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Article:In the Crease: a weekly look at the NHL 3/24 to 3/30

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Playoffs taking shape

With less than a week to go in the NHL regular season, the playoff picture is coming into focus. The Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens, Detroit Red Wings, San Jose Sharks, Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars, and Anaheim Ducks have all clinched playoff spots. On the other side, the Tampa Bay Lightning, Atlanta Thrashers, New York Islanders, Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Phoenix Coyotes are all going to be watching the postseason from the comfort of their homes this year. In the East, the Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres are on the outside of the playoffs chasing the Philadelphia Flyers, Boston Bruins, and New York Rangers for the last couple playoff spots. In the West, the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers and the Chicago Blackhawks (Hawks’ must win out and have other teams lose) are holding out hope that they can catch the Nashville Predators, Colorado Avalanche, and Calgary Flames for spots in the quest for the cup.

Salute to Selanne

The Anaheim Ducks honored one of the franchises all time best players before their game against the Dallas Stars on Sunday. Teemu Selanne was honored in a ceremony for breaking the franchises scoring record and recording his 600th assist in the NHL. In what is most likely his last NHL season he holds the teams records for goals (323), points (685), power play goals (117), power play points (277), game-winning goals (53), and plus/minus rating (+116).

Thrashers being thrashed out of playoffs

The Atlanta Thrashers held onto a mire glimpse of playoff life on March 13 after their 6-4 win over Calgary, but then all hell broke loose. As they would lose their next 5 and 6 of 7. During the five game skid they were outscored 20-10. After getting a win to end the skid against the Florida Panthers the Thrashers were tossed around by the Hurricanes losing 7-1 on Friday. The Thrashers are currently sitting in the 14th spot in the eastern conference with 72 points and with two of their last three against the Lightning who are one point behind them they have a shot at finishing in last place, be sure to keep yours eyes peeled on the race for 15th!

Happy Birthday Gordie!!!

Mr. Hockey will turn 80 years old on March 31st. The Detroit Red Wings honored him at their game on Sunday against the Nashville Predators. The Wings presented him with a framed jersey with the number 17 on it (the number he wore in his rookie season) and the score sheet from his first game, in which he registered his first of 801 goals. The team also presented a large cake in the shape of a number 9. Howe held many records when he retired in 1980 after playing a season with the Hartford Whalers.

Battle for Southeast Continues

With two losses in the past week, the Carolina Hurricanes keep looking in the rear view mirror for the Washington Capitals. Chances are the second place team in that division will not be making a trip to the playoffs. The Capitals are three points back of the Bruins, Flyers, and Rangers, who are all in a three way tie for the sixth, seventh and eighth seed in the playoff race. And the Caps are just two points behind the Canes for the Southeast lead and the third playoff spot in the East. Confused? This is what the NHL may have been trying to accomplish. The winner of the each division is guaranteed a one, two or three seed in the playoffs. This makes sure that they will have home ice for at least the first and second rounds of the playoffs. With these two teams meeting on Tuesday of this week, one game could determine the winner of the division. Since the Hurricanes lead the season series the Canes will win the tie breaker if the two teams finish with identical points.

Due to the importance of this week I will be posting on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and when the standings take complete shape on Monday. For a look at up to date standings go to and click on standings.

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