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Playoff Countdown: Rivalry night has implications

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 Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals each have their own motivations when they play at Verizon Center in the first game of the NBCSN Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader.

The Capitals (44-25-11) have clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and would take a big step toward securing home-ice advantage in the Eastern Conference First Round with a win. It would give them a three-point lead on the New York Islanders for second place in the Metropolitan Division, with the Islanders having two regular-season games remaining and the Capitals one.

The Bruins (41-25-13) still have some work to do in order to clinch a playoff berth. They have two possible avenues in getting there: third place in the Atlantic Division or one of the two wild cards from the East. They trail the Detroit Red Wings by two points for third in the division with a game in hand. Their 95 points have them even in the standings with the Ottawa Senators, but the Bruins hold the second wild card by virtue of having played one fewer game. Even if they fail to gain a point Wednesday, the Bruins still will hold the regulation/overtime wins (ROW) tiebreaker with the Senators. They also are one point behind the idle Pittsburgh Penguins for the East's first wild card.

In the second game of the doubleheader the Anaheim Ducks can clinch the top seed in the Western Conference with a regulation or overtime win against the Dallas Stars. The Ducks (50-23-7) saw their chances at the Presidents' Trophy come to an end Tuesday when the New York Rangers won, but they're still in the driver's seat to lock up home ice for at least the first three rounds. The Stars (39-31-10) were eliminated from playoff contention earlier in the week.

Here's a closer look at the action Wednesday:

Toronto Maple Leafs at Columbus Blue Jackets (7:30 p.m. ET; SN, FS-O)

Boston Bruins at Washington Capitals (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports)

Dallas Stars at Anaheim Ducks (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN)

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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