Wild Card Spots to Be Decided in Final Two Weeks of NHL Season

Photo courtesy of Jpowers65, Flickr Creative Commons

The NHL regular season has entered its final two weeks as teams prepare for a final stretch that will determine the fate of their 82-game season.

Teams in both the Eastern and Western Conferences are battling to claim the final wild card spot in each conference, which is still very much up for grabs. In the West, the Winnipeg Jets are holding on to the second wild card spot with 90 points, and are looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007, when the franchise was still the Atlanta Thrashers.

The defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings are two points out of the Western Conference playoff picture with six games left on their schedule.

In the East, the Boston Bruins reclaimed the final wild card spot with back-to-back wins on Saturday and Sunday over the New York Rangers and the Carolina Hurricanes. They added two more points in a 4-2 win against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday.

The Bruins hold a three-point lead on the Ottawa Senators for possession of the final wild card spot in the East. Ottawa has 88 points and is 7-2-1 in their last 10 games.

While these teams compete for one of the final wild card playoff spots still up for grabs, some teams have already punched their ticket to the postseason and will be looking to claim home ice advantage in the first round by finishing first or second in their divisions.

The New York Rangers became the first team to officially clinch a playoff spot with a win against the Senators on March 26. They are currently first in the Metropolitan Division with 103 points, eight ahead of both the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Washington Capitals are holding onto the first wild card spot in the east with 94 points, but will challenge Pittsburgh and the Islanders for the No. 2 seed in the Metropolitan Division. Both the Islanders and Penguins have 95 points.

The Montreal Canadiens were the second team from the East to clinch a playoff spot and are first in the Atlantic Division with 102 points. The Tampa Bay Lightning will challenge Montreal for the first in the Division and are currently just a single point behind Montreal.

The Detroit Red Wings will have to win important games this week if they want to hold onto the No. 3 spot in the Atlantic Division. The Red Wings have 93 points and are just two points ahead of the Bruins, who have won three in a row and is looking to move out of wild card positioning.

In the Western Conference, the Anaheim Ducks have clinched a playoff spot and stand atop the Pacific Division with a league-leading 105 points and a 10 point lead on the second place Vancouver Canucks, who have 95 after defeating the St. Louis Blues on Monday and the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.

The Calgary Flames have the No. 3 spot in the Division with 91 points, but if L.A., who has 88 points catches the Flames, they could be bumped out of playoff position as the two wild cads in the west are currently held by Central Division teams.

Winnipeg will be competing with either the Kings, Flames or Canucks for the final wild card spot with 90 points. The Minnesota Wild hold a five-point lead on the Jets in the wild card race and are three points behind division rival Chicago Blackhawks.

First place in the Central Division could be claimed by anyone, as the Nashville Predators currently lead with 103 points, but are trailed by the St. Louis Blues with 99 points and Chicago with 98.