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Playoff Pulse: Flames move into eighth in West

by Brian Compton
It's been a dogfight all season long for the Calgary Flames, but they'll wake up Monday morning in playoff position in the Western Conference.

Jarome Iginla had a goal and an assist to lead his club to a huge 4-3 victory against the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center on Sunday. The win gives the Flames 76 points, good enough for eighth in the West thanks to the fact that they have two more regulation victories than ninth-place Los Angeles.

"It's huge for us. We've been battling, and we've been kind of nipping at the heels here for a while. We're playing well right at the right time," Flames forward Curtis Glencross said.

With four games on Monday's schedule, here's a look at how the races in each conference shape up after the eight games played on Sunday:


Division leaders:

New York Rangers (93 points after Sunday's 4-3 overtime win against the Islanders) got back on the right track as Marian Gaborik scored via the power play with 5.8 seconds remaining to lift the Rangers past the Isles at MSG. Still four points ahead of Pittsburgh in the Atlantic Division, the Blueshirts host Carolina on Tuesday night.

Boston (83 points after Sunday's 5-2 loss at Pittsburgh) gave up three goals in the opening period and never recovered in a loss to the Pens at Consol Energy Center. The Bruins will visit Tampa Bay on Tuesday.

Florida (77 points after Sunday's 2-0 win against Carolina) remain atop the Southeast thanks to Jose Theodore's shutout against the Hurricanes at the BankAtlantic Center. The Panthers host Toronto on Tuesday night.

The next five:

Pittsburgh (89 points after Sunday's 5-2 win against Boston)
jumped out to an early lead and remain just four points behind the Rangers for the conference lead. Those teams will face each other Thursday night at MSG, when the Pens hope to have captain Sidney Crosby back in the lineup.

Philadelphia (85 points after Sunday's 4-1 loss at New Jersey) fell short against the Devils at the Prudential Center and saw their five-game win streak come to an end. The Flyers, who fell four points behind the Pens in the race for the No. 4 seed, host New Jersey at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night.

New Jersey (85 points after Sunday's 4-1 win against Philadelphia) beat the Flyers on home ice and pulled even in the points department with their rivals. Philadelphia still has a game in hand on the Devils, but the teams will meet again at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday.

Ottawa (81 points) was idle Sunday. The Sens are off until Wednesday, when they'll visit Montreal.

Washington (76 points after Sunday's 2-0 win against Toronto) received a solid performance from goaltender Michal Neuvirth and moved four points ahead of Winnipeg and Buffalo in the race for the final playoff spot in the East. The Caps, who are also just one point behind Florida for the Southeast lead, visit the Islanders on Tuesday night.

On the outside looking in:

Winnipeg (72 points)
had the second of four off-days before beginning a three-game homestand on Wednesday against Dallas.

Buffalo (72 points) did not play Sunday. The Sabres host Montreal on Monday night at the First Niagara Center (7 p.m. ET, RDS and TSN in Canada).


Division leaders:

St. Louis (97 points after Sunday's 2-1 win at Columbus) completed a home-and-home sweep of the Blue Jackets and increased its conference lead to five points. It was the opening of a seven-game road trip for the Blues, which continues Tuesday night at Chicago.

Vancouver (92 points) was idle Sunday. Now five points behind the first-place Blues, the Canucks will host Phoenix on Wednesday night.

Dallas (81 points) did not play Sunday.  The Stars, who are 9-0-1 in their last 10 games, are in Minnesota on Tuesday night.

The next five:

Detroit (91 points)
was idle Sunday.  The Red Wings play their next three games in California, beginning Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Nashville (87 points) did not play Sunday.  The Preds head to Arizona and California for four games next week, beginning with Monday night's showdown at Phoenix.

Chicago (82 points after Sunday's 3-2 shootout loss to Los Angeles) didn't get the win, but it found a way to earn one point against the Kings at the United Center. The Blackhawks host St. Louis on Tuesday night, when it hopes to have captain Jonathan Toews back in the lineup.

Phoenix (78 points) did not play Sunday. The Coyotes will host Nashville on Monday at Arena.

Calgary (76 points after Sunday's 4-3 win at Minnesota) moved into playoff position thanks to a win against the Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The Flames face San Jose at Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday night.

On the outside looking in:

Los Angeles (76 points after Sunday's 3-2 shootout win at Chicago)
wrapped up a tough four-game trip with a huge win at Chicago. Right on the cusp of a playoff spot, the Kings return home to face the Red Wings on Tuesday at the Staples Center.

Colorado (76 points) did not play Sunday. The Avs return to action on Monday night against the Anaheim Ducks at the Pepsi Center (9 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network in the U.S., TSN2 in Canada).

San Jose (75 points) was idle Sunday. The Sharks, who are 1-3-2 in their last six games, continue their four-game road trip in Edmonton on Monday (9:30 p.m. ET, TSN in Canada) and Calgary on Tuesday.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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