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Playoff Platter: Stars, Kings can secure spots

Dallas, Los Angeles in position to sew up berths Saturday @NHL

The end of the NHL regular season is 22 days away, and only one team has clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, setting up what should be a wild finish.

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


Two teams can clinch Stanley Cup Playoff berths Saturday.

New York Islanders at Dallas Stars (8 p.m. ET; MSG+, FS-SW, NHL.TV): The Stars, with the best record in the Western Conference, will clinch a playoff berth under the following scenario:

* If they defeat the Islanders in regulation or overtime AND the Minnesota Wild lose against the Carolina Hurricanes in regulation.

Boston Bruins at Los Angeles Kings (10:30 p.m. ET; NESN, FS-W, NHL.TV): The Kings, who lead the Pacific Division by four points, will clinch a playoff berth under the following scenarios:

* If they defeat the Bruins in regulation or overtime AND the Arizona Coyotes lose against the Tampa Bay Lightning in any fashion or defeat the Lightning in a shootout; OR

* If they defeat the Bruins in a shootout AND the Coyotes lose in any fashion; OR

* If they get one point against the Bruins AND the Coyotes lose in regulation.


Detroit Red Wings at Florida Panthers (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, FS-D+, FS-F): Detroit has a one-point lead on the Philadelphia Flyers for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference, but the Flyers have two games in hand and play earlier in the day, against the Pittsburgh Penguins, who began the day with a three-point lead on Detroit for the first wild card with a game in hand. The Panthers are in first place in the Atlantic Division, but are being chased by Boston and Tampa Bay. The Bruins, who trail by three points, play the Kings later Saturday. The Lightning are at the Coyotes.


The Kings sit atop the Pacific Division, with a four-point lead on the Anaheim Ducks. The Kings are two points behind the Stars for first place in the Western Conference, which would guarantee home ice until the Stanley Cup Final for as long as the Kings remain in the playoffs. Los Angeles holds two games in hand on Dallas, as well as the tiebreaker (more non-shootout wins; 43 to 42). The Kings have won three straight and are 7-2-1 in their past 10 games. They host the Bruins on Saturday.


The Penguins. Captain Sidney Crosby is red hot, with 16 points in his past 10 games. Pittsburgh has won eight of its past 12, including four in a row. By the end of play Saturday, the Penguins would jump to third place in the Metropolitan Division with a win at the streaking Flyers (1 p.m. ET; ROOT, CSN-PH. NHL.TV) and a loss by the Islanders against the Stars.

Video: CAR@PIT: Crosby puts home a pair of pretty goals


Surrounded by in-form teams (the Flyers are 8-1-1 in their past 10 games and the Penguins are 7-3-0), the Red Wings have won five of their past 10 games and hold a precarious grip on the second wild card. Detroit has given up four or more goals in four of the eight games they have played in March. If things break wrong for the Red Wings on Saturday (a Philadelphia win and a Detroit loss of any kind), the Red Wings will be outside the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Best potential first-round matchup:

The Central Division has been the most competitive division throughout the season and could deliver an unforgettable matchup, pitting the St. Louis Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks. This is a fierce regional rivalry that produces the heavy brand of hockey at which each team excels. The teams met in a memorable first-round series two years ago and the Blackhawks advanced with a six-game victory. That series featured four overtime games, including Game 1, which lasted three overtimes. St. Louis won the first two games, but lost the next four. This season, each team has won two games, but each of the Blues victories came beyond regulation. They play for a final time on April 7 in Chicago.

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