Still lots to be decided in NHL’s final 2 weeks

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Buffalo _ Will need to keep up their recent good play to edge out the Hurricanes.

Carolina _ Withstood the threat of upstart New Jersey, which had only a handful of losses since December, to stay in the thick of the race. But the Hurricanes seem to be running out of steam as they chase Buffalo and New York.

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WESTERN CONFERENCE:

Vancouver _ Has been solidly on top for weeks. Now the Canucks will try to carry a nation’s hopes. The last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup was Montreal in 1993.

Detroit _ Totally comfortable entering the playoffs as the No. 2 seed. The Red Wings would surprise no one if they reached the Stanley Cup finals for the third time in four years.

San Jose _ Perennial playoff disappointments look to change their image with Antti Niemi in goal. Niemi backstopped the Chicago Blackhawks’ to the title last year, and the Sharks hope he is the difference for them this time around.

Phoenix _ Despite unsettled ownership issues, the Coyotes aim to be a solid playoff team again. Like every team in the middle of the Western pack, their position is tenuous. Still, Phoenix could create a scare as it did to Detroit last year.

Chicago _ With lots of the guts from last year’s title team spread out around the NHL because of salary cap issues, the Blackhawks hope to reclaim the magic with new faces. The core remains, but an injury to leading goal-scorer Patrick Sharp could derail hopes of a repeat.

Los Angeles, Nashville, Anaheim _ Only one point separated the three teams entering Thursday. Pekka Rinne has had a Vezina Trophy-like season for the Predators, and that kind of goaltending is often what separates playoff hopefuls down the stretch. Anaheim has Jonas Hiller back in goal after a bout with vertigo. He can spell Ray Emery, who became an unlikely helpful understudy.

Dallas _ Took a big hit, in the standings and emotionally, when they gave up the tying goal to Anaheim in the closing seconds of regulation and the winning goal in overtime on Wednesday. Instead of being two points ahead of the Ducks and in eighth place, the Stars dropped one point behind into ninth.

Calgary _ With only six games remaining, the Flames must figure they need to win them all to get in even though their deficit was only two points.

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AP Sports Writers Josh Dubow, Larry Lage and John Wawrow contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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