At the track, they'd say we were in the deep stretch. Three days and 26 games remain in the 2010-11 regular season campaign. Ten playoff spots already have been reserved. Eight clubs are still in the fight for the final six postseason tickets.
By the end of action Friday night, the playoff door in the West could be closed. If I had an Ivy League degree in mathematics, I would explain the whole thing. This much I can tell you: A regulation loss by the Dallas Stars at the Colorado Avalanche could trigger a playoff landslide that would close the polls in that conference.
Of course, there remains the possibility that the very last game of the season -- Stars at Minnesota Wild -- could mean playoffs or bust for Marc Crawford's team.
In the East, we'll know our playoff teams by the end of play on Saturday night. The New York Rangers opened the door to a wild finish and, in John Tortorella's words, "laid an egg" against the nonplayoff Atlanta Thrashers on Thursday night at a sullen Madison Square Garden.
Now, the Carolina Hurricanes can blow into the postseason by winning their final two games against the Thrashers (road) and Tampa Bay Lightning (home). I don't think the Caniacs could have asked for a better opportunity.
If the Hurricanes need any late-game heroics on Saturday night against the Bolts, you might want to keep your eye on winger Erik Cole. The veteran power forward is tied for the team lead with eight game-winning goals, including two in overtime.
For my final regular-season Five for Friday, I offer you a few other tidbits of information that you might not have known.