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Playoff Platter: Ladd returns to Winnipeg

Former Jets captain hopes to help Blackhawks end losing streak, stay ahead of charging Predators

by NHL.com @NHL / NHL.com

The end of the NHL regular season is 23 days away and the Washington Capitals are the only team that has clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With 15 spots open and just a few weeks left, the possibility is there for a wild finish.  

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

KEY GAME

Chicago at Winnipeg (8 p.m. ET; CSN-CH, TSN3, NHL.TV):  Blackhawks forward Andrew Ladd returns to Winnipeg with his new team in the midst of a four-game losing streak (0-3-1). Despite the recent skid Chicago is three points behind the St. Louis Blues for second place and five points behind the first-place Dallas Stars with a game in hand on each team. But Chicago can't only look ahead since the Nashville Predators are three points back in the battle for third place in the division.

IN GOOD SHAPE

The Predators keep winning. On Thursday they defeated the Islanders, 4-2, to improve to 11-1-5 in their past 17 games. Nashville has a nine-point lead on the Colorado Avalanche for the first wild card into the playoffs in the Western Conference and is six points behind the second-place Blues in the Central Division, with a game in hand. But the Predators face a tough test Friday at Washington (7 p.m. ET; FS-TN, CSN-DC, TVA Sports, NHL.TV).  

LOOK OUT FOR

The Pittsburgh Penguins won their fourth straight game Thursday and moved to within one point of the Islanders for third place in the Metropolitan Division and within four points of the second-place New York Rangers. Pittsburgh is 7-3-0 in its past 10 games and three points ahead of the Detroit Red Wings for the first wild card in the Eastern Conference. On Saturday, Pittsburgh plays at the Philadelphia Flyers, who are 8-1-1 in their past 10 and one point behind Detroit for the second wild card in the East.

NEED HELP

In the topsy-turvy race for the final wild card in the Western Conference, the Minnesota Wild failed to move back ahead of the Avalanche on Thursday. The Wild, who were passed by the Avalanche on Wednesday, lost to the New Jersey Devils 7-4 on Thursday. The Avalanche can increase their lead Friday when they play at the Calgary Flames (9 p.m. ET; ALT, SNF, NHL.TV). The Wild host the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday.

Best potential first-round matchup:

Detroit Red Wings vs. Washington Capitals: This would be the only way to get a Stanley Cup Final rematch in the first round. The Red Wings, who moved to the Eastern Conference for the 2013-14 season, swept the Capitals in the 1998 Final when they were in the Western Conference. The Capitals, who haven't gotten out of the second round of the playoffs since then, have a 12-point lead on the Stars in the race for the Presidents' Trophy. The Capitals have won two of their three games against the Red Wings this season, but one has come in overtime and the other in a shootout.

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