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Playoff Platter: Sharks can taste postseason

San Jose could become fifth West team to clinch; Washington one point from Presidents' Trophy

by @NHL /

The St. Louis Blues became the fifth team to clinch a spot in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs with their 4-0 win against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday. They joined the Los Angeles Kings, Dallas Stars and Anaheim Ducks from the Western Conference. The Washington Capitals are the only team from the Eastern Conference to have clinched a spot with 15 days remaining in the regular season.


* The Capitals will win the Presidents' Trophy and the No. 1 seed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs if they get at least one point against the Blues OR if the Stars lose to the Sharks in any fashion, or defeat the Sharks in a shootout.

* The Sharks will clinch a playoff berth if they defeat the Stars in any fashion OR if they get one point against the Stars AND the Arizona Coyotes lose to the Philadelphia Flyers in any fashion OR if the Coyotes lose to the Flyers in regulation.


Minnesota Wild at Colorado Avalanche (3 p.m. ET; FS-N, ALT, NHL.TV): Thirteen of the 14 games on the schedule Saturday will have an impact on the playoff races, but the afternoon game at Pepsi Center features two teams playing for one spot. The Wild, with 83 points, hold the final wild card into the playoffs out of the Western Conference, leading the Avalanche by three points. The Avalanche have a game in hand and have one more regulation/overtime win than the Wild.

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The Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning play Saturday with first place in the Atlantic Division on the line. Each team has 91 points; the Lightning hold the tiebreaker by virtue of having 40 regulation/overtime wins to 34 for the Panthers. The Lightning moved back into first place with a 7-4 win against the New York Islanders on Friday, scoring four goals in the third period. Saturday is the last time the Panthers will play a team in playoff position in the regular season; in their final seven games they play two games each against the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs and one game against the New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators and Carolina Hurricanes. The Lightning play the Devils and Canadiens twice, and have single games remaining against the New York Islanders, Devils and New York Rangers.  


The Capitals can clinch the Presidents' Trophy and home ice throughout the playoffs if the Stars lose to the Sharks in any fashion Saturday or defeat the Sharks in a shootout, or if the Capitals gain at least one point against the Blues. With their 1-0 overtime win against the Devils on Friday, the Capitals (53-15-5, 111 points), moved within one victory of equaling their single-season franchise record, established in 2009-10 when they won the Presidents' Trophy (54-15-13, 121 points).


With their loss Friday at Tampa Bay, the Islanders were unable to build on their two-point lead on the Flyers and Detroit Red Wings in the race for the two wild cards from the Eastern Conference. The Islanders, who were in second place in the Metropolitan Division earlier this month, are 3-5-2 in their past 10 games.

Best potential first-round matchup:

Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders: On the night before Easter in 1987, the Islanders defeated the Capitals 3-2 in an epic Game 7 that started at 7:35 p.m. ET and ended close to 2 a.m. ET. Pat LaFontaine scored at 8:47 of the fourth overtime to end it. It was the fifth time in six seasons the rivals had met in the playoffs, with the Islanders winning four times. If the Islanders fall to the second wild card, they would play each other in the first round.

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