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Playoff Platter: Penguins seeking separation

Pittsburgh looks to solidify wild-card berth as it faces New York Rangers

NHL.com @NHL

The NHL regular season will end four weeks from today and not one team has 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 SCENARIO

The idle Capitals will clinch a playoff spot if both the Penguins and Red Wings lose in regulation. The Capitals had a chance to clinch a spot Saturday night, but lost to the San Jose Sharks.

KEY GAME

Pittsburgh at New York Rangers (12:30 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports). The Penguins own the final wild card spot into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference, leading the Philadelphia Flyers by two points. If Pittsburgh is going to, hold off the Flyers or the Carolina Hurricanes (four points back), it will need to do so without center Evgeni Malkin, who will miss 6-8 weeks with an upper-body injury. The Penguins are 15-14-4 on the road; the Rangers, who have a three-point lead over the New York Islanders for second place in the Metropolitan Division, are 23-7-3 at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Condensed Game: Wild @ Canadiens

TRADING PLACES

The Minnesota Wild jumped over the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card from the Western Conference on Saturday. The Wild, behind two goals from Mikael Granlund, won 4-1 against the Montreal Canadiens and the Avalanche lost to the Winnipeg Jets, 3-2. Each team has 74 points, but Minnesota has a game in hand.  

LOOK OUT FOR

The Red Wings rallied for a 3-2 win against the Rangers on Saturday and moved into the first wild card in the East. The Red Wings have won two in a row and enter their game Sunday against the Toronto Maple Leafs four points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers for second and third place in the Atlantic Division.

Video: Eichel tallies twice to sweep away Canes

NEED HELP

Three days ago the Hurricanes were the team to look out for; now they need help after an overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday. The Hurricanes are four points behind Pittsburgh for the second wild card and have played three more games than the Penguins. Carolina still needs to leapfrog Philadelphia, which is two points ahead with two games in hand.

Best first-round matchup if playoffs started today:

The last time Pittsburgh and Washington played each other in the playoffs was 2009 and it was a classic. Pittsburgh won in seven games, but Game 2 -- which had Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin each score a hat trick -- is what made the series so memorable. Imagine the intrigue in a rematch this season.

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