Blackhawks, Penguins, Avalanche join playoff party

Mon Mar 31, 2014 2:58pm EDT
 
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(Reuters) - The defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins and Colorado Avalanche all qualified for the playoffs over a busy weekend as the NHL's regular season entered its final two weeks on Monday.

With the regular season ending on April 13, only seven of 16 playoff spots are spoken for with the Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks having also clinched.

Pittsburgh claimed a spot with a 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday while Colorado earned their first playoff berth since 2010 with Saturday's 3-2 win over the Sharks.

The Blackhawks also joined the party on Saturday without having to play courtesy of the Minnesota Wild's win over the Phoenix Coyotes.

There is still much to be decided in the Eastern Conference where only the Penguins and red-hot Bruins have secured two of the eight playoff berths.

The Bruins, who top the Atlantic and the only team confirmed as a division champion, are storming towards the playoffs after posting a club record ninth straight road win on Sunday with 4-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.

Boston improved to 15-0-1 in their last 16 games.

The weekend began with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs in a dead heat for the two East's wild-card spots.

But Detroit defeated Toronto and Tampa Bay to move into pole position in the wildcard race with 84 points, followed by Columbus (82), Washington (81) and the Maple Leafs (80), whose playoff hopes took another hit after an eighth straight loss.   Continued...

 
Mar 28, 2014; Columbus, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) celebrates with goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) after defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 at Nationwide Arena. Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports