Presidents' Trophy, division titles can be won Monday
The 2012-13 NHL season is racing toward the finish line. In fact, the regular season ends Sunday, April 28. Although the Stanley Cup Playoffs are clearly in sight, the qualification picture is far less clear. To help make sense of the numerous permutations that exist, NHL.com's Playoff Push Primer looks at some of the biggest movers and shakers among the postseason hopefuls.
Winnipeg at Buffalo: The Winnipeg Jets are in the rare situation where they are three points out of both the eighth seed and the third seed in the Eastern Conference, as they trail the New York Rangers for the final spot and the Washington Capitals for the Southeast Division crown. They have a golden opportunity to collect two points Monday against the Buffalo Sabres, who have been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
Pittsburgh at Ottawa: The Ottawa Senators were bounced from sixth place in the East on Saturday by the New York Islanders, but a victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday would put the Sens back into the sixth slot. However, they'll have to find a way to beat a Pittsburgh squad that has reeled off six consecutive victories and secured the No. 1 seed in the East.
Phoenix at Detroit: It's difficult to envision a postseason without the Detroit Red Wings, but with four games to go, the Wings enter the week ninth in the West, three points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Phoenix Coyotes, who reached the conference finals a year ago, are in serious danger of missing the playoffs. They're 11th, five points behind Columbus.
Anaheim at Edmonton: The Anaheim Ducks beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 Sunday, the first of their rare back-to-back set of games against at Rexall Place. The Ducks will have an opportunity clinch the Pacific Division on Monday. Sunday's loss eliminated Edmonton from postseason contention.
Chicago at Vancouver: The Chicago Blackhawks have wrapped up the Western Conference. All that's left is the Presidents' Trophy, which they're inching towards claiming with a five-point lead on the Pittsburgh Penguins with four games remaining. The Vancouver Canucks, meanwhile, can clinch the Northwest Division with one point Monday.
Teams on the rise:
Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets earned another victory Sunday with a gritty 4-3 win against the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion. While they remain in eighth place in the West, the Jackets pulled even with the seventh-place Minnesota Wild at 51 points apiece. The Wild, who lost to the Calgary Flames on home ice on Sunday, have a game in hand on Columbus, which has two games left on its schedule.
Teams on the decline:
Minnesota Wild: The Wild suffered their second straight defeat Sunday in a 4-1 loss to the Flames at Xcel Energy Center. Minnesota, which was 13-3-1 after its first 17 games at home, has dropped its past five in front of its own fans. Because of that, the Wild enter the week tied with Columbus at 51 points, just three more than the ninth-place Detroit Red Wings in the West.