Playoff Primer April 15: Bruins-Senators game postponed
The 2012-13 season is racing toward the finish line. In fact, the regular season ends Saturday, April 27, a mere 12 days away. Although the finish line is clearly in sight, the Stanley Cup Playoffs qualification picture is far less clear. To help make sense of the numerous permutations that exist for the playoffs, NHL.com's Playoff Push Primer looks at some of the biggest movers and shakers among the postseason hopefuls.
Teams that clinched Sunday: None
Teams that can clinch Monday: The Boston Bruins would have had the opportunity to clinch a postseason berth Monday night, but their game against the Ottawa Senators has been postponed due to the tragic events at the Boston Marathon.
For a complete look at the current playoff matchups and breakdown of remaining games, click here.
New Jersey at Toronto: The New Jersey Devils' postseason hopes are on life support, as they'll attempt to avoid a 10-game winless skid Monday at Air Canada Centre. The Devils haven't won since Ilya Kovalchuk suffered a shoulder injury. Or, ironically, since Martin Brodeur earned his 666th career victory. The Toronto Maple Leafs, meanwhile, are well on their way back to the big dance for the first time since 2004 as they've earned points in nine of their past 10 games.
Philadelphia at Montreal: Of these teams prior to the season, more prognosticators would have picked the Philadelphia Flyers to make the playoffs. But it's the Montreal Canadiens who are headed there, while it appears the Flyers will head home earlier than anticipated. Philadelphia enters Monday's action in 12th place in the East, nine points behind the Rangers. The Canadiens are atop the Northeast, one point ahead of Boston.
Dallas at Chicago: Prior to the NHL Trade Deadline, Dallas Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk shipped Michael Ryder, Brenden Morrow and Jaromir Jagr out of town. No way the Stars can make the playoffs without those three, right? Wrong. Dallas, winners of five straight, enters Monday's action in ninth place in the West, just two points behind the Detroit Red Wings after the latter earned a 3-0 win against the Nashville Predators on Sunday. Chicago, meanwhile, collected two more points with Sunday's 2-0 victory against the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center. The Blackhawks sit atop the NHL standings with 68 points.
Vancouver at Nashville: With wins in seven of their past 10 games, the Vancouver Canucks have created a bit of breathing room in the Northwest Division, as they hold a five-point lead on the struggling Minnesota Wild. The Nashville Predators, on the other hand, simply can't score. They were shut out for the third time in their past six games -- all regulation losses. They're also 1-7-2 in their past 10 games and fell nine points behind eighth-place Detroit with Sunday's 3-0 loss at Bridgestone Arena.
Columbus at Colorado: Guided by the outstanding play of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, the Columbus Blue Jackets are contending for what would be their second playoff appearance in franchise history. Winners of three straight, the Blue Jackets are two points behind Detroit for the final playoff spot in the West. The Colorado Avalanche, meanwhile, are 3-5-2 in their past 10 games and were officially eliminated from postseason contention Sunday.
Minnesota at Calgary: The Minnesota Wild have struggled of late -- and it could cost them a playoff berth. Just 3-6-1 in their past 10, the Wild now sit in seventh place in the West, two points from ninth. Despite back-to-back wins, the Calgary Flames are all but out of the playoff picture, as they have only 36 points with seven games to play.
San Jose at Phoenix: With losses in three of their past four games, the San Jose Sharks know they need to find some consistency if they plan on playing beyond the conclusion of the regular season. Todd McLellan's club enters Monday's action in fifth place in the West with 49 points -- but that's only four points from ninth. The Phoenix Coyotes are in 12th place in the West, four points behind Detroit.
Detroit Red Wings: Given how heated the race is in the West, points are required basically every night the rest of the way. Jimmy Howard played with such urgency Sunday, as he stopped all 22 shots he faced to lead his club to a 3-0 win at Nashville. The victory moved the Red Wings past the Dallas Stars into eighth place in the conference. Now 1-0-2 in their past three, the Wings begin a tough two-game trip to Western Canada on Wednesday at Calgary.
Teams on the decline:
New Jersey Devils: They didn't even play Sunday, but the Devils' playoff chances grew slimmer as the Buffalo Sabres dropped them into 11th place in the East thanks to the latter's 3-1 win against Tampa Bay. While New Jersey does have two games in hand on the Sabres, it's hard to envision them leaping three teams in the conference when you consider they're winless in nine straight games. The Devils are in Toronto on Monday.
Edmonton Oilers: Another team that was idle Sunday, but it didn't stop the gap between the Oilers and a playoff berth grow even wider. With Detroit's 3-0 win at Nashville, the Oilers -- losers of five straight -- now find themselves eight points out of a playoff spot with seven games to go. Edmonton returns to action Tuesday against Minnesota at Rexall Place.