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What Each NHL Team on the Playoff Bubble Must Do to Reach the Postseason

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistApril 24, 2013

What Each NHL Team on the Playoff Bubble Must Do to Reach the Postseason

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    It's changing everyday.

    When it comes to playoff eligibility, each day's results bring changes.

    The San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues went from playoff possibles playoff eligibles with wins Tuesday night and the New York Islanders did the same with a shootout loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.

    The Washington Capitals clinched a playoff appearance and the Southeast Division with a huge home win over the challenging Winnipeg Jets.

    Here's a look at the playoff bubble teams and what they must do to earn a spot in the postseason. We include a look at the Phoenix Coyotes even though they have been eliminated.

Ottawa Senators

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    The Ottawa Senators are tied with the New York Rangers for seventh place in the Eastern Conference.

    From a technical standpoint, the Senators own seventh over the Rangers because they have three games left to play while the Rangers have two. Both teams have 52 points.

    However, if both teams remain tied at the conclusion of the 48-game schedule, the Rangers would have the edge because they have more regulation and overtime wins than the Senators.

    Ottawa has road games remaining at Washington and Boston, sandwiched around a home game with the Philadelphia Flyers.

    The Sens have been solid at home, but the two road games are difficult challenges. The Bruins are limping home in the final week of the season, so a victory in Boston is not out of the question.

    If the Senators are going to make the playoffs, they need to win one game to hold off the Winnipeg Jets and two games to finish ahead of the Rangers.

New York Rangers

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    The New York Rangers can clinch a playoff spot and eliminate the Winnipeg Jets from playoff consideration with one victory in their final two games.

    The Rangers will play the Carolina Hurricanes on the road and the New Jersey Devils at home to close the season. Both of those teams have been eliminated from the playoffs earlier.

    The Rangers had won five of six games before playing at Florida Tuesday night. They lost to the last-place Panthers.

    The Rangers should beat both the Hurricanes and Devils, but their performance against the Panthers was shocking.

    They need to wake up in the final week of the season.

Winnipeg Jets

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    The Jets played their biggest game of the year Tuesday night and Claude Noel's team played hard and well before losing to the Washington Capitals 5-3.

    The victory gave the Capitals the Southeast Division title and may leave the Jets as playoff outsiders.

    The Jets are in ninth place, one point behind the Ottawa Senators and New York Rangers.

    The problem for the Jets is they have only one game remaining. They host the slumping Montreal Canadiens April 25 and that closes the schedule

    If the Jets win that game and either the Senators or Rangers are held to one point in their final games, the Jets will earn a playoff spot. However, if both of those teams earn two points or more, the Jets will be eliminated.

    The Senators have three games remaining and the Rangers have two.

    If the Jets end up tied with either team, they will have the tiebreaker edge since they have more regulation and overtime wins than either the Senators or the Rangers.

Minnesota Wild

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    The seventh-place Minnesota Wild took a big step towards making the playoffs with their 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings Tuesday night.

    The Wild have 53 points and they are three points ahead of ninth-place Detroit. If the Wild can beat the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche in their two remaining games, the Red Wings will not be able to catch them.

    The Red Wings have three games remaining.

    The Wild cannot be caught by the 10th-place Dallas Stars.

    The Columbus Blue Jackets are in eighth place, two points behind the Wild, and have two games remaining. If they lose one of those games, the Wild will clinch a playoff spot since they have more regulation and overtime wins than the Blue Jackets.

Columbus Blue Jackets

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    The Blue Jackets have safe harbor as this is being written, but they may have a significant problem holding on to their eighth-place playoff spot.

    Columbus has just two games remaining, and that means they don't control their own fate. The Blue Jackets have a one-point lead over the ninth-place Detroit Red Wings, but the Red Wings have three games remaining.

    If both teams win out, the Red Wings will beat out the Blue Jackets.

    If the Minnesota Wild wins one more game or if the Blue Jackets lose one of their final two games to the Dallas Stars or Nashville Predators, they won't be able to get past the Wild and climb in the standings.

    The Blue Jackets need the Red Wings to lose at least one game and they need to record victories in their final two games to earn a playoff spot.

Detroit Red Wings

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    The bad news is that the Detroit Red Wings are in ninth place, on the outside looking in.

    The good news is that they control their own destiny.

    The Red Wings trail the Columbus Blue Jackets by one point, but they have three games remaining. If they can win all three against the Los Angeles Kings (home), Nashville Predators (home) and the Dallas Stars (road), the Red Wings will be in the playoffs once again.

    They have not missed the playoffs since the 1989-90 season.

    The Red Wings defeated the Phoenix Coyotes 4-0 Monday night and looked sharp in the process. Mike Babcock should get three more excellent efforts in the process and they should make the playoffs again.

Dallas Stars

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    The Dallas Stars suffered a tremendous blow when they could not hold a late 2-1 lead over the San Jose Sharks Tuesday night and ended up dropping a 3-2 decision in regulation time.

    The Stars have 48 points and are in 10th place in the Western Conference. They are two points behind the Red Wings. If the Stars are going to make the playoffs, they must beat the Columbus Blue Jackets and Red Wings at home in their final two games of the season.

    Additionally, the Blue Jackets can't get more than one point in in their two remaining games while the Red Wings must lose at least one other game.

    If the Stars finish tied with the Blue Jackets and/or Red Wings, the Stars win since they have the tiebreaker edge because they have more regulation and overtime wins than either of those teams.

Phoenix Coyotes

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    The Phoenix Coyotes are in 11th place with 46 points.

    They would need to win all three of their games to reach 52 points and move ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

    However, they cannot earn a playoff spot (source: Yahoo.com) since the Dallas Stars play both the Blue Jackets and the Detroit Red Wings, who are ahead of the Blue Jackets.

    If the Stars win both of those games, they will have 52 points and have more regulation and overtime wins than the Coyotes. That would give them the tiebreaker edge.

    If the Stars lose those games, the Blue Jackets would have 53 points, a figure the Coyotes cannot reach.

    If the Stars split those games, the Coyotes could get past Columbus or Detroit, but not both. Detroit also has the tiebreaker edge on Phoenix

    The Coyotes have been slumping badly, losing four of their last five game.

    There will be no playoff miracle in the desert this year.

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