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NHL Playoff Pairings: Islanders will face Penguins or Panthers; Saturday offers playoff-palooza

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Saturday is gonna be fun.

Lose out this weekend and face these guys.
Lose out this weekend and face these guys.
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

All 30 NHL teams are in action on Saturday, which would have been the season finale for the whole lot of them if not for some nasty weather canceling a couple of games earlier this season.

As a result, a lot can be determined on Saturday, but the two remaining games on Sunday can also have playoff implications. Of Saturday's 15 games, nine have playoff spot and/or playoff seeding implications.

The Tank Battle of New York

There is much talk of whether either New York team wants to win this weekend, since neither can secure home ice and the team that emerges with the most points among the Islanders and Rangers draws the red-hot Penguins in the first round.

It's not so much that the Atlantic champion Panthers are pushovers -- they obviously aren't -- it's that the Atlantic bracket, where the top wild card team will go, looks a little more manageable.

Anyway, the Islanders face the Sabres and Flyers at home. The Rangers host the Red Wings. The Rangers hold the tiebreaker, so if the Isles do not get more points than the Rangers do this weekend, the Rangers will finish in third place.

For what it's worth, the Rangers have several injuries and are resting a few more, while the Red Wings need a non-shootout win to guarantee their playoff spot.

The Final Spot(s)

There are only two playoff spots still up in the air, and they are the final Atlantic spot and the final Eastern wild card. Boston (93 points), Detroit (93) and Philadelphia (92) are all vying for the spot, with:

  • Detroit currently holding the tiebreaker
  • Boston holding the tiebreaker if it gets a regulation/OT win and Detroit only gets a shootout win
  • Philadelphia needing to get one more point from its two games this weekend than Boston or Detroit get from their finale on Saturday

Whoever gets the final Atlantic spot faces Tampa Bay in the first round. Whoever gets the last wild card draws Washington.

The Senators-Bruins and Red Wings-Rangers games are both at 12:30, by the way. That's followed by the Flyers at 3 p.m. Good job, schedule makers.

Western Academics

Out West, all eight spots are already finalized, but there is some wiggle room in who plays whom:

Dallas and St. Louis (107 points each) are battling for tops in the Central and in the West overall, but the Stars hold the tiebreaker. The Stars host Nashville, who is locked into the top wild card spot. The Blues host Washington, which is trying to get Braden Holtby a record-tying win.

The Central winner draws Minnesota; the runner-up gets the Blackhawks.

Meanwhile, in the Pacific the Kings (101 points) and Ducks (99 points) can still get the division title. The Kings hold the tiebreaker, but the Ducks have two games this weekend, Saturday at Colorado and Sunday in Washington.

See the full list of playoff if-then scenarios at nhl.com here.