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Key games in the season's final week

Posted: April 3, 2012 - 12:00am

Several playoff berths and positions will be decided as the season winds down. Saturday’s league finale, featuring the Los Angeles Kings at San Jose, might determine who wins the Pacific Division and who goes home.

The overall point title is being contested by Vancouver, St. Louis and the New York Rangers. The Atlantic, Southeast and Pacific division titles are still undecided.

Here’s a look at the most crucial games this week:

Tuesday

Pittsburgh at Boston: The Penguins have a slim chance to pass the Rangers in the Atlantic but more likely will battle for the No. 4 seeding and home-ice advantage in the first round. The defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins have clinched the Northeast title and No. 2 seeding.

N.Y. Rangers at Philadelphia: The Rangers are vying for the Atlantic division and overall top spot. The Flyers are one point behind the fourth-ranked Penguins. Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds has scored five goals in his last four games, including one that caromed in off his face. Ouch.

San Jose at Dallas: The Sharks’ 3-0 victory to open this home-and-home sequence put them back in the top eight and dumped Dallas out. The Sharks are 4-0-1 against the Stars, who have won only four of their last 10 games.

Thursday

Buffalo at Philadelphia: The Sabres are fighting the Washington Capitals for the final East spot. The Sabres will play host to already-eliminated Toronto on Tuesday.

Florida at Washington: The Panthers haven’t made the playoffs since the 1999-2000 season but could end that streak by winning the Southeast. The Capitals have regained center Nicklas Backstrom, who missed 40 games because of a concussion.

San Jose at Kings: The Kings lead the season series, 2-1-1, including a 5-2 victory March 20 at Staples Center. Missing the playoffs would be a huge failure for the Sharks, projected to be potential conference finalists.

Friday

Phoenix at St. Louis: The Coyotes, Sharks, Stars and Colorado Avalanche have been jumping in and out of seventh, eighth and ninth places. This game could determine the Coyotes’ playoff fate and whether the Blues win the conference and overall points titles.

Saturday

Buffalo at Boston: This could be for a playoff berth for the Sabres.

Washington at Rangers: The stakes could be a playoff spot for the Capitals and the overall points lead for the Rangers.

Philadelphia at Pittsburgh: They played a contentious game Sunday won by the Flyers and likely will meet again in the playoffs. The Flyers are 5-0 in Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center (RIP, the Igloo).

Chicago at Detroit: These two and the Nashville Predators have jockeyed for fourth, fifth and sixth. Home-ice advantage could be on the line.

St. Louis at Dallas: The point title could be at stake, as could a playoff berth for the Stars.

Kings at San Jose: It could be epic if it’s for a playoff spot.

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