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Playoff Countdown: Jockeying for position in Central

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EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFF RACE
(Click chart below to zoom)
WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFF RACE
(Click chart below to zoom)
Playoff race chart
Playoff race chart
Related information: "If the playoffs started today ..."  |  Current playoffs standings

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 St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks each clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs by winning Thursday.

Their battle for home-ice advantage in the Western Conference First Round and the opportunity to catch the Nashville Predators for the Central Division lead continues Friday.

The Blues (47-23-7) visit the Dallas Stars (37-30-10), one of three teams in action that desperately needs points in the race for the second wild card into the playoffs from the West. The Blackhawks (47-24-6) play at the Buffalo Sabres (22-47-8).

Nashville, which is idle, leads the Central with 103 points, with St. Louis two points back and Chicago three off the pace. All three teams will have four regular-season games remaining after Friday.

The San Jose Sharks (38-30-9) play host to the Arizona Coyotes (23-46-8) with a chance to draw closer to the Los Angeles Kings, who passed the Winnipeg Jets back into the second wild card Thursday. The Kings have 90 points, as do the Jets, but the Kings own the regulation/overtime wins (ROW) tiebreaker. The Sharks are five points back, followed by the Stars at six points back.

Also mathematically alive are the Colorado Avalanche (35-30-12), who have the slimmest margin for error at eight points back as they visit the Anaheim Ducks (50-22-7). The Ducks could move six points ahead of the Predators for the top seed in the West and four points ahead of the New York Rangers in the race for the Presidents' Trophy with a win.

Over in the Eastern Conference, the Montreal Canadiens (47-22-9) visit the New Jersey Devils (31-33-13) with the chance to take a three-point lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic. The Canadiens currently have a game in hand on the Lightning.

Here's a closer look at the action Friday:

Chicago Blackhawks at Buffalo Sabres (7 p.m. ET; CSN-CH, MSG-B, BELL TV)

Montreal Canadiens at New Jersey Devils (7 p.m. ET; SN360, RDS, MSG+)

St. Louis Blues at Dallas Stars (8:30 p.m. ET; FS-MW, FS-SW)

Colorado Avalanche at Anaheim Ducks (10 p.m. ET; SN1, ALT, PRIME)

Arizona Coyotes at San Jose Sharks (10 p.m. ET; FS-A, CSN-CA PLUS)

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.

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