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Playoff Pulse: Caps need win; Sharks-Coyotes for 8th

Thursday, 03.29.2012 / 11:58 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

By Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Playoff Pulse: Caps need win; Sharks-Coyotes for 8th
The Washington Capitals have a chance to pull themselves back into the playoff picture Thursday night, but they'll have to do it under difficult conditions.
The Washington Capitals have a chance to pull themselves back into the playoff picture Thursday night, but they'll have to do it under difficult conditions.

2011-2012 Standings

Eastern Conference
GP
P
ROW
1
77
105
45
2
76
93
37
3
76
89
31
4
76
100
38
5
76
96
40
6
77
92
31
7
77
88
34
8
77
86
31
9
77
84
36
ROW = total number of regulation plus overtime wins. For tie-breaking purposes, wins obtained in a shootout are not counted. For full standings tiebreakers, click here.
03/29/12 12:02PM
The Caps will pay a visit to Boston to face the Bruins (7 p.m., NHLN), who have won three straight and five of six. With a win, the defending champions will clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

In a showdown for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference on Tuesday, the Capitals were throttled 5-1 at home by the Buffalo Sabres. The Caps could move into a tie with the Sabres with a win, but Buffalo would still be considered the eighth-place team by virtue of playing fewer games.

The Capitals have taken two of three from the Bruins this season, including a 4-3 victory at TD Garden on March 10.

San Jose Sharks at Phoenix Coyotes -- In the West's biggest game of the night, the eighth-place Sharks (88 points, five games remaining) face the ninth-place Coyotes (87 points, five games remaining). With a win, the Sharks can move back atop the Pacific Division and grab third place, while a loss would have them once again outside of the top eight. Coyotes captain Shane Doan will make his return from a three-game suspension. The Coyotes are 3-1-1 against the Sharks this season and 2-0-0 at home.

St. Louis Blues at Chicago Blackhawks -- There's plenty at stake with these Central Division powers clashing in Chicago. The Blues would clinch the division title with a win of any kind, while the Blackhawks can clinch a playoff berth with a victory and a Phoenix loss in regulation. The Blackhawks are 3-2-0 in the evenly matched season series and have taken both games at United Center this season. The Blues hold a two-point lead against the Vancouver Canucks for first in the West.

2011-2012 Standings

Western Conference
GP
P
ROW
1
77
105
44
2
77
103
40
3
77
89
35
4
77
97
39
5
77
96
40
6
77
93
37
7
77
88
32
8
77
88
31
9
77
87
31
10
79
86
31
ROW = total number of regulation plus overtime wins. For tie-breaking purposes, wins obtained in a shootout are not counted. For full standings tiebreakers, click here.
03/29/12 12:02PM
Tampa Bay Lightning at New Jersey Devils -- After missing the playoffs for the first time since 1996 last season, the Devils can get back to the postseason with some help from the Bruins. If the Devils win and the Caps lose in any fashion, or if the Devils pick up one point and the Capitals lose in regulation, New Jersey becomes the fourth East team to clinch. A victory and a regulation loss by the Flyers on Thursday would pull the Devils to within two points of the No. 5 seed. Tampa's postseason dreams are virtually non-existent, but they are more than capable of playing spoiler -- the Lightning came away with a 4-3 win in New Jersey on Feb. 26.

Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Islanders
-- The Penguins are looking for revenge after Tuesday's 5-3 home loss to the Islanders, who previously hadn't won in Pittsburgh since December 2007. The Penguins are five points back of the New York Rangers for first place in the East and have played one fewer game. A second straight regulation loss to the Isles would likely force the Pens to turn their attention to holding off the Flyers, who enter the night just four points back for the No. 4 seed. Defenseman Kris Letang will his miss his second straight game with a lower-body injury.

Philadelphia Flyers at Toronto Maple Leafs
-- It will be Sergei Bobrovsky between the pipes as Philly tries to make a push for fourth place while holding off the sixth-place Devils. Starting goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov (foot) was injured in Monday's loss to the Lightning. The Leafs are mired in a 10-game home losing streak, and the Flyers have won four straight at Air Canada Centre dating to April 6, 2010.

Florida Panthers at Minnesota Wild -- The Southeast-leading Panthers hold a five-point lead on the Capitals and have a chance of waking up Friday with a seven-point lead in the division. The Caps have a tough matchup in Boston, while the Panthers are playing a team that's 11-28-7 since Dec. 10.
Quote of the Day

Your team is going to want to recapture the feeling. What they're going to have to figure out is they're going to have to rewrite the story. Because you're going to rewrite the story doesn't mean you want a different end. It's just that you're going to have to learn that there's different challenges to get there, and if you're going to try and tap the same feeling, it ain't going to happen.

— Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi on maintaining their success from last season