Michael Cammalleri, Troy Brouwer

Race for the playoffs: Three West teams could clinch, Blackhawks and Stars face tests

With the season winding down and the playoff picture sorting itself out, we’ll be taking a look at the night’s games and how they’ll potentially affect the playoff races. This is ProHockeyTalk’s “Race for the Playoffs.”

Western Conference

p-1. Vancouver – 113 pts (3 GR)
y-2. San Jose – 103 pts (3 GR)
y-3. Detroit – 102 pts (3 GR)
4. Phoenix – 96 pts (3 GR)
5. Los Angeles – 96 pts (3 GR)
6. Nashville – 95 pts (3 GR)
7. Anaheim – 93 pts (3 GR)
8. Chicago – 92 pts (4 GR)
9. Calgary – 91 pts (2 GR)
10. Dallas – 89 pts (4 GR)

p- clinched Presidents’ Trophy
z – clinched conference title
y – clinched division title
x – clinched playoff spot

Chicago @ Montreal – 7:30 pm ET

This is a big one for the two Original Six teams, as the Canadiens can clinch a playoff berth against a Blackhawks team hoping to cling to the eighth seed in the West. Chicago must mop up as many points as they can between this game and tomorrow’s contest against the Blues, because they face an intimidating home-and-home with the Red Wings to close out the season. The Flames are reasonably close behind but only have two games left while the Stars are short points but face a relatively easy closing schedule.

In other words, this is a big one for the ‘Hawks.

Atlanta @ Nashville – 8:00 pm ET

The Predators are almost certain to make the playoffs anyway, but they can put any doubts to bed in one of two ways.

  • They can clinch with a win plus a Stars loss.
  • Or they can clinch by earning a point against the Thrashers while the Stars lose in regulation.

Speaking of the Stars and teams clinching playoff spots …

Columbus @ Dallas – 8:30 pm ET

The Stars are fighting for their playoff lives, but still have a chance of jumping over the Flames (they have four games remaining to Calgary’s two) and Blackhawks for the West’s final spot. It won’t be easy, but all four of their games are against teams outside of their conference’s playoff picture, so going four for four is possible (if unlikely).

The Blackhawks and Predators won’t be the only teams rooting against them, though. Here are two teams who could clinch playoff berths without lifting a finger today.

Phoenix Coyotes: The fourth-ranked Coyotes could guarantee themselves a spot with a Stars loss of any kind.

Los Angeles Kings: The fifth-ranked Kings will earn another playoff berth with a Stars regulation loss.

Report: Sean Avery was arrested last week

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From the Southampton Press:

Sean Avery, the former National Hockey League player, was arrested by Southampton Village Police last week on two criminal charges.

According to authorities, Mr. Avery was arrested September 30 following a routine traffic stop on Jennings Avenue in the village at about 4:09 p.m. He was charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief and two counts of seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, all misdemeanors.

Police said the criminal mischief charge involved an incident the day before, when Mr. Avery allegedly threw objects at passing vehicles.

As for those counts of possession, according to the newspaper, Avery was found to have “two prescription drugs, acetaminophen with oxycodone and roxicodone.”

He was released on $500 bail and ordered to appear in court at a later date.

Did we mention he’s supposed to get married this weekend?

H/t Gawker

Devils send ’15 first-rounder Zacha back to junior

2015 NHL Draft - Round One

Pavel Zacha was this close to making his NHL debut.

Just days prior to opening their season against the Jets, the Devils returned Zacha — the sixth overall pick at this year’s draft — back to his junior club in OHL Sarnia.

The move comes after Zacha, 18, impressed throughout training camp and the preseason. He appeared in four exhibition games for New Jersey, scoring one point while endearing himself to the organizational brass, coaching staff and players.

“He understands the game. He plays with a maturity. It’s crazy to think an 18-year-old coming out of high school is up here and playing with the maturity and understanding of the game with the new system,” Kyle Palmieri told NJ.com. “I think he’s got a lot of raw talent there as a power forward. He’s got the body for it, the puck-handling skills and the nose for the net.”

At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Zacha has the frame and physical stature to play at the NHL level, and looked the part for long stretches of the exhibition season, getting turns on New Jersey’s top line.

The decision to send him back to junior is probably the right one, however.

Zacha only turned 18 in April and has limited experience even at the OHL level; ’14-15 was his first year with Sarnia, though he did appear in 38 Czech League games (for Liberec) the season prior.