It's April 3, there are 8 days left in the regular season and the playoff races in each conference are still on fire and so many games have added meaning with points at such a premium. As always, NHL.com is here to give you a Down the Stretch daily that will highlight what you need to know about the games that directly impact the playoff races.
Here is the installment for Sunday, April 3:
NY RANGERS (41-32-5, 87 points) at PHILADELPHIA (46-22-10, 102 points)
Where they stand: The Rangers are eighth in the Eastern Conference; the Flyers are second in the East.
What's at stake: With Washington's overtime win Saturday night, the Flyers find themselves in an unfamiliar place -- second. Philadelphia can retake the top spot in the East with a win or an overtime or shootout loss. The Rangers, meanwhile, could be on the outside looking in Sunday night if they don't pick up two points, as Carolina is just one point back of the East's final playoff slot.
How's it going: The Rangers' postseason is suddenly in jeopardy after two straight losses, including a rough 6-2 pounding in their last game Thursday night on Long Island. Enduring something of a late-season slump, the Flyers have won just three of their last nine games. In its last outing, Philadelphia took a 4-2 defeat in New Jersey Friday night.
Upcoming: The Rangers open a season-ending three-game homestand Monday night against Boston before also hosting Atlanta and finally New Jersey in their season finale Saturday afternoon. Philadelphia hits the road for visits to Ottawa and Buffalo later this week before wrapping up the regular season Saturday night at home against the Islanders.
BUFFALO (39-29-10, 88 points) at CAROLINA (38-30-10, 86 points)
Where they stand: The Sabres are seventh in the East; the Hurricanes are ninth in the East.
What's at stake: Buffalo's postseason fate is far from safe, with just two points separating the Sabres from ninth-place Carolina, but things are more dire for the Canes, who are on the outside looking in. With a win, however, Carolina could jump over the Rangers for the East's final playoff berth, or tie the Sabres for eighth place, depending on how the Rangers fare in their matinee against Philadelphia Sunday.
How's it going: The Sabres have continued to impress in the season's final weeks. While Saturday night's overtime loss in Washington was a tough pill to swallow, Buffalo has still won four of its last six games, losing in regulation just once since March 15, the last time these two teams faced off. The Hurricanes, meanwhile, have put together a streak of their own, winning three straight and six of seven overall.
Upcoming: Buffalo comes home to host Tampa Bay and Philadelphia later this week before finishing the regular season Saturday night in Columbus. The Hurricanes host Detroit Wednesday night before ending the season in a back-to-back that starts Friday in Atlanta and ends Saturday night against the Lightning back at the RBC Center.
MINNESOTA (37-33-8, 82 points) at DETROIT (45-23-10, 100 points)
Where they stand: The Wild are 11th in the Western Conference; the Red Wings are third in the West.
What's at stake: Minnesota's postseason hopes are done, but there are a whole host of possibilities for Detroit Sunday. Beyond hopping over the Sharks for the West's second seed with a win, a win in regulation or overtime would also give the Red Wings the Central Division title. The Wings also stand to take the crown if they win Sunday in a shootout and the Blackhawks either lost to Tampa Bay or defeat the Bolts in a shootout. If Detroit gets one point against Minnesota and the Blackhawks lose to Tampa Bay, the Wings will still take the Central.
How's it going: The Wild lost to Tampa Bay Saturday afternoon, ending a brief two-game winning streak. Things are still tough in Minnesota, though. The Wild have won just two of their last 11 games. The Wings defeated Nashville in overtime Saturday afternoon, but Detroit has still struggled lately, winning just two of seven, including a shocking 10-3 loss to the Blues Wednesday at the Joe.
Upcoming: Minnesota travels to Vancouver and Edmonton later this week before finishing their campaign against the Stars Sunday evening. The Wings visit Carolina Wednesday night before ending the regular season with a home-and-home against rival Chicago.
TAMPA BAY (43-24-11, 97 points) at CHICAGO (42-27-8, 92 points)
Where they stand: The Lightning are fifth in the East; the Blackhawks are eighth in the West.
What's at stake: Tampa Bay has already clinched a playoff berth, but can pull within one point of fourth-place Pittsburgh with a win, which would give them home ice in the first round of the postseason. A loss in regulation to Chicago, however, would cede the Southeast Division title to idle Washington. The Hawks cannot clinch a berth Sunday, but could get some much-needed breathing room against ninth-place Calgary, which is three points back.
How's it going: After a rough stretch through most of March, the Bolts have gotten their act back together, winning four in a row, including a 3-1 victory over Minnesota Saturday afternoon. Friday's shootout win in Columbus was a huge boost for Chicago, which has not won in regulation in four games.
Upcoming: Tampa Bay travels to Buffalo Tuesday night before coming home Friday to host the Panthers and then finishing the season Saturday night in Carolina. The Hawks visit Montreal Tuesday and then host St. Louis Wednesday night before capping off the regular season with a home-and-home against Detroit.
CALGARY (39-29-11, 89 points) at COLORADO (29-40-8, 66 points)
Where they stand: The Flames are ninth in the West; the Avalanche are 14th in the West.
What's at stake: The Avs have been relegated to playing the spoiler role, but the Flames are still clinging to postseason hopes. The climb is significantly uphill, as Calgary is three points back and the Blackhawks have two games in hand, but a win could make the Flames' chances a more likely reality.
How's it going: Calgary topped the Blues 3-2 Friday night in St. Louis, giving the Flames their second win in the last three games, and first in regulation since they beat the Avs on March 17. Colorado's shootout win over Phoenix Friday ended a four-game losing streak, but the Avs have still not won in regulation since Feb. 22.
Upcoming: The Flames will finish the regular season with a pair of home games against Edmonton on Wednesday and Vancouver on Saturday night. The Avalanche visit St. Louis and Dallas this week before closing the season with home games against the Stars and Oilers next weekend.
DALLAS (38-28-11, 87 points) at ANAHEIM (44-29-5, 93 points)
Where they stand: The Stars are 10th in the West; the Ducks are seventh in the West.
What's at stake: The Ducks would not just overtake Nashville for the sixth seed in the West with a victory, they would officially punch their ticket for the postseason if they did so in regulation. Ironically, that would also book a spot for division-rival Los Angeles, which is idle Sunday. If Anaheim knocks off Dallas in regulation, overtime or a shootout, the Coyotes, too, would clinch a playoff berth despite not playing Sunday. The Stars are still five points back of Chicago, but a win would improve their slim chances of usurping the Hawks for the final spot.
How's it going: Dallas was unable to end its struggles Saturday in Los Angeles, suffering a 3-1 loss. The Stars have not won a game since beating up the Blackhawks 5-0 on March 17, a stretch of six games. Anaheim lost to San Jose Saturday night, but prior to that, the Ducks had won 12 of their previous 15 games.
Upcoming: The Stars host Columbus and Colorado this week before going on the road to face the Avs and Wild to end the season. The Ducks host San Jose Wednesday night before a season-ending home-and-home with the Kings on Friday and Saturday.
The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.
— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres