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.
It's been nearly two decades since the Stanley Cup Playoffs came to Manitoba. The Winnipeg Jets control their destiny Thursday when it comes to changing that.
If the Jets (42-26-12) win at the Colorado Avalanche (37-31-12) in any fashion, they will clinch the second playoff berth in franchise history and first since the Atlanta Thrashers won the Southeast Division title in 2006-07.
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF RACE
(Click chart below to zoom)
Fans in Winnipeg haven't had a playoff game there since the previous incarnation of the Jets lost in the first round to the Detroit Red Wings in 1996. That summer, the franchise relocated to Phoenix.
There are other scenarios in which the Jets can clinch, including if they get one point and the Los Angeles Kings lose their game in any fashion. The Jets can also lose and get in if the Kings lose in regulation.
Other teams with the opportunity to clinch a playoff berth Thursday include the Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, Red Wings and the idle New York Islanders.
The Bruins (41-26-13) face off with the Florida Panthers (36-29-15) one night after being shut out by the Washington Capitals for the third time in as many games this season. They need a win and a regulation loss by the Ottawa Senators.
The Flames (44-29-7) host the Kings (39-26-15) looking to secure their first trip to the playoffs in six seasons. A win in any fashion would clinch no worse than third place in the Pacific Division for Calgary.
The Red Wings (42-25-13) can extend their postseason streak to 24 straight seasons if they defeat the Montreal Canadiens (48-22-10) or if they gain one point and get help from other teams.
The Islanders would get in if the Senators or Bruins lose in any fashion.
The Canadiens, meanwhile, are poised to clinch the Atlantic title if they defeat the Red Wings and the Tampa Bay Lightning (48-24-8) lose to the New Jersey Devils (32-35-13) in any fashion. The Canadiens would also clinch with one point and a Lightning loss in regulation.
Thursday could mark the Kings' last stand. The defending Stanley Cup champions remain alive in the Pacific Division race as well as for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference. At 93 points, Los Angeles trails Calgary by two, and even with a regulation win would not overtake the Flames, who hold the tiebreaker for regulation/overtime wins (ROW). The Kings are three points behind the Jets.
Over in the East, the Senators (41-26-13) could still finish as high as third in the Atlantic with help from the teams playing the Red Wings and Bruins. But their singular focus Thursday has to be on solving the New York Rangers (52-21-17), who have already clinched the Presidents' Trophy and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Senators are one point behind the idle Pittsburgh Penguins for the first wild card and even in points with the Bruins for the second wild card, but Boston holds the ROW tiebreaker.
Three other games will have an impact on positioning heading into the playoffs.
First place in the Central remains up for the grabs. The St. Louis Blues have 105 points, the Nashville Predators 104 and the Chicago Blackhawks 102 with two regular-season games left for each.
The Blues (49-24-7) host the Blackhawks (48-26-6) while the Predators (47-23-10) welcome in the Minnesota Wild (45-27-8). The Blues can clinch the Central with a win and a Predators loss in regulation. The Wild, who occupy the first wild card in the West, can still catch the Blackhawks for third place in the Central if they win their final two games and Chicago fails to gain at least one point.
The Canucks (46-29-5) can secure second place in the Pacific and home ice in the Western Conference First Round if they defeat the Arizona Coyotes (24-48-8) and the Flames lose to the Kings.
The idle Anaheim Ducks can clinch the top seed in the West if the Blues lose in regulation and the Predators lose in any fashion.
Here's a closer look at the action Thursday:
Ottawa Senators at New York Rangers (7 p.m. ET; RDS2, TSN5, MSG)
Carolina Hurricanes at Philadelphia Flyers (7 p.m. ET; FS-CR, CSN-PH)
Detroit Red Wings at Montreal Canadiens (7:30 p.m. ET; FS-D, RDS, SNE, CITYM)
New Jersey Devils at Tampa Bay Lightning (7:30 p.m. ET; MSG+, SUN)
Boston Bruins at Florida Panthers (7:30 p.m. ET; TVA, NESNPLUS, FS-F)
Chicago Blackhawks at St. Louis Blues (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CSN-CH)
Minnesota Wild at Nashville Predators (8 p.m. ET; FS-N, FS-WI, FS-TN)
Winnipeg Jets at Colorado Avalanche (9 p.m. ET; TSN3, ALT)
Los Angeles Kings at Calgary Flames (9 p.m. ET; FS-W, SNW)
San Jose Sharks at Edmonton Oilers (9:30 p.m. ET; SN360, CSN-CA PLUS)
Arizona Coyotes at Vancouver Canucks (10 p.m. ET; FS-A, SNP, SNV)
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.