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Playoff Countdown: Four teams can clinch berths

NHL.com @NHL

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.

The Washington Capitals, New York Islanders, Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks can join the field for the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Saturday.

The Capitals (43-25-10) don't need help from anyone. If they defeat the Ottawa Senators in regulation at Canadian Tire Centre, they'll be back in the playoffs after a one-year absence. The Capitals have won three in a row, including a 5-4 shootout victory at the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday that moved them past the Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins into second place in the Metropolitan Division.

But for one night, the Islanders (45-27-6) will be rooting for the Capitals. A regulation victory by Washington in Ottawa and a win by New York against the visiting Buffalo Sabres at Nassau Coliseum will put the Islanders into the playoffs for the second time in three years.

Beating the Senators (39-26-12) won't be easy. Ottawa begins the night three points behind the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings, who are even in the race for third place in the Atlantic Division; the teams are also battling for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. The Senators have won their past two games, including a 2-1 overtime victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.

The Red Wings (40-24-13) and Bruins (40-25-13) each play Saturday. Detroit visits the Minnesota Wild; Boston hosts the Toronto Maple Leafs.

There are several scenarios in which the Wild (44-26-7) can clinch, including if they defeat the Red Wings in regulation or overtime and any of the following occurs: the Flames lose in regulation; the Flames lose in overtime or shootout and either the Winnipeg Jets or Los Angeles Kings lose in regulation; or both the Jets and Kings lose in regulation.

The Wild can also clinch a playoff berth if they defeat the Red Wings in a shootout and any of the following occurs: the Flames lose in any fashion and either the Jets or Kings lose in regulation; or both the Jets and Kings lose in regulation

The Wild cannot clinch a playoff berth Saturday if they lose in any fashion.

The Vancouver Canucks (45-28-5) face the Jets (39-26-12) in an afternoon game at MTS Centre and can take the first step toward clinching with a win. The Canucks would clinch a playoff berth if they defeat the Jets in regulation, and either the Flames lose in any fashion or the Kings lose in regulation.

The Canucks would clinch a playoff berth if they defeat the Jets in overtime, the Flames lose in any fashion and the Kings lose in regulation.

The Canucks would clinch a playoff berth if they defeat the Jets in a shootout, and both the Flames and Kings lose in regulation.

The Canucks cannot clinch a playoff berth Saturday if they lose in any fashion.

In the Central Division, the Nashville Predators (47-22-9) can move back into undisputed possession of first place by getting at least one point against the visiting Dallas Stars. The St. Louis Blues (48-23-7) pulled even with the Predators at 103 points by outscoring the Stars 7-5 in Dallas on Friday.

The Kings (38-25-14) who are battling the Jets for the second wild card in the West, are home Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche (36-30-12). The Kings are one point behind the Flames for third place in the Pacific Division; the Flames (42-29-7) visit the Edmonton Oilers, who the Kings defeated 8-2 on Thursday in Los Angeles.

Here's a closer look at the action Saturday:

Philadelphia Flyers at Carolina Hurricanes (1 p.m. ET; CSN-PH, FS-CR)

Pittsburgh Penguins at Columbus Blue Jackets (2 p.m. ET; SN360, ROOT, FS-O)

Vancouver Canucks at Winnipeg Jets (3 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, SNP, TSN3)

Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins (7 p.m. ET; CBC, NESN)

Washington Capitals at Ottawa Senators (7 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, SN, TVA Sports, CSN-DC)

Tampa Bay Lightning at Florida Panthers (7 p.m. ET; SUN, FS-F)

Buffalo Sabres at New York Islanders (7 p.m. ET; MSG-B, BELL TV, MSG+)

New Jersey Devils at New York Rangers (7 p.m. ET; MSG+2, MSG)

Detroit Red Wings at Minnesota Wild (7 p.m. ET; CITY, FS-D+, FS-N)

Dallas Stars at Nashville Predators (8 p.m. ET; FS-SW+, FS-TN)

San Jose Sharks at Arizona Coyotes (9 p.m. ET; CSN-CA+, FS-A+)

Calgary Flames at Edmonton Oilers (10 p.m. ET; CBC)

Colorado Avalanche at Los Angeles Kings (10 p.m. ET; SN, TVA Sports, ALT, FS-W)

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 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.

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