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Weekly Primer

Lightning chasing wins record, Metropolitan race highlight week ahead

Eastern Conference wild-card hunt among 5 things to watch

by Jon Lane @JonLaneNHL / Staff Writer

The final day of the 2018-19 season and the Tampa Bay Lightning's pursuit of the regular-season wins record are among the highlights of the week ahead.

Here's a look at 5 things to watch:


1. Grand finale

The 2018-19 regular season concludes Saturday with 30 teams in action; only the Anaheim Ducks will have completed their 82-game schedule. It will be the 16th 15-game day in NHL history and third this season (Nov. 23 and Dec. 29).

Highlighting the final day is a potential showdown for first place in the Metropolitan Division when the Washington Capitals (47-24-8) play the New York Islanders (46-26-7) at Capital One Arena (7 p.m. ET; NBCSWA, MSG+, NHL.TV). Washington begins the week three points ahead of the second-place Islanders. The Pittsburgh Penguins (43-25-11) are two points behind the Islanders and face the New York Rangers at PPG Paints Arena (7 p.m. ET; ATTSN-PT, MSG, NHL.TV).

The wild-card picture in the Eastern Conference will also be settled by Saturday. The Columbus Blue Jackets (45-30-4) begin the week holding the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, one point ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes (43-29-7), who lead the Montreal Canadiens (42-29-8) by one point.

Video: #ThirstForTheCup: Islanders clinch a playoff spot


2. Lightning chasing history

The Tampa Bay Lightning (59-15-4) have four games left and can break the record for most wins in a single season in NHL history set by the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings (62-13-7). Tampa Bay begins its week against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET; TSN5, RDS, SUN, NHL.TV).

The Lightning, who have clinched the Presidents' Trophy and will have home ice throughout the playoffs, will also visit the Canadiens on Tuesday, the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday and Boston Bruins on Saturday.


3. Jet streams

The Winnipeg Jets (45-29-4) could clinch their first Central Division title since relocating from Atlanta for the 2011-12 season, and their first in Jets/Atlanta Thrashers history since winning the Southeast Division in 2006-07. Winnipeg is tied with the Nashville Predators (44-29-6) for first place, with one game in hand, and ends its regular season with four road games: at the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday (8:30 p.m. ET; WGN, TSN3, NHL.TV), the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday, the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday and the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.


4. Tavares, Islanders tangle again

John Tavares will play his second game at Nassau Coliseum as a member of the Maple Leafs against the Islanders on Monday (7 p.m. ET; MSG+ 2, SNO, NHL.TV). He was held without a point in his return to Long Island in a 6-1 loss Feb. 28 and in a 4-0 loss at Scotiabank Arena on Dec. 29.

Tavares has 86 points (45 goals, 41 assists) during his first season in Toronto, but the Maple Leafs (45-26-7) are 6-5-3 since Feb. 28 and trail the Bruins by six points for second place in the Atlantic Division.

Video: TOR@NYI: Tavares takes the ice at Nassau Coliseum


5. Milestone watch

The Lightning need one goal from Nikita Kucherov (39) to become the first team with three 40-goal scorers since the 1995-96 Penguins. Kucherov, who leads the NHL with 122 points, would join Steven Stamkos (41) and Brayden Point (40).

* Cam Atkinson is one goal from breaking Rick Nash's single-season record of 41 for the Blue Jackets set in 2003-04. Nash also scored 40 in 2008-09 and 38 in 2007-08 for Columbus, which begins its final playoff push with three games starting against the Bruins at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVAS, NESN, NHL.TV).

* Nathan MacKinnon is two points from 400 in the NHL. The Avalanche, who lead the Arizona Coyotes by one point for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference, end their regular season with two games at home and two on the road, beginning at the St. Louis Blues on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV).

* Anze Kopitar is expected to play his 1,000th NHL game when the Los Angeles Kings face the Calgary Flames at Staples Center on Monday (10 p.m. ET; PRIME, SNW, NHL.TV).

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