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Playoff Primer April 17: B's can clinch; Hawks No. 1?

by John Kreiser /

The 2012-13 season is racing toward the finish line. In fact, the regular season ends Sunday, April 28. 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,'s Playoff Push Primer looks at some of the biggest movers and shakers among the postseason hopefuls.


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Teams that clinched Tuesday: None

Teams that can clinch Wednesday: The Boston Bruins can clinch a Stanley Cup Playoff spot if they gain at least one point against the Buffalo Sabres. The Chicago Blackhawks, who have already clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, can claim the Western Conference's top seed if Columbus defeats Anaheim in any fashion on Wednesday night.

Playoff positions to be claimed: 12

Days remaining in regular-season: 11

Total games remaining in regular season: 83

Wednesday's schedule:

Montreal at Pittsburgh: The Montreal Canadiens have been outscored 12-3 in dropping their past two games, and a trip to Consol Energy Center isn't the ideal place to snap out of a funk. The Pittsburgh Penguins have won four in a row and 19 of 21 to close in on wrapping up first place in the Eastern Conference. Pittsburgh has won both meetings against the Canadiens this season in two wildly different ways -- 7-6 in overtime at Montreal and 1-0 at Consol Energy Center.

Buffalo at Boston: The Boston Bruins got an unwanted night off Monday when their game against the Ottawa Senators was postponed following the tragedy at the Boston Marathon. They'll have had three days off when the Buffalo Sabres come to TD Garden for the Wednesday Night Rivalry game (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN). The Bruins trail Montreal by one point in the race for the Northeast Conference lead but now have a game in hand. Also, Boston would clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs by taking at least one point from this game. The Sabres are still clinging to faint playoff hopes after sweeping Philadelphia and Tampa Bay last weekend.

Detroit at Calgary: The Detroit Red Wings are hanging on to the final playoff berth in the Western Conference as they prepare for the third of a four-game trip with a stop at Scotiabank Saddledome. They are 1-0-1 so far after beating the Nashville Predators 3-0 on Sunday night. The Calgary Flames are going nowhere but home when their season ends next Friday, but they've won two of their past three games and will be going for a season sweep of the Red Wings.

Columbus at Anaheim: The Columbus Blue Jackets won't go away. They've won four in a row, including the first two games of a six-game road trip, and enter the night even in points with the eighth-place Detroit Red Wings after a 4-3 overtime victory against the Colorado Avalanche on Monday. The Blue Jackets may be catching the Anaheim Ducks at the right time -- the Ducks' offense has been in a funk for the past couple of weeks; Anaheim has scored just one goal in each of its past two games, both losses. With a four-game road trip coming up after this one, the Ducks could really use a victory.

Teams on the rise:

Minnesota Wild: In a span of a little more than 24 hours, the Minnesota Wild went from a team in a scoring slump that threatened its return to the playoffs to a solid sixth-place team more concerned about catching the teams ahead in the standings. Kyle Brodziak had a pair of goals against his former team as the Wild beat the Edmonton Oilers 5-3 on Tuesday, one night after winning 4-3 in Calgary. They play at San Jose on Thursday before returning home for three games.

Washington Capitals: Times are good for fans in the nation's capital because their hockey team is on a roll. The Washington Capitals made it eight consecutive victories by steamrolling the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-1 on Tuesday night. League leader Alex Ovechkin was one of five Capitals to score a goal as Washington remained four points ahead of the Winnipeg Jets in the race for first place in the Southeast Division.

Winnipeg Jets: After beating the Florida Panthers last Thursday, the Jets had to spend four days sitting and watching all the other playoff contenders in the Eastern Conference pile up points. They finally got back on the ice Tuesday night and made it 4-for-4 on their current homestand by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in a shootout. Goals by Mike Santorelli and Andrew Ladd in the tiebreaker gave the Jets the extra point after they blew a 3-1 lead in the third period. Their 46 points are the same as the New York Rangers, who have a game in hand.

Teams on the decline:

New York Rangers: The New York Rangers picked a bad night to see their dominance of the Philadelphia Flyers end. The Rangers had won 10 of 11 against the Flyers, but despite out-shooting Philadelphia 40-22, they left Wells Fargo Center with a damaging 4-2 loss. Failing to get two points against a team virtually out of the playoff race was bad enough, but the three teams they're battling for an Eastern Conference playoff berth all won. The Rangers are still eighth, but now are even in points with the Winnipeg Jets, who've played one more game.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Maybe it was just fatigue (second half of a back-to-back; third game in four nights), but the Toronto Maple Leafs went down without a lot of resistance in a 5-1 loss to the Washington Capitals. The loss, combined with the Ottawa Senators' 3-2 victory against Carolina, reduced the Maple Leafs' lead on the Senators to three points in the race for fifth place. The teams meet Saturday night.

Vancouver Canucks: The visiting Vancouver Canucks were less than 10 minutes away from winning 1-0 against the St. Louis Blues, but allowed a goal by Jay Bouwmeester and wound up having to settle for one points in a 2-1 shootout loss. The Canucks still have the inside track to first place in the Northeast Division, but their lead on the second-place Minnesota Wild was reduced to four points with five games remaining.

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