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Playoff Pulse: Cats look to build on division lead

by Adam Kimelman
As the sun rose on another day of hockey Tuesday, six teams in the Western Conference, all separated by two points, were battling for three playoff spots.

Those six teams will be in action Tuesday, and a major shakeup could be coming.

Those are just three of the eight games with massive playoff implications Tuesday:

Florida Panthers at Philadelphia Flyers -- The Panthers have won four straight to open a three-point cushion on Washington atop the Southeast Division standings, but with 11 games still to go, there's no time for a let-up. The Capitals won Monday; now is the Panthers' chance to return serve. The Flyers are coming off a weekend that saw them rally from a pair of 2-0 deficits to pick up three of a possible four points against the Bruins and Penguins. A win combined with a Penguins loss would give the teams 94 points, and leave Philadelphia just three points behind the conference-leading Rangers.

Winnipeg Jets at Pittsburgh Penguins -- A win would get the Penguins back within one point of the conference-leading Rangers. The Jets are desperate for every point they can get to stay alive in the Eastern Conference race. They start a three-game road trip Tuesday four points behind eighth-place Washington. A win would push them ahead of Buffalo and into ninth place.

2011-2012 Standings

Southeast Division
ROW = total number of regulation plus overtime wins. For tie-breaking purposes, wins obtained in a shootout are not counted. For full standings tiebreakers, click here.
03/20/12 11:23AM
Chicago Blackhawks at Columbus Blue Jackets -- Improved play in net recently has helped the Blackhawks win three straight, and if they can make it four in a row, they'll get within two points of fourth-place Nashville.

New Jersey Devils at Ottawa Senators -- Two teams will be looking to right their respective ships. The Devils have lost two straight, but a win and a Flyers loss would push the Devils within three points of fifth-place Philadelphia and keep their hopes alive for catching fourth-place Pittsburgh. The Senators have their own division race to keep pace in. After leading the Northeast for a brief time over the weekend, the Senators have fallen three points behind the Bruins. A win here and they can get back to within a point.

Edmonton Oilers at Nashville Predators -- With Detroit off Tuesday, the Predators have a chance to build a lead on the Wings for fourth place in the Western Conference.

Phoenix Coyotes at Dallas Stars (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2) -- All that's at stake here is first place in the Pacific Division and the third seed in the Western Conference. The team that loses? Depending on what happens in two other games, the losing team could slip as far as 10th.

Calgary Flames at Colorado Avalanche -- The Flames need to put their lost weekend behind them, because a win here could boost them from 11th all the way to eighth. If the Avs win and the Coyotes lose, they can move up to seventh.

San Jose Sharks at Los Angeles Kings (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
-- The winner of this game goes from outside to in in the playoff chase. And if the Flames beat the Avalanche, the winner of this one would rise all the way to seventh place. They'd also move within a point of the Pacific Division lead and the third seed.

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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