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Knights’ playoff scenarios: What’s at stake in final month?

The Golden Knights’ regular season is down to its final month.

There are 14 games remaining to determine the team’s place in the standings. Unlike last season, there’s minimal concern over where the Knights might end up. They have put any fears of a second straight playoff miss to bed. It’s only a matter of figuring out where they will start the postseason and their path through the Western Conference.

The Knights can make things easy by continuing to play like they have been since the All-Star break. They’re 13-2-2 since their bye, a stretch that has put them in first place in the West and Pacific Division.

It’s up to them to hold onto that spot by the time they finish the regular season April 13 in Seattle. All of their goals remain in reach 174 days since their first training camp practice.

“We’ve done a good job of finding ways to win hockey games,” center Jack Eichel said. “We’re getting points. It seems like all the teams in our division continue to win, so it’s on us to do our own part, and that’s just get two points every night.”

The Knights have separated in the standings since the All-Star break.

They entered it in second place in the Pacific, one point behind Seattle, but fifth-place Calgary was only five points back of the Knights with a game in hand.

The Knights’ run since then has put them on track for their third division title in six seasons and all but sealed their playoff spot. They are 15 points ahead of Nashville, which would be the first team out if the regular season ended today.

That means the Knights primarily will be fighting for seeding the rest of the way.

Their leads aren’t secure. Los Angeles is three points back in the Pacific. Dallas is three points back in the West. The Knights hold the tiebreaker on both teams, for now.

Other rivals are further behind. Third-place Edmonton is eight points back of the Knights. The fourth-place Kraken are nine points back with a game in hand. But neither team is out of the race. The Knights play each of them twice.

Nine of the team’s final 14 games are against division opponents. The Knights are 8-7-2 against the Pacific, but they have showed an increased resilience since the break. They have buckled at times yet always seem to find a way forward.

“We’ve let some teams back into games,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We understand that. We have to correct some of that, but it doesn’t go on forever where we’re losing games doing that. We find our game again, we get back to it, we don’t panic and we get to the finish line.”

It’s on the Knights to maintain that fight the rest of the season. There are still so many ways things could shake out. They are projected to play the West’s second wild-card holder as of now. That’s Winnipeg, but the Predators and Flames are fighting to get in. Seattle and Edmonton also are first-round possibilities.

The Knights probably aren’t stressing about it. They have defeated Eastern Conference contenders New Jersey, Tampa Bay and Carolina (twice) this month. They are playing well enough to compete with anyone.

“When we’ve had to dig in, we can do that and kind of rally around each other,” center Teddy Blueger said. “There’s been stretches of games where we’ve played really well and stretches where it hasn’t really gone our way, but we’ve stuck with it.”

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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