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Stanley Cup Playoffs clinching scenarios: April 9

Wednesday, 04.09.2014 / 11:39 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

NHL.com

The Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets can clinch Stanley Cup Playoffs berths Wednesday, while the Anaheim Ducks can clinch the Pacific Division title. Here are the scenarios:

DETROIT RED WINGS

The Red Wings would clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs if they get at least one point against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS

The Blue Jackets would clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs if they defeat the Dallas Stars in any fashion.

ANAHEIM DUCKS

The Ducks would clinch the Pacific Division title if they defeat the San Jose 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.

NOTE: A loss by the Red Wings in any fashion would clinch a first-round matchup between the Canadiens and Lightning, with home-ice advantage to be determined.

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Refusal to quit among reasons Wild back in playoffs

Wednesday, 04.09.2014 / 9:01 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

After going four seasons without qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Minnesota Wild are in the postseason for the second straight season. They clinched their spot after defeating the Boston Bruins 4-3 in a shootout Tuesday.

Last season the Wild made their first trip to the playoffs since 2008. The return was short-lived as Minnesota lost in five games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. One season later Minnesota is hoping to win a playoff series for the first time since 2003, when they lost to the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Final.

The 2013-14 Minnesota Wild retained the core that led it back to the playoffs the previous season. But a number of other elements, including an infusion of youth, brought postseason hockey back to Minnesota.

Here are five reasons the Wild are headed back to the playoffs:

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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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Capitals' Ovechkin scores 50th goal of season

Wednesday, 04.09.2014 / 2:10 AM / News

Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin scored his 50th goal of the season Tuesday against the St. Louis Blues.

Ovechkin's power-play goal with 2:06 remaining came on a one-timer from the left circle that got past goaltender Ryan Miller. It was Ovechkin's 23rd power-play goal of the season and started the Capitals on their way to a 4-1 victory.

It's Ovechkin's fifth 50-goal season but his first since 2009-10, when he scored 50. He leads the NHL by eight goals; Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks is next with 42.

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