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Playoff Buzz: Flames, Blues could clinch

Calgary, St. Louis in line to qualify for postseason Wednesday

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Welcome to the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, your daily look at the stories impacting the sprint to the finish line of the 2016-17 regular season and the mad scramble for the remaining seven spots in the postseason. There are 12 days remaining in the season. If the playoffs were to start today, this is what the matchups would be. Here is all the playoff news for Wednesday:

 

Clinching scenarios

Here are the clinching scenarios for Wednesday:

The Calgary Flames will clinch a playoff berth:

* If they defeat the Los Angeles Kings in any fashion

The St. Louis Blues will clinch a playoff berth:

* If they defeat the Arizona Coyotes in any fashion and the Kings lose to the Flames in any fashion

or

* If they get one point against the Coyotes and the Kings lose to the Flames in regulation.

 

5:30 p.m.
Let's get the games going!

Two teams playing on Wednesday can clinch berths in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, three others are chasing the Presidents' Trophy and another is fighting to keep its postseason hopes alive. That's a lot packed into four games. Here's a look at what's at stake Wednesday.

Chicago Blackhawks at Pittsburgh Penguins (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV)

The skinny: Each team has clinched a playoff berth, and each is five points behind the Washington Capitals in the race for the Presidents' Trophy. 

Los Angeles Kings at Calgary Flames (9 p.m. ET; SN, FS-W, NHL.TV)

The skinny: If the Flames win, they're in the postseason after missing out last season. The Kings would be eliminated if they lose in any fashion and the St. Louis Blues defeat the Arizona Coyotes, or if they lose in regulation and the Blues get one point. "We have to keep fighting," Kings center Jeff Carter said. "We'll keep fighting until the end."

Washington Capitals at Colorado Avalanche (10 p.m. ET; ALT, CSN-DC, NHL.TV)

The skinny: The Capitals have won five straight and are coming off a 5-4 defeat of the Wild on Tuesday. They have the best record in the League and a three-point lead in the Presidents' Trophy race.

St. Louis Blues at Arizona Coyotes (10 p.m. ET; SN360, FS-A, FS-MW, NHL.TV)

The skinny: The Blues reach the postseason with a win and a Kings loss to the Flames. Or they get in if they get one point against the Coyotes and the Kings lose in regulation. 

 

4:04 p.m.
So how did they do it?

Four teams clinched playoff berths Tuesday. But how?

For the San Jose Sharks, staff writer Lisa Dillman said the two of the biggest factors were the play of defenseman Brent Burns and the impact a healthy Logan Couture had on them.

Lisa also wrote about how the Anaheim Ducks got in the playoffs, chief among them forward Rickard Rakell developing into an offensive force and goaltender Jonathan Bernier's quality play while starter John Gibson has been out with an injury.

The New York Rangers are going back to the playoffs in part because of their success on the road, where they are an NHL-best 27-10-2, and the play of starting goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and backup Antti Raanta when Lundqvist was in a slump or was injured, wrote senior writer Dan Rosen.

The development of center Connor McDavid and goaltender Cam Talbot are two of the main reasons the Edmonton Oilers are going to the postseason for the first time since 2005-06, according to staff writer Tim Campbell.

 

2:40 p.m.
Setting up potential Final preview

The Blackhawks and Penguins have combined to win the Stanley Cup five times in the past eight seasons, including the past two, and one of them could lift the trophy again in June. But before that they'll play at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV), and NHL.com has all the bases covered.  

Correspondent Wes Crosby has all the news, notes and projected lineups from the morning skates for each team, including a potential return to the lineup for Penguins forward Conor Sheary.

Speaking of Sheary, here's what Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said about him: "Conor might be the most improved player in my tenure." Heady praise for the undrafted 24-year-old.

NHL Network's Kevin Weekes breaks down the pluses and minuses for each team. And managing editor John Kreiser has his list of five reasons to watch tonight.

 

1:43 p.m.
Stamkos now day to day

Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos could be close to making his return. Coach Jon Cooper said he considers Stamkos day to day.

Stamkos said Wednesday was the best he's felt on the ice since he started skating.

"It's as close as I've been," he said. "I'm not going to put any dates on anything. Just very pleased and excited with how it's feeling. … I'm very optimistic about being able to get to where I need to be sooner rather than later."

After playing the Detroit Red Wings at Amalie Arena on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; SUN, FS-D, NHL.TV), the Lightning have a weekend back to back against the Montreal Canadiens and Dallas Stars on Saturday and Sunday.

"I don't see him playing against Detroit but after that I would say it's getting really close," Cooper told the Lightning website after practice Wednesday.

Stamkos hasn't played since injuring his knee on Nov. 15, but you would think adding him to the lineup would be a boost to the Lightning's playoff hopes. Despite not having their best player for more than four months, the Lightning are three points behind the Boston Bruins for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference with seven games remaining. 

 

10:45 a.m.
Oilers in, Red Wings out

Everything that has a beginning has an ending. For fans in Edmonton on Tuesday night, that meant an end to an 10-season playoff drought. But for those in Detroit, it meant the end of a quarter-century of postseason hockey.

There have been a lot more downs than ups in Edmonton since the Oilers lost Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final to the Carolina Hurricanes, but the players appreciated those who have stuck with them.

"These fans have gone through a lot over the last little bit and they've done a great job to stick with us," forward Jordan Eberle said.

Here's staff writer Tim Campbell's report on a memorable night at Rogers Place.

Columnist Nick Cotsonika marked the end of an era for the Red Wings, who were eliminated from playoff contention Tuesday. They will miss the playoffs for the first time since the 1989-90 season.

"I know when I was a player, March Madness, the Masters and Red Wings playoff hockey, that was the favorite, favorite time of year for me," said Kris Draper, who went to the playoffs from 1993-94 through last season with the Red Wings as a player and assistant general manager.

 

9:50 a.m.
All four games Wednesday have major playoff implications

Five of the eight teams in action Wednesday are fighting for playoff position, and one still has faint hopes of extending its season past the second week of April. Let's take a look at what's on the line:

Chicago Blackhawks at Pittsburgh Penguins (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV) -- Would anyone mind seeing a Blackhawks-Penguins Stanley Cup Final? Seven games of Jonathan Toews vs. Sidney Crosby? Sign us up. Each is looking to close the gap on the NHL-leading Washington Capitals. The Penguins can't move out of third in the Metropolitan Division if they win because they will have played one more game than the Columbus Blue Jackets, but they can match them with 105 points and get within three of the Capitals. The Blackhawks also would get to 105 points with a victory, as well as cement their spot atop the Central Division.

Los Angeles Kings at Calgary Flames (9 p.m. ET; SN, FS-W, NHL.TV) -- The Flames can clinch their berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a defeat of the Kings Tuesday. They have the first wild card, and a win would get them within one point of the Edmonton Oilers for third place in the Pacific Division. The Kings need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive; they're nine points behind the St. Louis Blues for the second wild card in the Western Conference with seven games remaining.

Washington Capitals at Colorado Avalanche (10 p.m. ET; ALT, CSN-DC, NHL.TV) -- The Capitals defeated the Wild in overtime Tuesday to win their fifth straight game. They can extend their lead in the race for Presidents' Trophy, and matching last season's team-record totals of 56 wins and 120 points remains possible if they win six of their final seven.

St. Louis Blues at Arizona Coyotes (10 p.m. ET; SN360, FS-A, FS-MW, NHL.TV) -- The Blues can clinch their playoff berth with a win and a Kings loss to the Flames, or if they get one point and the Kings lose in regulation. The Blues also can jump into third place in the Central Division with a win, or with one point in an overtime or shootout loss. They would match the Nashville Predators with 89 points, and have the first tiebreaker because they have more regulation/overtime wins (ROW), 40-37.

 

8:55 a.m.
Four teams clinch berths Tuesday

It was a grand slam for four teams, with the Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers each clinching Stanley Cup Playoffs berths Tuesday.

Let's take a look at the highlights:

Edmonton Oilers 2, Los Angeles Kings 1 -- After 11 seasons, the Oilers are heading back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Center Connor McDavid continued his run for the Art Ross Trophy with a goal, and Edmonton clinching on home ice made it even sweeter. "It's definitely special. You saw the excitement in the building," McDavid said. "The fans are excited, we're excited. There is a lot of work left to be done still.

Video: Oilers beat Kings to clinch playoff spot

Anaheim Ducks 4, Vancouver Canucks 1 -- The Oilers win clinched the Ducks their spot in the playoffs. It also helped that forwards Corey Perry and Patrick Eaves each scored in the first 97 seconds of the game. The win also kept the Ducks on top of the Pacific Division.

San Jose Sharks 5, New York Rangers 4 -- Defenseman Brent Burns' overtime goal ended the Sharks' six-game losing streak, and combined with the Oilers' defeat of the Kings, gets San Jose into the postseason for the 12th time in the past 13 seasons.

Boston Bruins 4, Nashville Predators 1 -- Forward Noel Acciari's first NHL goal came at a great time for the Bruins: four minutes after the Predators scored to get within one goal midway through the third period. The win allowed the Bruins to extend their lead for the second wild card in the East to three points on the Tampa Bay Lightning and four points on the New York islanders and Carolina Hurricanes.

Philadelphia Flyers 3, Ottawa Senators 2 (SO) -- The Flyers' flickering playoff hopes remained alive thanks in part to forward Jordan Weal, who scored the game-tying goal in the third period and then the only goal of the shootout. The Flyers are six points behind the Bruins for the second wild card with six games remaining. The Senators gained a point but lost ground to the Canadiens in the Atlantic Division race, falling four points behind.

Video: Weal's late-game heroics push Flyers past Sens in SO

Carolina Hurricanes 4, Detroit Red Wings 1 -- The Hurricanes picked up a point in their 12th straight game (8-0-4), matching the franchise record set in October 2005. That season finished with the Hurricanes winning the Stanley Cup. They're four points behind the Bruins for the second wild card this season with seven games left.

Columbus Blue Jackets 3, Buffalo Sabres 1 -- Forward Brandon Saad closed the game with an empty-net goal and the Blue Jackets moved into second place in the Metropolitan Division, within three points of the first-place Washington Capitals.

Toronto Maple Leafs 3, Florida Panthers 2 -- Maple Leafs rookie center Auston Matthews continued his remarkable season by scoring his 35th goal, and center Leo Komarov had a goal and an assist, including his 100th point in the NHL. The win kept the Maple Leafs ahead of the Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division.

Montreal Canadiens 4, Dallas Stars 1 -- The battle of the Benn Brothers went to Jordie, with the Canadiens defeating the Stars and younger brother Jamie. With the win, Montreal moved four points ahead of the Senators for first place in the Atlantic Division.

Video: Markov makes franchise history as Habs beat Stars

Washington Capitals 5, Minnesota Wild 4 -- Forward Alex Ovechkin had a hat trick, all the goals on the power play, and center T.J. Oshie closed the night with an overtime goal, his second of the game. The Capitals lead the Blue Jackets by three points in the race for first in the Metropolitan Division and the Presidents' Trophy. The Wild continue to scuffle; they're 1-7-2 in their past 10 games and are seven points behind the Chicago Blackhawks in the Central Division.

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