SPORTS

NHL: Playoff race: 6 things to know for Saturday

04/11/2015 12:21 EDT | Updated 06/13/2015 05:59 EDT
It's the final day of the NHL's 82-game regular season and there's still plenty to be decided as far as playoff berths and positioning.

Calgary, Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver have clinched playoff spots but positioning or home-ice advantage to start the post-season is still to be determined. Meanwhile, the Ottawa Senators could remain first in the Eastern Conference wild-card race, drop to second or miss the playoffs.

Here's what you need to know for Saturday:

Win and Sens are in playoffs

A win or overtime/shootout loss by the Ottawa Senators in Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon and they're in the playoffs for the first time since 2013. In that scenario, only one of Boston and Pittsburgh, which play in separate games this evening, would be post-season-bound. A Senators loss in regulation and both the Bruins and Penguins could get in with victories. Ottawa could still finish third in the Atlantic Division with a win and regulation loss by the Detroit Red Wingsin Carolina. The Senators will ice the same lineup that produced a 3-0 win over the New York Rangers on Thursday.

That means, rookie goalie "Hamburglar" Andrew Hammond will try for his 20th win since the Sens recalled him from the AHL in mid-February. He is 9-0-2 with three shutouts on the road, while Ottawa is on a 21-4-4 run overall. The Flyers and Senators have split two games with each decided in a shootout.

Other playoff scenarios

- Pittsburgh would make the playoff for a ninth straight season with a victory in Buffalo. But the Penguins, who hold the second wild-card spot by a point over Boston, are 3-9-2 since March 12 and winless in five games in April. Defenceman Christian Ehrhoff, who missed Friday's 3-1 loss to the visiting New York Islanders with a suspected concussion, is doubtful Saturday.

- St. Louis or Anaheim, tied with 107 points, will clinch top spot in the Western Conference. They each have 50 wins and the first tiebreaker is close, with the Ducks holding a 42-41 edge in regulation and overtime wins (ROW). St. Louis will have two players returning from injury against visiting Minnesota: leading goal-scorer (36) and point-getter Vladimir Tarasenko (71) and fellow forward Alex Steen (62 points). The Wild have won 12 straight road games. All-star forward Ryan Getzlaf will return to the Anaheim lineup in Arizona after a two-game absence to rest bumps and bruises.

- The Winnipeg Jets will face the winner in Round 1 of the playoffs.

- Montreal can clinch the Atlantic Division with a win or post-regulation loss at Toronto. A Canadiens loss could see Tampa Bay take the division should it prevail over visiting Boston.

- Washington and the New York Islanders will meet in the first round along with Vancouver and Calgary. Games on Saturday will determine home-ice advantage.

- Chicago can lock up third spot in the Central Division with a victory or post-regulation loss to Colorado. A regulation loss would allow Minnesota a chance at third and a Round 1 series against Nashville.

Scoring races

It's only fitting that a NHL scoring race that has been tightly contested for weeks be decided on the final day of season. Ditto the race for the rookie scoring champion. John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, who each grabbed a point in Friday's head-to-head matchup, enter play Saturday with 84 points apiece, followed by Dallas' Jamie Benn (83), Philadelphia's Jakub Voracek (81) and Washington's Alex Ovechkin (80). Crosby has had the most success in the group this season against his Saturday opponent, racking up eight points in two games against Buffalo. Tavares has three goals and six points in three games versus Columbus.

In rookie scoring, Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau carries a 64-62 advantage over Nashville's Filip Forsberg and Ottawa's Mark Stone into Saturday afternoon's game at Winnipeg. Gaudreau has three points in two games against the Jets this season while Forsberg has two goals and four points in as many games this season versus Saturday's opponent, the Dallas Stars. Philadelphia has held the Senators' Stone off the scoresheet in two meetings.

Byfuglien back?

A non-shootout win by Calgary in Winnipeg and Vancouver loss to visiting Edmonton gives the Flames home-ice advantage in the all-Canadian playoff matchup. Calgary head coach Bob Hartley and Jets counterpart Paul Maurice will rest some players (Ondrej Pavelec, Bryan Little) but Winnipeg defenceman Dustin Byfuglien is eligible to play after serving a four-game suspension.

Keep an eye on the Flames lineup as 2014 fourth-overall pick Sam Bennett could make his NHL debut.

Habs eye sweep of Leafs

Montreal will try to maintain its two-point lead over Tampa Bay atop the Atlantic Division when it visits longtime rivals Toronto. The Canadiens, who have won all three games in the season series, will also attempt to sweep the Maple Leafs for the first time since 1995-96, when they went 2-0-0. Carey Price will start in goal for Montreal. He has stopped 82 of 86 shots he has faced versus Toronto this season with a 1.30 GAA and .953 save percentage. Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty will miss a second straight contest with a suspected concussion. Tough guy Colton Orr has been summoned from the AHL to play his final game as a Leaf.

Miller time in Vancouver

Canucks goalie Ryan Miller, who hasn't played since suffering a knee injury on Feb. 22, will get the call against the visitingEdmonton Oilers. Miller sports a 28-15-1 record, 2.47 GAA and .913 save percentage in his first season with Vancouver. If Calgary beats the hometown Winnipeg Jets earlier in the day, the Canucks will need to get a point to earn home-ice advantage against the Flames in the first round of the playoffs. Vancouver is 4-0-0 against Edmonton this season but they haven't faced each other since Nov. 19.

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