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Playoff Platter: Idle Stars can clinch playoff spot

Dallas in with Blackhawks regulation win; Capitals vie for top seed in East

NHL.com @NHL

The end of the NHL regular season is three weeks from Sunday and two teams have clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, setting up what should be a wild finish.

Each day, NHL.com will take a closer look at the playoff races.

CLINCHING SCENARIOS

* The Washington Capitals will clinch the Metropolitan Division title and the No. 1 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference if they defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday (6 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports) in any fashion.

* The Dallas Stars (idle) will clinch a playoff berth if the Minnesota Wild lose to the Chicago Blackhawks in regulation.

Video: CHI@WPG: Kane, Hossa each strike within 26 seconds

KEY GAME

Minnesota at Chicago (8:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN): The Blackhawks, who ended a four-game losing streak (0-3-1) with a win at the Winnipeg Jets on Friday, are third in the Central Division, three points behind the St. Louis Blues and five points behind the Dallas Stars. The Wild are one point behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference. Colorado plays the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday (9:30 p.m. ET; ALT, SN1, NHL.TV). Chicago has eliminated Minnesota from the playoffs each of the past three seasons. The Wild have won all three meetings this season.

IN GOOD SHAPE

The Nashville Predators have earned points in 16 of their past 18 games (11-2-5, 27 of 36 points). The Predators, currently the first wild card out of the West, hold a seven-point lead over the Avalanche, the second wild card. Nashville trails the Blackhawks by five points for third place in the Central Division.

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LOOK OUT FOR

The Los Angeles Kings are 11-2-2 in their past 15 games and have taken 13 of a possible 14 points in the past seven games (6-0-1). Los Angeles clinched a playoff berth Saturday with a 2-1 win against the Boston Bruins, and have a six-point lead on the Anaheim Ducks for first place in the Pacific Division. The Kings are two points behind the Stars in the race for the Western Conference crown and the top seed in the playoffs. Los Angeles has two games in hand on Dallas.

NEED HELP

The Bruins play the New York Rangers (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN1) on Wednesday following a winless West Coast road trip (0-3-0). Boston, which lost 2-1 to the Kings on Saturday, is third in the Atlantic Division behind the Florida Panthers (89 points) and Tampa Bay Lightning (87 points). The Bruins are three points ahead of the Red Wings, who have a game in hand.

Best potential first-round matchup:

The Penguins and Rangers have met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs each of the past two seasons. Each game in the First Round last season, won 4-1 by the Rangers, was decided by one goal and the final two games went to overtime. The Rangers defeated the Penguins 4-3 in the Second Round in the 2013-14 season on their way to the Stanley Cup Final. A third meeting in as many years would make this Metropolitan Division showdown an exciting potential first-round matchup. Pittsburgh has won two of three games against New York this season.

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