NHL playoff standings: What's at stake on 15-game Thursday

ByTim Kavanagh ESPN logo
Tuesday, April 25, 2023

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Tonight was the originally scheduled final set of games for the 2022-23 NHL regular season, with 30 teams in action. Thanks to a pair of postponements -- because of flooding at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville and a wild winter storm hitting Buffalo -- there will be two games tomorrow (Colorado Avalanche-Nashville Predators and Buffalo Sabres-Columbus Blue Jackets), although those games might be largely irrelevant to final playoff seeding based on what happens tonight.

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Let's dive into the implications of each of tonight's games, a slate that includes a doubleheader on ESPN:

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Boston Bruins at Montreal Canadiens, 7 p.m. (NHL Power Play on ESPN+): The Bruins have locked up the No. 1 seed throughout the playoffs and have already set records for regular-season wins and points. Although load management isn't a prevalent strategy in hockey compared with other sports, there might be some Bruins who get a maintenance day here. As for the Canadiens, thanks to a loss against the Islanders on Wednesday, they're currently No. 5 in the draft lottery standings. They cannot get into the top 3, but a win here coupled with a Coyotes loss would put them sixth.

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New Jersey Devils at Washington Capitals, 7 p.m. (NHL Power Play on ESPN+): New Jersey authored one of the most epic turnarounds in recent history, going from a lottery team to hosting a first-round playoff game -- and they can move up even higher if things break properly. They're currently a point behind the Hurricanes but have an edge in regulation wins; any outcome that results in them tying (or besting, obviously) the Canes in the standings would thus give them the Metro Division title. The Capitals are eighth in the draft lottery standings, but a win could push them as far down as 11th -- the good news is that thanks to the latest lottery rules, a team can move up a maximum of 10 spots, meaning they'd still be eligible to reach No. 1.

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Pittsburgh Penguins at Columbus Blue Jackets, 7 p.m. (NHL Power Play on ESPN+): A loss to the Blackhawks on Tuesday put the Penguins in a bad spot, and the Isles' win against the Canadiens on Wednesday sealed the deal to boot the Pens from the playoff field. Pittsburgh will finish in the bottom 3 of the draft lottery. Heading into this contest, the Blue Jackets stand alone in the basement of the league standings, giving them the best draft lottery odds. They can move down as far as No. 3 based on the outcomes of the games involving the Ducks and Blackhawks.

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Toronto Maple Leafs at New York Rangers, 7 p.m. (NHL Power Play on ESPN+): These two teams are locked into their playoff positions: the Maple Leafs will host the Lightning in the Atlantic Division bracket, while the Rangers will be the No. 3 seed in the Metro, visiting either the Devils or the Hurricanes to start their postseason journey. However, there are some milestones in play: Mitchell Marner has 99 points, William Nylander has 39 goals, Mika Zibanejad also has 39 goals, and Adam Fox is four points from hitting a new single-season high (he had 74 last season).

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Ottawa Senators at Buffalo Sabres, 7 p.m. (NHL Power Play on ESPN+): Both of these teams entered the season as potential disrupters of the Atlantic Division hierarchy. That didn't quite happen, but the Sabres made it to the final week still alive for a spot, while the Senators have been playing effective spoilers the past month. A win in regulation by the Sens would push them ahead of the Sabres in the standings (and behind them in the draft lottery order); neither club is in range to land the No. 1 pick if it wins a lottery draw, but each could move into the top 5 in what is being billed as a very strong class of prospects.

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Carolina Hurricanes at Florida Panthers, 7 p.m. (NHL Power Play on ESPN+): The math is simple for the Canes: Win this one in any fashion and they clinch the Metro Division title and a first-round date with the Islanders. Lose in any fashion, and they could wind up as the No. 2 seed (and play the Rangers) based on what the Devils do in their game. As for Florida, the Islanders' win Wednesday night means they need two points to stay in the first wild-card spot and get the Metro winner in Round 1; a loss means they're shipping up to Boston. If the Panthers win in regulation and the Devils lose in regulation, the Canes stay in the top spot and take on the Panthers again in Round 1. 

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Detroit Red Wings at Tampa Bay Lightning, 7 p.m. (NHL Power Play on ESPN+): Tampa Bay will take on Toronto in the first round, so in theory the Bolts don't have much on the line here. But they've lost four straight games (and 8 of 11 going back to March 19), so it might be good to get back on the positive side of the scoreboard once before the postseason begins. The Red Wings sit ninth in the draft lottery standings, and a win could drop them as far as 11th. That reduces their draft lottery chances but does still keep them in range of getting the No. 1 pick should they win the first draw.

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Winnipeg Jets at Colorado Avalanche, 8 p.m. (NHL Power Play on ESPN+): The Avalanche are duking it out with the Stars for the Central Division crown, and a win here would mean they'd have 107 points, with a game on the docket against the Preds on Friday. The Stars have 106 points, with a return match against the Blues tonight; a Dallas win tonight coupled with a Colorado loss of any kind against Winnipeg clinches the division for the Stars (thanks to the regulation wins tiebreaker). The Jets are locked in to the second wild-card spot, which most likely means a first-round date with the Pacific Division champ (currently the Golden Knights). 

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St. Louis Blues at Dallas Stars, 8 p.m. (ESPN): Don't adjust your device: These teams did just play Wednesday night, a 5-2 win by the Stars. If the Stars win again tonight, that puts them at 108 points, ahead of the Avs when it comes to the Central Division's No. 1 seed regardless of tonight's game for Colorado. However, the Avs have a game Friday and could jump back over the Stars should they win that final one. The winner of the Central gets the top wild card, which is currently the Kraken. Meanwhile, the Blues are locked into a top-11 spot in the draft lottery, meaning they could land the No. 1 pick with a lot of luck, jump-starting a reboot that began with their in-season trades of Ryan O'Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko.

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Minnesota Wild at Nashville Predators, 8 p.m. (NHL Power Play on ESPN+): The Wild's loss to the Jets on Tuesday locked them in as the Central's No. 3 seed, so they'll visit either the Stars or the Avalanche to begin the postseason. Meanwhile, the Predators will be in the bottom 3 of the draft lottery standings entering the first offseason of new GM Barry Trotz's tenure.

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Philadelphia Flyers at Chicago Blackhawks, 8:30 p.m. (NHL Power Play on ESPN+): It's a rematch of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final! These two franchises have obviously seen more competitive days, and both are in the mix to win the draft lottery and boost their rebuilds. The Flyers are locked into the No. 7 spot in the lottery standings, while the Blackhawks are currently third but could drop to fourth with a win and a regulation loss by the Sharks.

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San Jose Sharks at Edmonton Oilers, 9 p.m. (NHL Power Play on ESPN+): The Oilers have been one of the NHL's hottest teams of late, winning eight straight games and going 17-2-1 since March 1. The Pacific Division crown is theirs with a win here and a regulation loss by the Golden Knights; any other result and they'll be the No. 2 seed and host the Kings to begin their playoff path. The Sharks are fourth in the draft lottery standings and can't get any lower, but they could move up to No. 3 if they lose in regulation and the Blackhawks win.

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Los Angeles Kings at Anaheim Ducks, 10 p.m. (NHL Power Play on ESPN+): L.A. has been leaking oil a bit heading into the homestretch, going 8-5-2 since March 11. They can't get any higher than the No. 3 seed in the Pacific, but they could fall back into a wild-card spot with a regulation loss and a win of any kind for the Kraken. The Ducks are currently second in the draft lottery and would move up to first if they lose in regulation and the Blue Jackets earn one or more points against the Penguins; they can also fall to third if they earn more standings points tonight than the Blackhawks.

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Vancouver Canucks at Arizona Coyotes, 10 p.m. (NHL Power Play on ESPN+): Both of these teams have been eliminated from the playoffs for a while, but their precise lottery position remains to be determined. The Yotes are one point ahead of the Canadiens in the standings (with one less regulation win), so they will hope to avoid a regulation win here to give themselves the best chance at remaining No. 6 in the standings. Also, Yotes forward Clayton Keller is one point behind Keith Tkachuk for the single-season Coyotes scoring record (86), all the more impressive given that he broke his leg March 31 of last season. The Canucks are currently 10th, and they can climb as high as eighth or go as low as 11th based on a win (and the results for the Capitals, Red Wings and Blues).

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Vegas Golden Knights at Seattle Kraken, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN): In the nightcap, the Golden Knights are looking to lock in the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference with a win of any kind or a loss in overtime or shootout. A regulation loss coupled with a win of any kind for the Oilers would make Edmonton the West's No. 1 seed. The Kraken are in the first wild-card spot and can't be caught from behind. However, a win for Seattle combined with a regulation loss for L.A. would push the Kings down to the wild card and the Kraken up to the No. 3 seed in the Pacific.

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Jump ahead:
[br /]Current playoff matchups
[br /]Today's schedule
[br /]Last night's scores
[br /]Expanded standings
[br /]Race for No. 1 pick

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Current playoff matchups

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Eastern Conference

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A1 Boston Bruins vs. WC2 Florida Panthers
[br /]A2 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. A3 Tampa Bay Lightning
[br /]M1 Carolina Hurricanes vs. WC1 New York Islanders
[br /]M2 New Jersey Devils vs. M3 New York Rangers

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Western Conference

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C1 Dallas Stars vs. WC1 Seattle Kraken
[br /]C2 Colorado Avalanche vs. C3 Minnesota Wild
[br /]P1 Vegas Golden Knights vs. WC2 Winnipeg Jets
[br /]P2 Edmonton Oilers vs. P3 Los Angeles Kings

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Thursday's games

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Note: All times Eastern. All games not on ESPN, TNT or NHL Network are available via NHL Power Play, which is included in an ESPN+ subscription (local blackout restrictions apply).

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Boston Bruins at Montreal Canadiens, 7 p.m.
[br /]New Jersey Devils at Washington Capitals, 7 p.m.
[br /]Pittsburgh Penguins at Columbus Blue Jackets, 7 p.m.
[br /]Toronto Maple Leafs at New York Rangers, 7 p.m.
[br /]Ottawa Senators at Buffalo Sabres, 7 p.m.
[br /]Carolina Hurricanes at Florida Panthers, 7 p.m.
[br /]Detroit Red Wings at Tampa Bay Lightning, 7 p.m.
[br /]Winnipeg Jets at Colorado Avalanche, 8 p.m.
[br /]St. Louis Blues at Dallas Stars, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
[br /]Minnesota Wild at Nashville Predators, 8 p.m.
[br /]Philadelphia Flyers at Chicago Blackhawks, 8:30 p.m.
[br /]San Jose Sharks at Edmonton Oilers, 9 p.m.
[br /]Los Angeles Kings at Anaheim Ducks, 10 p.m.
[br /]Vancouver Canucks at Arizona Coyotes, 10 p.m.
[br /]Vegas Golden Knights at Seattle Kraken, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN)

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Wednesday's scoreboard

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Watch "In the Crease" on ESPN+ for highlights from every game.

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New York Islanders 4, Montreal Canadiens 2
[br /]Dallas Stars 5, St. Louis Blues 2
[br /]Calgary Flames 3, San Jose Sharks 1

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Expanded standings

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Atlantic Division

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p - Boston Bruins

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Points: 133
[br /]Regulation wins: 53
[br /]Playoff position: A1
[br /]Games left: 1
[br /]Points pace: 135
[br /]Next game: @ MTL (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 100%
[br /]Tragic number: N/A

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x - Toronto Maple Leafs

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Points: 109
[br /]Regulation wins: 41
[br /]Playoff position: A2
[br /]Games left: 1
[br /]Points pace: 110
[br /]Next game: @ NYR (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 100%
[br /]Tragic number: N/A

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x - Tampa Bay Lightning

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Points: 96
[br /]Regulation wins: 37
[br /]Playoff position: A3
[br /]Games left: 1
[br /]Points pace: 97
[br /]Next game: vs. DET (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 100%
[br /]Tragic number: N/A

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x - Florida Panthers

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Points: 92
[br /]Regulation wins: 36
[br /]Playoff position: WC2
[br /]Games left: 1
[br /]Points pace: 93
[br /]Next game: vs. CAR (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 100%
[br /]Tragic number: N/A

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e - Buffalo Sabres

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Points: 87
[br /]Regulation wins: 29
[br /]Playoff position: N/A
[br /]Games left: 2
[br /]Points pace: 89
[br /]Next game: vs. OTT (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 0%
[br /]Tragic number: E

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e - Ottawa Senators

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Points: 85
[br /]Regulation wins: 31
[br /]Playoff position: N/A
[br /]Games left: 1
[br /]Points pace: 86
[br /]Next game: @ BUF (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 0%
[br /]Tragic number: E

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e - Detroit Red Wings

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Points: 80
[br /]Regulation wins: 28
[br /]Playoff position: N/A
[br /]Games left: 1
[br /]Points pace: 81
[br /]Next game: @ TB (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 0%
[br /]Tragic number: E

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e - Montreal Canadiens

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Points: 68
[br /]Regulation wins: 21
[br /]Playoff position: N/A
[br /]Games left: 1
[br /]Points pace: 69
[br /]Next game: vs. BOS (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 0%
[br /]Tragic number: E

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Metropolitan Division

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x - Carolina Hurricanes

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Points: 111
[br /]Regulation wins: 38
[br /]Playoff position: M1
[br /]Games left: 1
[br /]Points pace: 112
[br /]Next game: @ FLA (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 100%
[br /]Tragic number: N/A

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x - New Jersey Devils

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Points: 110
[br /]Regulation wins: 39
[br /]Playoff position: M2
[br /]Games left: 1
[br /]Points pace: 111
[br /]Next game: @ WSH (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 100%
[br /]Tragic number: N/A

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x - New York Rangers

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Points: 107
[br /]Regulation wins: 37
[br /]Playoff position: M3
[br /]Games left: 1
[br /]Points pace: 108
[br /]Next game: vs. TOR (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 100%
[br /]Tragic number: N/A

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x - New York Islanders

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Points: 93
[br /]Regulation wins: 36
[br /]Playoff position: WC1
[br /]Games left: 0
[br /]Points pace: 93
[br /]Next game: None
[br /]Playoff chances: 100%
[br /]Tragic number: N/A

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e - Pittsburgh Penguins

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Points: 90
[br /]Regulation wins: 31
[br /]Playoff position: N/A
[br /]Games left: 1
[br /]Points pace: 91
[br /]Next game: @ CBJ (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 0%
[br /]Tragic number: E

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e - Washington Capitals

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Points: 79
[br /]Regulation wins: 27
[br /]Playoff position: N/A
[br /]Games left: 1
[br /]Points pace: 80
[br /]Next game: vs. NJ (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 0%
[br /]Tragic number: E

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e - Philadelphia Flyers

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Points: 73
[br /]Regulation wins: 26
[br /]Playoff position: N/A
[br /]Games left: 1
[br /]Points pace: 74
[br /]Next game: @ CHI (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 0%
[br /]Tragic number: E

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e - Columbus Blue Jackets

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Points: 57
[br /]Regulation wins: 15
[br /]Playoff position: N/A
[br /]Games left: 2
[br /]Points pace: 58
[br /]Next game: vs. PIT (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 0%
[br /]Tragic number: E

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Central Division

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x - Dallas Stars

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Points: 106
[br /]Regulation wins: 38
[br /]Playoff position: C1
[br /]Games left: 1
[br /]Points pace: 107
[br /]Next game: vs. STL (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 100%
[br /]Tragic number: N/A

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x - Colorado Avalanche

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Points: 105
[br /]Regulation wins: 34
[br /]Playoff position: C2
[br /]Games left: 2
[br /]Points pace: 108
[br /]Next game: vs. WPG (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 100%
[br /]Tragic number: N/A

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x - Minnesota Wild

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Points: 102
[br /]Regulation wins: 34
[br /]Playoff position: C3
[br /]Games left: 1
[br /]Points pace: 103
[br /]Next game: @ NSH (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 100%
[br /]Tragic number: N/A

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x - Winnipeg Jets

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Points: 95
[br /]Regulation wins: 36
[br /]Playoff position: WC2
[br /]Games left: 1
[br /]Points pace: 96
[br /]Next game: @ COL (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 100%
[br /]Tragic number: N/A

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e - Nashville Predators

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Points: 90
[br /]Regulation wins: 29
[br /]Playoff position: N/A
[br /]Games left: 2
[br /]Points pace: 92
[br /]Next game: vs. MIN (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 0%
[br /]Tragic number: E

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e - St. Louis Blues

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Points: 81
[br /]Regulation wins: 27
[br /]Playoff position: N/A
[br /]Games left: 1
[br /]Points pace: 82
[br /]Next game: @ DAL (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 0%
[br /]Tragic number: E

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e - Arizona Coyotes

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Points: 69
[br /]Regulation wins: 20
[br /]Playoff position: N/A
[br /]Games left: 1
[br /]Points pace: 70
[br /]Next game: vs. VAN (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 0%
[br /]Tragic number: E

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e - Chicago Blackhawks

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Points: 58
[br /]Regulation wins: 18
[br /]Playoff position: N/A
[br /]Games left: 1
[br /]Points pace: 59
[br /]Next game: vs. PHI (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 0%
[br /]Tragic number: E

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Pacific Division

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x - Vegas Golden Knights

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Points: 109
[br /]Regulation wins: 37
[br /]Playoff position: P1
[br /]Games left: 1
[br /]Points pace: 110
[br /]Next game: @ SEA (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 100%
[br /]Tragic number: N/A

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x - Edmonton Oilers

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Points: 107
[br /]Regulation wins: 44
[br /]Playoff position: P2
[br /]Games left: 1
[br /]Points pace: 108
[br /]Next game: vs. SJ (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 100%
[br /]Tragic number: N/A

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x - Los Angeles Kings

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Points: 102
[br /]Regulation wins: 36
[br /]Playoff position: P3
[br /]Games left: 1
[br /]Points pace: 103
[br /]Next game: @ ANA (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 100%
[br /]Tragic number: N/A

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x - Seattle Kraken

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Points: 100
[br /]Regulation wins: 37
[br /]Playoff position: WC1
[br /]Games left: 1
[br /]Points pace: 101
[br /]Next game: vs. VGK (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 100%
[br /]Tragic number: N/A

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e - Calgary Flames

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Points: 93
[br /]Regulation wins: 31
[br /]Playoff position: N/A
[br /]Games left: 0
[br /]Points pace: 93
[br /]Next game: None
[br /]Playoff chances: 0%
[br /]Tragic number: E

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e - Vancouver Canucks

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Points: 81
[br /]Regulation wins: 24
[br /]Playoff position: N/A
[br /]Games left: 1
[br /]Points pace: 82
[br /]Next game: @ ARI (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 0%
[br /]Tragic number: E

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e - San Jose Sharks

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Points: 60
[br /]Regulation wins: 16
[br /]Playoff position: N/A
[br /]Games left: 1
[br /]Points pace: 61
[br /]Next game: @ EDM (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 0%
[br /]Tragic number: E

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e - Anaheim Ducks

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Points: 58
[br /]Regulation wins: 13
[br /]Playoff position: N/A
[br /]Games left: 2
[br /]Points pace: 60
[br /]Next game: vs. LA (Thursday)
[br /]Playoff chances: 0%
[br /]Tragic number: E

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P -- Clinched Presidents' Trophy; Y -- Clinched division; X -- Clinched playoff berth; E -- Eliminated from playoff contention

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Race for the No. 1 pick

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The NHL uses a draft lottery to determine the order of the first round, so the team that finishes in last place is not guaranteed the No. 1 selection. As of 2021, a team can move up a maximum of 10 spots if it wins the lottery, so only 11 teams are eligible for the draw for the No. 1 pick. Full details on the process can be found here. Sitting No. 1 on the draft board for this summer is Connor Bedard, who has been lauded as a generational talent.

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1. Columbus Blue Jackets

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Points: 57
[br /]Regulation wins: 15

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2. Anaheim Ducks

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Points: 58
[br /]Regulation wins: 13

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3. Chicago Blackhawks

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Points: 58
[br /]Regulation wins: 18

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4. San Jose Sharks

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Points: 60
[br /]Regulation wins: 16

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5. Montreal Canadiens

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Points: 68
[br /]Regulation wins: 21

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6. Arizona Coyotes

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Points: 69
[br /]Regulation wins: 20

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7. Philadelphia Flyers

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Points: 73
[br /]Regulation wins: 26

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8. Washington Capitals

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Points: 79
[br /]Regulation wins: 27

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9. Detroit Red Wings

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Points: 80
[br /]Regulation wins: 28

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10. Vancouver Canucks

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Points: 81
[br /]Regulation wins: 24

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11. St. Louis Blues

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Points: 81
[br /]Regulation wins: 27

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12. Ottawa Senators

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Points: 85
[br /]Regulation wins: 31

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13. Buffalo Sabres

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Points: 87
[br /]Regulation wins: 29

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14. Nashville Predators

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Points: 90
[br /]Regulation wins: 29

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15. Pittsburgh Penguins

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Points: 90
[br /]Regulation wins: 31

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16. Calgary Flames

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Points: 93
[br /]Regulation wins: 31

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