NHL on NBC: Detroit, Chicago jockey for playoff positioning in regular season finale

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It’s always a special contest when the Blackhawks and Red Wings face off — but on Saturday, the game has a little extra spice.

The Wings will host the ‘Hawks at Joe Louis Arena (1:00 p.m ET, NBC) knowing that playoff seeding is on the line. Detroit currently holds the fifth spot in the Western Conference, but Chicago can take it…assuming the ‘Hawks want to, that is.

More, from NHL.com:

Detroit is fifth in the Western Conference and third in the Central Division with 101 points, while the Blackhawks are sixth in the West and fourth in the Central with 99. A regulation win for Chicago would tie them with the Wings in points and catapult them into the fifth slot for the Stanley Cup Playoffs based on tiebreakers — pitting Chicago against Nashville.

Any kind of Detroit win would consign Chicago with the sixth seed, while a Red Wings win plus a regulation loss for Nashville in Colorado would give the Wings home-ice advantage in a first-round series against the Preds. In short, there is still a lot left to play for besides bragging rights in one of the League’s oldest and fiercest rivalries.

The rub for the ‘Hawks? A regulation win against Detroit would be nice, but it puts them up against a tough Nashville team in Round 1 (the Preds went 4-1-1 against the ‘Hawks this year.)

A loss, though…a loss gives Chicago the No. 6 seed and the winner of the Pacific Division (either Phoenix, LA or San Jose.) The ‘Hawks went 1-2-1 against the Coyotes and Kings and 2-2 against the Sharks this season.

As for Saturday’s game — it could very well be decided by who’s not in the lineup. Chicago will be without the services of captain Jonathan Toews for the 21st straight game, along with key regulars Andrew Brunette and Dave Bolland (Steve Mondator is also still shelved.)

Detroit, meanwhile, is slowly getting back to full health. After a season loaded with injuries, they’ll only be without Darren Helm (knee) and Joey MacDonald (back) for the Chicago contest.