Although no team in the Eastern Conference has yet clinched a playoff berth, nor has any team officially been eliminated from content, the playoff race has essentially boiled down to a three-horse race between the Washington Capitals, Buffalo Sabres and Winnipeg Jets. Washington is currently in the lead with 78 points, clinging on to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Jets and Sabres are right on the Capitals tail with 76 points.
Sunday night's 4-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes was a disappointing blow to the Winnipeg Jets playoff hopes. With only 10 games remaining in the 2011-2012 NHL regular season, the Jets need to take advantage of every opportunity possible to gain ground. The Washington Capitals also lost last night, a 5-2 defeat by the Chicago Blackhawks. There was a huge opportunity for the Jets to close in on the Capitals last night, but if there is any comfort it is in the fact that neither team moved up on the board.
TONIGHT'S KEY MATCH-UPS:
Buffalo Sabres at Tampa Bay Lightning (6:30 PM)
The Sabres have made a late season push to be included in the playoff conversation. They are fighting for every single possible point lately, having pushed their last four games to overtime or a shootout. They have lost their last two match-ups, a 3-2 defeat to the Florida Panthers on Saturday, and a 5-4 loss to the Colorado Avalanche last Wednesday, both shootout decisions.
Tampa Bay is currently sitting in 13th position in the Eastern Conference with 71 points, but a big push on their part, coupled with some key losses, could vault them back into the playoff discussion. They have dropped their last two games to St. Louis and Toronto, and will likely only play the role of spoiler down the stretch (exactly what the Jets are hoping for on Monday night).
Ideal Jets Outcome: Lightning Win
Washington Capitals at Detroit Red Wings (6:30 PM)
Another loss by the Capitals on Monday night could present a huge opportunity for the Winnipeg Jets. The Capitals head into Joe Louis Arena on a recent two-game skid, having been dropped 5-2 by the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday night, and losing 3-2 in Winnipeg on Friday.
The Red Wings are on a rare four-game losing streak and have slid a bit lately, going 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. Detroit currently sits in fifth place in the Western Conference with 92 points. The Western Conference powerhouse Wings however have been outstanding at home this season with a record 28-4-2 while at the Joe.
Ideal Jets Outcome: Red Wings Win
- Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins (6:00 PM)
- New Jersey Devils at New York Rangers (6:30 PM, TSN2)
- Vancouver Canucks at Minnesota Wild (7:00 PM)
- Anaheim Ducks at San Jose Sharks (9:00 PM, TSN2)