Race for the playoffs: Preds and Coyotes can clinch; Ducks, Stars, and Hawks fight on

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 – 115 pts (1 GR)
y-2. San Jose – 103 pts (2 GR)
y-3. Detroit – 102 pts (2 GR)
x-4. Los Angeles – 98 pts (2 GR)
5. Nashville – 97 pts (2 GR)
6. Phoenix – 97 pts (2 GR)
7. Anaheim – 95 pts (2 GR)
8. Chicago – 95 pts (2 GR)
9. Dallas – 93 pts (2 GR)
10. Calgary – 93 pts (1 GR)

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

Rather than analyzing each of tonight’s games, the scenarios for teams in the West break down pretty easily to clinch. Here’s how it goes:

Nashville: Earning a point of any kind puts the Predators in the playoffs. 97 points isn’t good enough to get you in, but 98 points is as it puts them out of striking range of Dallas in ninth place. Dallas losing either in regulation or a shootout also puts Nashville in in case the Predators lose in regulation. Nashville plays at home tonight against Columbus and is in St. Louis tomorrow night.

Phoenix: Same scenario as the Predators. A point of any kind against San Jose puts the Coyotes into the playoffs. If/when they clinch then the juggle up and down the standings in the West can shake things up as far as matchups go, but the Coyotes would like to just lock it down for now. In the event of a regulation loss, a Dallas loss in regulation or overtime/shootout would also clinch a spot for the Coyotes. Phoenix closes their season with a home-and-home set with San Jose. They’ll play tonight in Phoenix and tomorrow night in San Jose.

Chicago: A win over Detroit coupled with a Dallas loss of any kind would put the Blackhawks into the postseason. Given that Dallas is facing Colorado, hoping for that to happen seems unlikely. Chicago going into their final two games against Detroit makes their quest all the more daunting as they can’t afford to lose when Dallas has such a weak schedule to close things out. The Blackhawks play tonight in Detroit and Sunday afternoon at 12:30 p.m. ET in Chicago on NBC’s Game of the Week.

Anaheim: A win over Los Angeles paired up with a Dallas loss of any kind puts the Ducks in the playoffs. The Ducks are in a similar place to that of Chicago in that a loss puts them in instant danger should Dallas continue to win. The Ducks have one of the most dangerous lines in hockey and could get Jonas Hiller back for the playoffs. They’d be a very dangerous team to face in the playoffs for any of the top seeds. We’re pretty sure that most teams atop the West wouldn’t be too sad if Dallas found a way to force them out of the postseason. The Ducks are in Los Angeles tonight and at home in Honda Center against the Kings tomorrow night.

Dallas: Dallas has no option but to win. A loss in either of their remaining games puts them in immediate danger of being shutout of the playoffs as they’re two points back of both Anaheim and Chicago. Dallas has the easier path to victory compared to those teams, but they’ve got a much smaller window for mistakes. Dallas is in Denver tonight to take on the Avalanche and in Minnesota on Sunday night to take on the Wild.

WATCH LIVE: Game 1 for Penguins – Capitals, Rangers – Senators

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It’s really happening.

For all the griping about having the Penguins and Capitals meet in the second round (again), it’s easy to forget the bright side: upsets didn’t dislodge this juicy matchup from taking place.

The West’s duo of Game 1 matchups kicked into gear last night, and now the East provides that battle between Sidney Crosby‘s squad and Alex Ovechkin‘s loaded team. Don’t sleep on Rangers – Senators, either, though; there should be plenty of intrigue in seeing superhuman Swedes Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson try to one-up each other.

Here’s what you need to know to follow the action:

New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators

Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

Network: CNBC (Stream online here)

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals

Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Sutter won’t retire from coaching, willing to join a rebuild

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Given he turns 59 this summer, has won a pair of Stanley Cups and coached over 1,000 NHL games, Darryl Sutter probably could’ve called it a career after getting fired by the Kings earlier this month, and done so comfortably.

But that’s not happening.

In speaking with TSN’s Gary Lawless, Sutter said he has no plans to retire from coaching. What’s more — and, perhaps more interesting — is that Sutter said he wouldn’t limit his next job solely to a contending team.

Currently, there are just two vacant coaching gigs in Buffalo and Florida. We wrote about the Panthers’ search earlier today (more on that here). The situation in Buffalo is more complex, as the Sabres need to hire a new general manager and coach. Logic suggests the GM will be hired first, then spearhead the new bench boss hire.

In that regard, Buffalo is pretty intriguing.

Though the Kings have yet to be contacted for an interview request, ex-GM Dean Lombardi has been tied to the Sabres gig. And Lombardi, of course, is forever tied to Sutter — he was the one that hired Sutter after a five-year coaching exodus to join the Kings, and the pair went on to achieve great success together.

That five-year coaching exodus does need to be mentioned, though.

History suggests that Sutter isn’t joking when he says he’ll be picky about the situation and won’t rush to find the right fit. After being dismissed in Calgary in 2006, he returned to work on the family farm in Viking, Alberta and seemed fairly content doing so.

That said, hockey always seems to draw him back.

“The game has given us everything,” Sutter told Lawless. “We still have lots to give.”

Coyotes fire assistant coach Newell Brown

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The Arizona Coyotes have parted ways with some personnel.

Assistant coach Newell Brown has been fired, along with Doug Soetaert, who was the general manager of their AHL affiliate in Tuscon.

Pro scouts David MacLean and Jim Roque won’t be back either. Their contracts will not be renewed.

“I’d like to thank Newell, Doug, David and Jim for their contributions to the club,” said GM John Chayka. “They are all good people but we believe these changes are necessary in order to improve our organization. We wish them the best in the future.”

A longtime NHL assistant coach, Brown is perhaps the most prominent of the four men. He joined the Coyotes in the summer of 2013 and received high praise for his work with their power play.

But Arizona’s power play slipped to 26th this past season, converting at a rate of just 16.2 percent.

As for Soetaert, he was only named GM of the Roadrunners last summer. The former NHL goalie had previously been a scout.

Plenty of seats available for tonight’s game in Ottawa

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The Ottawa Senators say they’re still expecting a full house, but Ticketmaster’s website shows plenty of available seats for tonight’s second-round opener with the New York Rangers.

From the Ottawa Citizen:

Many of the available tickets for Thursday’s game were in the corners of the upper bowl, seats that carry a $96 price tag.

The Senators sold out all three games in the opening round of the playoffs against Boston. Game 1 drew a crowd of 18,702, while 18,629 showed up for Game 2 and 19,209 were in the seats for Game 5.

Attendance has been an issue in Ottawa — or, more specifically, suburban Kanata — all season, to the point owner Eugene Melnyk expressed great frustration with the lack of sellouts at Canadian Tire Centre.

Poor attendance also led to friction behind the scenes. At least, it sure sounded that way in the lawsuit that was filed against the team by its former chief marketing officer.

Poor attendance is why the Sens are trying to get a new downtown arena built. They believe that a more central location is the key to bigger crowds.

But regardless of the arena’s location, it won’t be a good look if there are empty seats tonight. This is the playoffs, and the Senators are one of eight remaining teams in the hunt for the Stanley Cup. The building should be full.

Related: Melnyk thinks Sens can make deep playoff run