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Playoff picture could sharpen after Tuesday night

by Adam Schwartz
There are just six days left in the NHL's regular season and the playoff picture could become much clearer after Tuesday night's action. Three teams -- Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Montreal -- are in a position to clinch berths and two teams -- New Jersey and Calgary -- are poised to clinch division titles.

In all, 26 of the League's 30 teams are in action.

Perhaps the biggest game of the night pits the Canadiens against the Rangers (7 p.m. ET, RDS, GCL). Montreal can clinch with a win or by picking up a point and the Florida Panthers getting no points against the Flyers, who need one point to secure a playoff berth.

The Penguins also try to secure a playoff spot in Tampa Bay. The Penguins are in if they win -- or if they get one point against Tampa and either the Florida Panthers or New York Rangers get one or no points in games against Philadelphia and Montreal, respectively.

Other Eastern Conference games of playoff importance include the Devils trying to clinch the Atlantic Division title against the Maple Leafs, the Hurricanes attempting to move into fourth place when they play the Islanders, the Capitals trying to pull four points ahead of New Jersey for second in the East when they renew their rivalry with the Thrashers, and the Bruins travelling to Ottawa.

In the Western Conference, the Flames could clinch the Northwest Division crown against the Canucks and the Sharks are trying to increase their Presidents' Trophy lead when they clash with the Avalanche. The Predators will try to hold onto the eighth playoff spot when they host the Blackhawks, who are trying to maintain home-ice advantage in the first round. The Blues, meanwhile, will attempt to jump ahead of Nashville by winning in Phoenix. The Oilers are just three points out of a playoff spot, but they have just three games left as they host the Kings on Tuesday night. The Wild are at home against the Stars (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS) and find themselves in the same situation as Edmonton.

The following are some quick-hitting stats:

* New Jersey captain Jamie Langenbrunner is just two goals shy of recording the first 30-goal season of his career. Prior to scoring three goals in his past two games, including the game-winning goal Saturday in New Jersey's 3-2 win against Buffalo, Langenbrunner had been held without a goal in seven of eight games.

* Canadiens left wing Alex Tanguay has 6 goals and 15 points in 14 games since returning from a separated shoulder, which kept him out of the lineup for 28 games. Montreal has won 27 of 48 games with Tanguay in the lineup and has lost 17 of 31 in games Tanguay missed.

* Florida defenseman Jay Bouwmeester is second among Southeast Division defensemen -- and tied for fifth among defensemen in the League -- with 9 power-play goals, including two of his last three goals. While Bouwmeester is second among defensemen in the division with 15 goals, he has been held without a goal in 25 of his last 28 games.

* Flames left wing Curtis Glencross had just 10 assists and 25 points in 62 games with the Blue Jackets and Oilers last season while averaging just 11:21 of ice time. This season, Glencross has 27 assists and 40 points in 73 games with Calgary, while averaging 14:42 of ice time.

* St. Louis center Andy McDonald has 15 assists and 23 points in 27 games since returning from a broken ankle, which cost him 36 games. The Blues have won 22 of 43 games when McDonald has played, but lost 20 of the 36 games he missed.

* Oilers center Sam Gagner had just 4 goals and 17 points in 43 games before the All-Star break, but has 12 goals and 24 points in 30 games since. Gagner has 10 assists and 17 of his 41 points in the third period.

* Carolina has the longest current winning streak in the League at eight games and has yielded more than two goals in just one game during that span. The Hurricanes have allowed the fewest goals in the Southeast Division with 213 and lead the division with 1,160 blocked shots.

* Predators defenseman Greg Zanon leads the Central Division -- and is third in the League -- with 231 blocked shots. Such standing is nothing new for Zanon, who finished in the top-10 among the League's shot blockers in each of the past two seasons.

* Pittsburgh left wing Chris Kunitz is one of just four players in the League with 200 hits and 50 points. Dustin Brown, Alex Ovechkin and Tuomo Ruutu are the other three. Kunitz, who has been playing on a line with Bill Guerin and Sidney Crosby, has 6 goals and 16 points in 17 games since being traded to the Penguins.

* Capitals center Brooks Laich has surpassed his career-high of 37 points by 13 this season. Laich has 7 assists and 9 points in his last five games, including his only two three-point games of the season.

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