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Playoff Platter: Kings, Rangers meet again

Stanley Cup Final rematch highlights night full of playoff implications

NHL.com @NHL

The end of the NHL regular season is 24 days away, and the Washington Capitals are the only team that has clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With 15 spots open and just a few weeks left, the possibility is there for a wild finish.  

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

KEY GAME

New York Rangers at Los Angeles Kings (10:30 p.m., ET; NHLN, MSG, FS-W, SN360, SNO): The teams that met in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final each have a secure hold on a playoff spot with a dozen or so games remaining, but still have plenty to play for. The Rangers, with their 2-1 win Wednesday against the Anaheim Ducks, moved two points ahead of the New York Islanders for second place in the Metropolitan Division, though the Islanders have two games in hand. The Kings have won two straight, are 7-2-1 in their past 10 games, and have a four-point lead on the Ducks for first place in the Pacific Division. The Kings also are two points behind the Dallas Stars in the race for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference with two games in hand.

IN GOOD SHAPE

The Florida Panthers have a one-point lead atop the Atlantic Division and appear to be headed to their first playoff appearance since the 2011-12 season. The Panthers, who haven't won a playoff series since the 1996 Eastern Conference Final, are 4-4-2 in their past 10. They play at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; FS-F, SNO, TVA Sports, NHL.TV) before a four-game stretch against four playoff contenders -- the Detroit Red Wings, the Rangers, the Boston Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

LOOK OUT FOR

The Philadelphia Flyers. In the course of two games the Flyers went from three points behind the Detroit Red Wings for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference to one point ahead. With their 3-2 win Wednesday at the Chicago Blackhawks the Flyers improved to 8-1-1 in their past 10 games and moved two points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins, who they host Saturday, for the first wild card.

Video: PHI@CHI: Gudas nets goal in 3rd, Flyers take 3-2 lead 

NEED HELP

The Blackhawks aren't in any danger of missing the playoffs, but there is no question they are struggling. They've lost four straight (0-3-1) and are three points behind the Stars and St. Louis Blues for first place in the Central Division.

WILD RACE

The Flyers and Red Wings weren't the only teams changing places Wednesday. The Colorado Avalanche jumped back ahead of the Minnesota Wild in the race for the second wild card from the Western Conference with a 3-1 victory against the Vancouver Canucks. The Wild, who trail the Avalanche by one point, play at the New Jersey Devils on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; FS-N, MSG, NHL.TV) with a chance to jump right back over Colorado.

Best potential first-round matchup:

San Jose Sharks vs. Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks have won three of four against the Sharks this season, but the teams haven't played each other since Feb. 2. Three of the games were shutouts, with the Sharks winning the first 2-0, and the Ducks winning twice 1-0. The other game was a 3-2 win by the Ducks. So if the Ducks and Sharks meet for the second time in the playoffs (the Ducks won a six-game first-round series in 2009), expect plenty of defense and strong goaltending.

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