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Playoff Platter: St. Louis can jazz up postseason

Blues will clinch with win against Canucks; Islanders battle Lightning

by NHL.com @NHL / NHL.com

The Anaheim Ducks clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Thursday with a point in a 6-5 overtime loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs to join the Washington Capitals, Los Angeles Kings and Dallas Stars in the postseason. The San Jose Sharks had a chance to clinch a berth Thursday, but were defeated 6-3 by the Edmonton Oilers. There are 12 berths open with a little more than two weeks left in the regular season.

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

CLINCHING SCENARIOS

The St. Louis Blues will clinch if they defeat the Vancouver Canucks in any fashion (8 p.m. ET; SN, FS-MW, NHL.TV).

A Blues victory also would tie them with the Dallas Stars for first place in the Central Division and potential home-ice advantage through the Western Conference Final. St. Louis and Dallas each would have 97 points with seven games to play.

Video: STL@SJS: Fabbri makes nifty move for lead in the 3rd

KEY GAME

New York Islanders at Tampa Bay Lightning (7:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TVA Sports, MSG+, SUN): The Lightning are on a two-game win streak and are two points behind the Florida Panthers for first place in the Atlantic Division. They play each other Saturday, but first the Lightning take on the Islanders, who got a big win against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday. The Islanders, who won 3-2 in Tampa on Nov. 29, are one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for third place in the Metropolitan Division.

TROUBLE BRUIN

Over the past few weeks, it appeared the race for the final wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference was going to be between the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers, but the Boston Bruins, who lost their fifth straight game Thursday, have fallen into the mix and are in danger of dropping out of playoff position. With 86 points, the Bruins are one point ahead of the Red Wings for third place in the Atlantic Division, but Detroit has a game in hand. The Bruins are one point ahead of the Flyers, who enter the weekend as the second wild card in the East. Philadelphia has a game in hand on Detroit and two games in hand on Boston.

IT'S WILD

Thursday was a good night for the Minnesota Wild, who got a first-period hat trick from Zach Parise in a 6-2 win against the Calgary Flames, and took a three-point lead over the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card in the Western Conference. The Avalanche, who lost 4-2 against the Flyers on Thursday, have a game in hand. Minnesota visits Colorado on Saturday.

Video: CGY@MIN: Parise's tip-in secures hat trick in the 1st

LOOK OUT BLACKHAWKS

The Nashville Predators won their second straight game Thursday, a 3-2 shootout victory against the Vancouver Canucks, and are two points behind the Chicago Blackhawks for third place in the Central Division. The Predators, who have gained six points on the Blackhawks in their past 10 games, host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday and the Blackhawks play at the Flames.

Best potential first-round matchup:

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Los Angeles Kings: If the Predators overtake the Blackhawks for third place in the Central, the two teams that have combined to win the Stanley Cup five times in the past six seasons could meet in the first round, which means one of them won't make the second round. The Kings lost their third straight game Thursday, and the Blackhawks are 3-5-2 in their past 10.

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