place Calgary Flames failed to claim two points in a 4-1 loss to Dallas on Saturday afternoon. The Canucks became the second team in the Western Conference to secure a place in 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and they are assured a top-three seed when the tournament begins next month.

Playoff Pulse: West's bubble teams face tests

Saturday, 03.24.2012 / 12:27 PM / Drive to the Playoffs

Shawn P. Roarke - Senior Managing Editor

2011-2012 Standings

Western 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.
03/24/12 12:32PM
There are nine games with serious playoff implications on a busy Saturday in the NHL. Philadelphia can clinch a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with a win against Montreal or some help, while Vancouver can lock up another Northwest Division title with at least one point against Colorado of if Calgary does not win against Dallas.

Calgary Flames at Dallas Stars: While a big game for both teams, this Saturday afternoon matinee is crucial for the visiting Flames, who are hanging on at the outer edge of the playoff picture in the Western Conference.  The Flames are just two points behind Dallas, which currently sits in the No. 8 spot, but Calgary has played one more game and would currently lose the first tie-breaker to the Stars, which is the number of non-shootout wins.

A loss here for Calgary would almost assure that the Flames would have to win their final six games to pass the three teams ahead of them in the race for No. 8. Dallas, meanwhile, can move back up to the No. 3 spot if thinks break right. Los Angeles, the Pacific Division leader, is currently in the No. 3 spot, but sits just one point ahead of the Stars. Dallas could also jump into the No. 7 hole if it wins and Phoenix loses to San Jose in regulation.
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