As the lockout-shortened 2013 NHL season enters its final week, many teams are still fighting to finish in the top eight in their conference to earn a playoff spot.
While the Pittsburg Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks have clinched first place in the East and West conferences respectively, other teams expected to have strong seasons are still fighting with unexpected contenders for a final playoff spot.
The Detroit Red Wings, currently eighth in the Western Conference, are trying to keep a streak of 21 straight postseason appearances alive.
The Red Wings have won the Stanley Cup four times since they last missed the playoffs in the 1989-1990 season, and were crowned champions in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008.
“If they miss it,” said Dan Cohen, a member of Ramapo’s roller hockey team, “it will be the first time in my life Detroit hasn’t made the playoffs.”
The Columbus Blue Jackets, who finished last in the league last year, are battling with Detroit and Dallas for the final playoff spot in the west. The Blue Jackets sit in ninth with 51 points, trailed by Detroit with 50 and Dallas with 48.
The Minnesota Wild, who missed the playoffs last year, are holding onto seventh in the west with 53 points.
After Wednesday night’s game against the Los Angeles Kings, Detroit has two games remaining: Thursday against the Nashville Predators, who are stuck at 14 in the West after finishing fourth a year ago, and Saturday against Dallas.
Dallas’ other remaining game is Thursday against Columbus, who will play one of their two remaining games against Nashville on Saturday.
Several of these matchups will have a profound effect on who makes the playoffs in the West, including head-to-head matchups between Dallas and Detroit, and Columbus and Dallas. The Predators have a chance to play spoiler if they beat either Columbus or Detroit and not the other.
Meanwhile in the East, the New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets are fighting for the final playoff spots. The Senators and Rangers sit in seventh and eighth respectively, each with 52 points. The Jets, currently ninth, are close behind with 51 points.
However, with only one game remaining on Winnipeg’s schedule, The Senators and Rangers can secure a playoff berth if Winnipeg loses their final game against the Montreal Canadians, who sit in fourth with 59 points.
The Rangers and Senators will also be in action Thursday night and both teams can clinch a playoff spot with a single win. The Rangers take on the Carolina Hurricanes, who have been long eliminated from playoff contention. The Senators will play the Washington Capitals, who clinched the Southeast Division title on Tuesday with a win over Winnipeg.
The Rangers end their season on Saturday against the New Jersey Devils. The Devils officially missed the playoffs after a loss to the Rangers on Sunday, but may have a chance to doom the Rangers to the same fate.
The Senators have three games remaining, including games versus the twelfth in the East Philadelphia Flyers and Sunday against the second-place Boston Bruins.
Sunday’s game, the final game of the regular season, was originally scheduled for April 15 in Boston but was rescheduled due to the Boston Marathon bombing.