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The playoff race is heating up in both conferences as we close in on the end of the regular season, and it’s one of the tightest races we have ever seen. It’s evident that Vancouver, Philadelphia, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Washington will make the playoffs, but almost every other spot is up for grabs

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By Justin Orlewicz (Hockey Writer) – Email

The playoff race is heating up in both conferences as we close in on the end of the regular season, and it’s one of the tightest races we have ever seen. It’s evident that Vancouver, Philadelphia, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Washington will make the playoffs, but almost every other spot is up for grabs.

The top six teams in the East are pretty much battling for positioning, meanwhile the bottom two playoff spots in the conference have six teams battling for them; the latter is obviously the more intense race. Toronto has managed to muscle their way back into the race and Atlanta has fallen into 11th after a hot start to the season. However, Atlanta still leads the league in defenceman scoring, mostly due to Dustin Buflygien.

New Jersey has all of a sudden turned it up into super high gear and become the best team in the League as of the halfway mark of the season. New Jersey got off to one of their worst starts in team history; critics were calling for Kovalchuk’s head on a platter, calling his ridiculous signing a total bust. The Devils fired their coach and brought in former coach Jacques Lemaires and he just managed to turn the ship completely around. He turned Kovalchuk back into the bonnafied scorer that he used to be and now the Devils sit in the 12th spot and just six points out of playoff contention. Lemaires is even being considered for coach of the year.

In the West it’s even tighter for a playoff spot. At this point Edmonton is the only team in the West that is mathematically eliminated from the playoffs and Colorado isn’t far away. Only Vancouver and Detroit seem to have secured themselves so far. That leaves nine teams fighting for positioning and the bottom six spots with only 10 or so games left. It should be interesting to see which teams will pull through this dogfight to get into the playoffs and if they do, which ones will stay hot through the playoffs and which ones will be too beat up from the tiring battle it’s going to take just to get in.

At this point even the defending Stanley Cup Champions are only three points up on the eighth seeded team. Calgary is currently the eighth seeded team, but they have also played the most games, so their destiny is out of their hands.

The Canucks have almost clinched the top of the League as they just keep winning. The Canucks are likely the team that will take home the Presidents Trophy, but will home ice throughout the entire playoffs be enough for this franchise to finally win the biggest prize in all of hockey? I guess only time will tell.

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