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Playoff Platter: Flyers continue playoff push

Philadelphia's chance to close ground among Friday storylines

by NHL.com @NHL / NHL.com

The end of the NHL regular season is less than a month away and not one team has clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, setting up what should be a wild finish.

Each day, NHL.com will take a closer look at the playoff races.

KEY GAME

Philadelphia at Tampa Bay (7: 30 p.m. ET; CSN-PH, SUN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV): The Flyers use up one of their two games in hand on the Detroit Red Wings on Friday. The Flyers trail the Red Wings, who sit in the first wild card in the Eastern Conference, by four points. The Pittsburgh Penguins, who hold the second wild card, are three points ahead of the Flyers and also play Friday, at the Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m. ET; ROOT, FS-O, NHL.TV). This game is very meaningful to the Lightning as well as they can reclaim first place in the Atlantic Division from the Boston Bruins with at least one point. The Flyers and Lightning played Monday in Philadelphia, with the Flyers winning 4-2.

IN GOOD SHAPE

The St. Louis Blues still have everything left to fight for. They go into their game Friday against the Anaheim Ducks (8 p.m. ET; FS-W, FS-MW, NHL.TV) trailing the Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars by one point in the race for the top spot in the Central Division and the Western Conference. But they have started to separate themselves from the chasing pack below. The Colorado Avalanche, in the second wild card, is 13 points behind the Blues with 13 games remaining.

LOOK OUT FOR

The Carolina Hurricanes. After their 3-2 overtime win against the Boston Bruins on Thursday, the Hurricanes are three points behind the Penguins for the second wild card in the East. Yes, they have played more games than any of the teams they are chasing for a wild card, but the Hurricanes have taken seven of a possible eight points in their past four games and play the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.

Video: CAR@BOS: Gerbe beats Rask in front on rebound

NEED HELP

Minnesota Wild. They are two points behind the Avalanche for the final wild card in the West and hold a game in hand, but the Wild blew a golden opportunity Thursday with a 2-1 loss to an Edmonton Oilers team that is 13th in the Western Conference. The Wild also trail the Avalanche in the ROW (regulation and overtime wins) tie-breaker category by two wins.

Best first-round matchup if playoffs started today:

The movement in the Eastern Conference after play Thursday delivered a set of unbelievable matchups. The best, perhaps, is the top-seeded Washington Capitals against the second wild card Penguins. For the better part of the past decade this has been a top-10 NHL rivalry and the series would feature superstars Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby going head-to-head again in the postseason. Pittsburgh is 16-9-4 since Jan. 1 and is playing far better than it did in the first half of the season.

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