Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 04/04/13 at 02:38 PM ET
NEW YORK (April 4, 2013) -- With just 24 days remaining in the National Hockey League's regular season, 26 of the 30 clubs either hold a playoff position or are within five points of one.
The many clubs within striking range of the #8 seeds in the East and West will be encouraged by recent history: With 24 days remaining in the
2011-12 regular season, the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings were 11th in the Western Conference standings and 18th in the overall League standings. The Kings, who got into the postseason as the West's #8 seed, became the third club in four years to capture the Stanley Cup after finishing outside the top six in the League's overall regular-season standings, joining the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins (eighth) and 2011 Boston Bruins (seventh).
* Just one point separates two longtime archrivals, the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins, in the race for the Northeast Division title. The Bruins visit Montreal this Saturday, in the clubs' final meeting of the season -- a game that will be part of a triple-header on NHL Network-US and available on CBC and RDS in Canada. All three previous contests have been one-goal thrillers, with Montreal winning the past two.
* The three metro New York clubs -- the #7 New York Rangers, #8 New Jersey Devils and #9 New York Islanders -- all have 39 points in the ultra-tight race in the East. The Islanders play host to the Rangers on Saturday, April 13 and the Rangers play host to the Devils twice, capped by a showdown on the final day of the regular season on Saturday, April 27.
* All five teams in the wide-open Southeast Division are separated by just eight points. The first-place Winnipeg Jets will visit their closest pursuer, the Washington Capitals, during the season's final week, on Tuesday, April 23.
* The #1 Chicago Blackhawks (57 points) and #2 Anaheim Ducks (55 points), who separated themselves from the pack early in the season, are vying for the #1 seed in the West as well as the Presidents' Trophy, awarded to the League's top regular-season club.
* The Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks lead the Northwest Division with 44 points each, five ahead of the Edmonton Oilers. The Wild and Canucks have finished their season series, while the Oilers have four of their remaining 12 contests against the teams ahead of them -- beginning tonight in Vancouver.
* The Oilers jumped from 10th place to eighth in the Western Conference standings Wednesday night, becoming the third team to hold the West's #8 seed in the past four days. The five teams ranked ninth through 13th all are within four points of Edmonton.
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