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NHL Playoffs 2011: 8th Spot In West Up For Grabs Between Blackhawks, Stars

The Chicago Blackhawks host the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday. For Detroit, the game is only important if you are hoping the Red Wings finish the season on a positive note and pick up a win against the rival Blackhawks. For Chicago, a spot in the 2011 NHL playoffs is on the line.

Entering Sunday, the Blackhawks hold the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff picture with 97 points. The Dallas Stars sit two points back with 95 total. Each team plays on Sunday (Chicago hosts Detroit and Dallas plays at Minnesota), meaning the results of the two games will be critical.

Since the Blackhawks hold a two-point edge right now, they are the favorite to lock up the eighth spot in the West, partly because four different results can put them in the playoffs: 1) a Blackhawks win; 2) the Blackhawks/Red Wings game going to overtime (the result or if it goes to a shootout is irrelevant); 3) a Stars loss; and 4) the Stars game being decided in a shootout.

As outlined by the Chicago Sun-Times, the new primary tiebreaker this year -- regulation wins -- could play a big part in deciding which team makes the playoffs. Last year, Chicago would already have locked up a spot since the tiebreaker was total wins, but this year it's different.

If teams are tied in points, regulation/overtime wins are the first tiebreaker. After that, it’s head-to-head points. The Stars lead the Hawks 6-3.

If the Hawks lose in regulation to the Red Wings and the Stars beat the Wild in regulation or overtime, the Hawks and Stars would have 38 regulation/­overtime wins each. That would put the Stars in the playoffs. If the Wild and Stars go to a ­shootout, the Hawks would move on regardless of the outcome.

I know the Red Wings are just hoping to make it to the playoffs without suffering any more injuries, but how sweet would it be to close off the regular season with a win over the Blackhawks that in turn keeps Chicago out of the playoffs? Obviously Dallas would have to do its part and beat Minnesota for that to happen, but in any case, Detroit definitely has some motivation to win on Sunday.