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Opinion

NHL gets ready for playoff push

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March 26, 2009

With the National Hockey League’s season drawing to an end with only 10 games remaining, the playoffs are in sight. This NHL season has proven to be another good one following a great season last year. The NHL has made the adjustments that were necessary to draw in more fans and make the games more fun for its fans. This year’s Winter Classic game, which featured the Detroit Red Wings visiting the Chicago Blackhawks outdoors at Wrigley Field in Chicago, proved to be the jump that the game needed. It was great being between two of the original six teams and having it played outdoors made it all the better.

With the playoffs approaching, fans keep their eyes close on the standings. The top teams in each conference show some new faces and of course some teams who just consistently play well year after year. The Detroit Red Wings look to make the playoffs near the top of the NHL for the seventh time in 14 seasons. The San Jose Sharks look to steal first place in the league and gain home ice throughout the playoffs where they have been nearly unbeatable at times this season. In the Eastern Conference, one of the top teams this year is the Boston Bruins, which after finishing in eighth place and grabbing the last spot in the playoffs last year, have been able to come into this season with high motivation and are now looking to gain home ice throughout the Eastern playoffs.

New Jersey is once again a familiar face atop the Eastern Conference and looks to gain either first or second this season after having goalie Martin Brodeur gain his 552nd win and become the winningest goalie in NHL history.

The bottom of each conference has been a tight race; in the East, Florida, which has struggled of late, looks to make a playoff rush with approximately 10 games left in its season.

The Montreal Canadians are trying to not let a hot start go for nothing as it tries to make the playoffs in the eighth spot after finishing first in the East last season.

Ottawa has won nine of their last 10 and have the playoffs in their sights, but I’m not going to go that far, they won’t make it.

In the West the teams at the bottom of the playoff list include Edmonton, Nashville, Anaheim, Minnesota and St. Louis.

Edmonton and Nashville are currently in the playoffs, but only by three points for Edmonton and one point by Nashville. Nashville could be a sleeper as they gave the Red Wings trouble last year, and if they make the postseason they may be able to do some damage.

Anaheim has struggled with their goalie situation and it could cost them a spot in post-season play. Minnesota, for all of you from the neighboring state, is in trouble. They have had to deal with their star player Marian Gaborik being injured almost the entire season and now when he gets back, Mikko Koivu is hurt for the rest of the regular season. To end on cold note, the St. Louis Blues have had to deal with so many injuries this season to a few of its top forwards and two of its top six defensemen.

Coach Andy Murray has done an amazing job in putting the Blues in playoff contention.  With all this in mind, the NHL playoffs should be an exciting time for hockey fans!

Gary Klaput is a student at UW-River Falls.