Saturday, April 11, marks the conclusion to the 2014-15 regular season. Yet, much remains to be decided in the frantic run to the finish line, including playoff positioning and numerous individual accomplishments and milestones. To celebrate the countdown to the end of the season and the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 15, NHL.com will provide a piece of playoff-related content each day.
There's a good possibility the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks will face each other in the Western Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The winner of their game at United Center on Sunday will have the inside track on the home-ice advantage for that series.
The Blues (48-23-7) come to Chicago in second place in the Central Division, one point ahead of the Blackhawks (48-24-6). Chicago has won four in a row; the Blues have won their past two games.
A victory of any kind by the Blues would move them ahead of the Nashville Predators into first place in the division, though the Predators would have a game in hand. A regulation victory by Chicago would put the Blackhawks and Predators into a tie for first, although the Predators would have an extra game to play and one more regulation/overtime win. An overtime or shootout victory by Chicago would leave all three teams with 104 points, though Nashville would have the tiebreaker on the Blues and Blackhawks.
The four other games Sunday all involve Eastern Conference teams battling for playoff berths.
The Ottawa Senators (40-26-12) need a victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. Ottawa defeated the Washington Capitals 4-3 in overtime at home on Saturday, but the Senators still trail the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings by three points for third place in the Atlantic Division. All three teams are also battling for a wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference, as are the Pittsburgh Penguins (42-25-11).
A Senators regulation loss would clinch a playoff berth for the New York Islanders (46-27-6).
The Penguins will try to end a seven-game losing streak against the Philadelphia Flyers when they visit Wells Fargo Center for an afternoon game. Pittsburgh lost 4-1 at home to the Flyers on Wednesday and 5-3 at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday. The Penguins, Bruins and Red Wings each have 95 points; all three teams will have three games remaining after Sunday, as will the Senators.
After a 3-2 shootout victory at the Minnesota Wild on Saturday, the Red Wings (41-24-13) are back at Joe Louis Arena to play the Capitals (43-25-11). A Detroit victory will move the Red Wings two points ahead of idle Boston for third place in the Atlantic. The Capitals will clinch a playoff berth with a win and a Senators loss, or if they earn a point and the Senators lose in regulation.
The Montreal Canadiens enter the day tied with Tampa Bay Lightning atop the Atlantic Division. Tampa Bay defeated the Panthers 4-0 on Saturday; the Canadiens will try to match that when they visit the Panthers.
Here's a closer look at the action Sunday:
Pittsburgh Penguins at Philadelphia Flyers (12:30 p.m. ET; NBC, SN)
Washington Capitals at Detroit Red Wings (5 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, CSN-DC, FS-D)
Montreal Canadiens at Florida Panthers (5 p.m. ET; SN, RDS, FS-F)
Ottawa Senators at Toronto Maple Leafs (7:30 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, CITY)
St. Louis Blues at Chicago Blackhawks (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN)
The top three teams in each division will make up the first 12 teams in the playoffs. The remaining four spots are filled by the next two highest-placed finishers in each conference, based on regular-season points and regardless of division. It is possible for one division to send five teams to the postseason while the other sends just three.
Seeding of the wild-card teams within each divisional playoff will be determined on the basis of regular-season points. The division winner with the most points in the conference will be matched against the wild-card team with the fewest points; the division winner with the second-most points in the conference will play the wild-card team with the second-fewest points.
The teams finishing second and third in each division will play in the first round of the playoffs. There is no reseeding as the tournament moves to the second round and winners of that series advance to the conference championship series and the right to play in the Stanley Cup Final.