With other teams in the race playing their games in hand on Wednesday, the Checkers now have a clearer picture of where they stand heading into the regular season's final weekend.

The bad news from Wednesday was that the Rochester Americans won their game against Utica, thus clinching the seventh seed and exceeding the Checkers' reach. It was likely to happen sooner or later, as the Americans, thanks to a 5-0-1 stretch that immediately followed their nine-game losing streak, only needed one point in their final three games to do so.

The good news from Wednesday was that the Oklahoma City Barons lost their game against Texas, keeping the Checkers within two points.

Here are the remaining scenarios involving the three teams battling for the final spot. It's still possible that the Checkers could win both of their games and miss the playoffs. They could also lose one and still make it.
Playoff Scenarios
Checkers Record What has to Happen
2-0-0 Oklahoma City earns no more than two points
1-0-1 Oklahoma City earns no more than one point
1-1-0 / 0-0-2 Oklahoma City earns no points AND Rockford earns no more than two
0-1-1 / 0-2-0 Checkers are out regardless
Those scenarios are made possible by the fact that the Checkers hold the regulation/overtime wins (i.e., non-shootout) tiebreaker over both Oklahoma City and Rockford. Charlotte still needs help to catch the Barons, but based on that tiebreaker, they still control their own destiny against Rockford even though the teams are level on points. All three teams play simultaneously at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Charlotte's games are on the road against Milwaukee, which will end up with either the fifth or sixth seed, and Rockford, the other bubble team. The Rockford game could be meaningless by puck drop, as Oklahoma City could clinch the playoff spot with a win and losses by Charlotte and Rockford on Friday. It could also be a winner-take-all slugfest if the Barons keep the door open for both teams by losing Friday.

Western Conference Standings

8. OKC 74 79 31
9. Charlotte 74 77 33
10. Rockford 74 77 30
Oklahoma City plays a pair of games against the Iowa Wild, who are last in the Western Conference. Prior to facing the Checkers, Rockford, which has lost five of its last six, plays a home game against the fourth-seed Chicago Wolves. The Checkers are 2-1-0 against Milwaukee and 4-2-1 against Rockford this season.

Whichever team ends up in the eighth spot is guaranteed to face the Texas Stars, who clinched the Kilpatrick Trophy as the AHL's regular-season champion and extended their point streak to 13 games by beating Oklahoma City on Wednesday. The Stars have not lost in regulation since they last faced the Checkers on March 12.

The still-miniscule margin for error highlights the importance of Oklahoma City's loss on Wednesday. Had the Barons won, they would have only needed one more point to clinch a playoff spot.

Even as things stand right now, the two-point swing that occurred when the Checkers allowed the Barons to score two last-minute goals in recent head-to-head meetings looms fairly large at the moment. Had the Checkers held on for six more seconds to avoid overtime in Charlotte on March 29 and held on for 35 more seconds to get to overtime in Oklahoma City on April 6, the teams would be tied right now.
Paul Branecky
Author: Paul BraneckyEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The Checkers' vice president of communications, Paul Branecky has been covering hockey in North Carolina since 2006, including five seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes.

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