The West picture became a bit clearer on Friday night with another elimination, as the St. Louis Blues were eliminated before the final buzzer sounded against the Flames. The Blackhawks ended up beating the Blue Jackets in the shootout, but it was the overtime point that the Blackhawks earned after 60 minutes that did the job in the end. The Blues couldn't keep it together, assuming they were scoreboard watching, so they rolled over in the 3rd period and let the Flames stay in the race with a loss. So, yes... the Blues are now out and only three teams are on the outside looking in on the West playoffs.
The New Jersey Devils survived the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night, beating them 4-2. The Devils just need to keep winning and hope that the teams ahead of them keep losing for any shot at the playoffs, but they are only holding on by the adjusted wins tie-breaker, which means they have to keep winning in regulation or overtime to make that work. Tonight, the Devils have the Canadiens, which will be their next test with only five games remaining on their schedule.
Also on the chopping block in the Eastern Conference is the Atlanta Thrashers, who are in Boston to take on the Bruins tonight. Any sort of loss will eliminate them from contention, since they will lose a point or two in their potential maximum finish and lose the adjusted wins tie-break and that will be that for them. The makings of two eliminations in the Eastern Conference on Saturday night.
In the West, the Minnesota Wild are the only team on the block tonight and the Tampa Bay Lightning are in town to see them off. The Wild are hanging on by the adjusted wins tie-break as well, so any sort of loss on Saturday afternoon will see them eliminated from the playoff pool sheet today.
An interesting look at today's schedule sees that neither 8th place team in the West or East are going on Saturday, which keeps the fate of the outside teams in their own hands for another day.
As for clinching a spot in the playoffs, none of the three remaining teams in the East can do so, but they can move leaps and bounds forward with a Hurricanes loss to the Islanders and a Maple Leafs loss to the Senators. Not sure how likely either one are, but that would make the story a little easier to process on Sunday.
Frankly, the Dallas Stars are the lynch pin in the West, as they have the games in hand and the better possibility of making the playoffs if they keep winning. A division rival weekend for them will be awfully telling, especially since both rivals are in the playoffs going into Saturday's action.
In the West, the Red Wings can clinch a spot tonight by making it to overtime tonight, but a win would make them a win away from the Central Division title, which they are likely looking forward to. The Coyotes are off for the weekend and they will be paying close attention to the Dallas Stars, who play the Kings tonight and the Ducks on Sunday, two regulation losses and the Coyotes coast into the playoffs.