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Twenty NHL teams still have playoff hopes with one week left to play

The Canadian Press
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The Hockey News
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Twenty NHL teams still have playoff hopes with one week left to play

The Canadian Press
By:

A win isn't necessarily worth what it used to be in the NHL.

As the push for the playoffs hits high gear in the final week of the regular season, the league's new tiebreaker rule will help determine what the first round matchups look like.

General managers decided a year ago to alter the tiebreaking format and have the first criteria become the greatest number of wins in regulation and overtime (excluding the shootout)—rather than simply the total number of wins. It's reflected in the standings on the NHL's website by the "ROW" category.

"My feeling is that if you win in 60 minutes or you win in the five minutes of overtime it has a little more impact and means a little more than if you win a shootout," said Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland, a driving force behind the change. "It certainly appears, as you look at the standings, they're so close in the West and the East ... it certainly could (come in to play).

"If my team wins more in regulation and overtime than your team does, I think that we should get the tiebreaker."

The second tiebreaking criteria is the greater number of points earned in games between the tied teams while the third is goal differential.

With a total of just 49 games to be played in the NHL regular season, there were still 20 teams with a mathematical chance of earning a trip to the post-season.

Eight of those teams had already clinched a spot entering play Monday. Here's a closer look at where the remaining 12 stood in the chase:

Eastern Conference

6. Montreal, 91 points (39 ROW), remaining games: versus Chi, at Ott, at Tor. Any hope of challenging for the division lead disappeared with a swoon down the stretch. The offence has dried up since an 8-1 win over Minnesota on March 20.

7. Buffalo, 90 points (35 ROW), remaining games: versus T.B., versus Pha, at Clb. The Sabres have fought off some strong challenges—an impressive feat considering backup goaltender Jhonas Enroth faced three pressure starts in place of the injured Ryan Miller. Question remains: How serious is Miller's upper-body injury?

8. N.Y. Rangers, 89 points (33 ROW), remaining games: versus Bos, versus Atl, versus N.J. They've used the shootout to their advantage—Sunday's win over Philly was their ninth of the season in the tiebreaker—but have left themselves a tad vulnerable as a result. At least all three remaining games will be played at Madison Square Garden.

9. Carolina, 87 points (33 ROW), remaining games: versus Det, at Atl, versus T.B. No doubt stinging after a heart-breaking overtime loss to Buffalo on Sunday, the Hurricanes still find themselves in the thick of the race. They could really help their own cause by winning games in regulation to gain an edge in the tiebreaker.

10. Toronto, 84 points (32 ROW), remaining games: versus Wash, at N.J., versus Mtl. Its playoff hopes are on life support. Despite a spirited run in the second half of the season, Ron Wilson's team needs to win all three remaining games and get plenty of help to see its post-season drought end.

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Western Conference

4. L.A. Kings, 96 points (36 ROW), remaining games: at S.J., versus Phx, at Ana, versus Ana. Hanging tough without top two scorers Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams, the Kings appear poised to earn a second straight playoff berth. Do they have what it takes to win a round?

5. Phoenix, 96 points (37 ROW), remaining games: at L.A., versus S.J., at S.J. Dave Tippett's crew is sitting pretty even though it doesn't have one 20-goal scorer in the lineup (captain Shane Doan leads with 19 goals). Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, a pending free agent, is having a solid season.

6. Nashville, 95 points (36 ROW), remaining games: versus Atl, versus Clb, at StL. The Preds have vaulted themselves into playoff position with a 7-1-1 run, but the job isn't yet done. They still have a shot to hit 100 points for the fourth time in the past six seasons.

7. Anaheim, 93 points (40 ROW), remaining games: versus S.J., versus L.A., at L.A. Buoyed by Corey Perry's hot goal-scoring streak, the Ducks control their own playoff fate after missing out last year. It might take three straight victories to seal eighth spot.

8. Chicago, 92 points (36 ROW), remaining games: at Mtl, versus StL, at Det, versus Det. The Blackhawks have gone 5-5-2 over their last 12 games and are in danger of missing out on the chance to defend their Stanley Cup title. Two of their last four games are against the division-rival Red Wings.

9. Calgary, 91 points (31 ROW), remaining games: versus Edm, versus Van. The scenario is straightforward for the Flames—winthe last two games and hope for some help. Being on the losing end of some tight one-goal games in March might prove costly.

10. Dallas, 89 points (34 ROW), remaining games: versus Clb, versus Col, at Col, versus Minn. With four games left on the schedule, they can make things very interesting by running the table. If not for a recent six-game winless slide, they'd probably have a playoff spot locked up.

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Twenty NHL teams still have playoff hopes with one week left to play