Puck Daddy - NHL

Since we're down to the final moments of postseason life for teams in contention, Puck Daddy solemnly begins a daily countdown to annihilation.

Through the glorious happenstance of the NHL schedule (or the freaky precognitive abilities of its schedule-makers), the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks both play tonight in a Western Conference doubleheader.

The Blackhawks visit the Detroit Red Wings on VERSUS tonight, with Chicago currently occupying the No. 8 seed and the Wings attempting to gain a two-point edge over the San Jose Sharks for second overall in the conference.

Good news for the 'Hawks: No Jimmy Howard(notes), as Joey MacDonald(notes) gets the start in place of the injured keeper. The potential bad news? Johan Franzen(notes) has proclaimed himself healthy, although he has just one assist in three games against Chicago this season.

As Chicago Now wrote, it's a critical 48 hours for Chicago: In Detroit tonight, at the Boston Bruins on Tuesday. While the challenge from below the bubble might not be serious enough to keep the Blackhawks out of the postseason, the next two games could establish whether they're destined for the bottom two of the middle of the pack.

As for the Ducks, they're at home against the Colorado Avalanche tonight after taking four of six points on a critical road trip. From Ducks Blog:

"Momentum-building," Corey Perry(notes) said. "That overtime win in Dallas definitely built some confidence, too. Getting four points on that trip speaks volumes about our hockey team."

Added teammate Cam Fowler(notes): "Meaningful. Going into the trip, we knew what was on the line for our team and our group. The win in Dallas sort of set the tone for the whole thing."

According to Sports Club Stars, the Ducks increase their playoff chances to 83.2 with a win; a loss brings them down to 61.4. If the Blackhawks win, they'll be at 91.7 percent. A loss? It's down to 75.5 percent.

Coming up, the playoff pictures for the East and West, as we shift the focus to playoff seeding. The full NHL standings and schedules can be found on Y! Sports.

All playoff percentages are from Sports Club Stats; the Tragic Number is from NHL Standings and Magic Numbers. The former is an industry standard; the latter is a site we discovered this week, and are hopeful that the figures are as accurate as those from NHL Playoff Race. Also: For the Percentage Chance of Making the Playoffs, we've included the figures from Hockey-Reference.com (HR), which is crunching its own numbers. It's listed with the percentage from Sports Club Stats (SCS).

Head here for an explanation of the Tragic Numbers.

Here's the playoff picture for the Eastern Conference:

Team (Games) Place/Record/Pts. Tragic # % Chance of Playoffs % Chance of 7th % Chance of 8th
Montreal Canadiens (76) 6th/40-29-7/87 -- 98.5 (SCS)

97.4 (HR)

34 19
New York Rangers (76) 7th/41-30-5/87 -- 98.3 (SCS)

99.0 (HR)

33 25
Buffalo Sabres (75) 8th/38-28-9/85 -- 91.6 (SCS)

94.1 (HR)

26 45
Carolina Hurricanes (75) 9th/35-30-10/80 10 11.3 (SCS)

8.8 (HR)

2 9
Toronto Maple Leafs (76) 10th/34-32-10/78 6 0.4 (SCS)

0.5 (HR)

0 0
Atlanta Thrashers (75) 11th/31- 31-12/76 6 0.0 (SCS)

0.2 (HR)

0 0
New Jersey Devils (75) 12th/34-36-5/73 3 0.0 (SCS)

0.0 (HR)

-- 0

Is the Eastern Conference Top 8 locked in?

The Thrashers lingered longer with a win last night, but remain well behind the Sabres. The Leafs are running out of games. The Hurricanes might be the only hope to catch Buffalo, and they're five points off the pace. From the News & Observer:

"There's still lots of games left and anything can happen," Canes defenseman Bryan Allen(notes) said. "We play [Buffalo] once and they're not guaranteed to win the rest of their games. We just need to worry about our situation and take care of the games we have."

The Canes and Sabres meet on Sunday, April 3. Will it still matter?

Here's the Western Conference:

Team (Games) Place/Record/Pts. Tragic # % Chance of Playoffs % Chance of 7th % Chance of 8th
Phoenix Coyotes (77) 4th/41-25-11/93 -- 94.8 (SCS)

93.7 (HR)

19 12
Los Angeles Kings (75) 5th/43-26-6/92 -- 96.1 (SCS)

98.0 (HR)

12 8
Nashville Predators (76) 6th/41-25-10/92 -- 96.2 (SCS)

96.8 (HR)

15 9
Anaheim Ducks (75) 7th/42-28-5/89 -- 76.6 (SCS)

78.8 (HR)

20 23
Chicago Blackhawks (74) 8th/40-26-8/88 -- 84.2 (SCS)

84.0 (HR)

20 21
Calgary Flames (77) 9th/38-28-11/87 9 8.7 (SCS)

9.7 (HR)

2 7
Dallas Stars (74) 10th/38-26-10/86 14 43.5 (SCS)

39.1(HR)

11 20
Minnesota Wild (75) 11th/35-32-8/78 5 0.0 (SCS)

0.0 (HR)

0 0
St. Louis Blues (75) 12th/34-32-9/77 4 0.0 (SCS)

0.0 (HR)

-- 0
Columbus Blue Jackets (75) 13th/33-31-11/77 4 0.0 (SCS)

0.0 (HR)

-- 0

With their win over the weekend and the Blue Jackets' loss last night, the Blues have moved ahead of Columbus. Both teams have the same tragic number. Columbus now has the better chance in the draft. Who's the real winner here?

If the playoffs started today, they'd look like this.

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