Saturday, April 11, marks the conclusion to the 2014-15 regular season. Yet, much remains to be decided in the frantic run to the finish line, including playoff positioning and numerous individual accomplishments and milestones. To celebrate the countdown to the end of the season and the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 15, NHL.com will provide a piece of playoff-related content each day.
The Capitals (43-25-10) don't need help from anyone. If they defeat the Ottawa Senators in regulation at Canadian Tire Centre, they'll be back in the playoffs after a one-year absence. The Capitals have won three in a row, including a 5-4 shootout victory at the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday that moved them past the Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins into second place in the Metropolitan Division.
But for one night, the Islanders (45-27-6) will be rooting for the Capitals. A regulation victory by Washington in Ottawa and a win by New York against the visiting Buffalo Sabres at Nassau Coliseum will put the Islanders into the playoffs for the second time in three years.
Beating the Senators (39-26-12) won't be easy. Ottawa begins the night three points behind the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings, who are even in the race for third place in the Atlantic Division; the teams are also battling for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. The Senators have won their past two games, including a 2-1 overtime victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.
In the Western Conference, the Nashville Predators (47-22-9) can move back into undisputed possession of first place in the Central Division by getting at least one point against the visiting Dallas Stars. The St. Louis Blues (48-23-7) pulled even with the Predators at 103 points by outscoring the Stars 7-5 in Dallas on Friday.
The Los Angeles Kings (38-25-14) and Winnipeg Jets (39-26-12), who are battling for the second wild card in the West, each are home Saturday. The Kings will know the result of the Jets' afternoon game against the Vancouver Canucks (45-28-5) at MTS Centre well before they step on the ice for their game against the Colorado Avalanche (36-30-12).
Here's a closer look at the action Saturday:
The top three teams in each division will make up the first 12 teams in the playoffs. The remaining four spots are filled by the next two highest-placed finishers in each conference, based on regular-season points and regardless of division. It is possible for one division to send five teams to the postseason while the other sends three.
Seeding of the wild-card teams within each divisional playoff will be determined on the basis of regular-season points. The division winner with the most points in the conference will be matched against the wild-card team with the fewest points; the division winner with the second-most points in the conference will play the wild-card team with the second-fewest points.
The teams finishing second and third in each division will play in the first round of the playoffs. There is no reseeding as the tournament moves to the second round and winners of that series advance to the conference championship series and the right to play in the Stanley Cup Final.