The push to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs is in high gear with less than a week left in the regular season. The stakes have been raised and the games are of greater magnitude.
Here are the CFP Keys to Success for teams either holding on to precious playoff positions or trying to improve its place in the standings:
NOW OR NEVER FOR B'S
It's do-or-die for the Boston Bruins in the final week of the regular season. The Bruins are reeling with two wins in their past nine games (2-7-0) and are one point behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference with the Flyers holding a game in hand.
The Bruins will look to recover from a 6-4 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday when they return to TD Garden to face the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; FS-CR, NESN, NHL.TV).
"Well, you have to. You can't drag that along here," coach Claude Julien told the Bruins website. "I think we need to take care of business here with the few games we have left so it would be best to focus on that.
"That's where you're going to control your situation, by focusing on that. It's like a playoff game. Whether you lose 1-0 or whether you lose 6-0 or 6-4 like today, you've got to park it and move on."
The Bruins have three games remaining, all at home, including a showdown with the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, FS-D, NESN). If they win all three, they get in. Otherwise they're in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season.
Video: BOS@STL: McQuaid plays goalie to deny a score
"Last year we got caught up looking too far ahead. But it's a different story this year," defenseman Torey Krug said. "We're going to take it one game at a time."
Key for Boston beginning Tuesday is giving Tuukka Rask some help. Rask was pulled two minutes into the second period after allowing four goals on 22 shots Sunday, but Julien refused to place blame on his goalie.
"I don't think my No. 1 goaltender needed to be exposed any more than that, the way we were playing in front of him and giving up those quality chances," Julien said. "So it was an opportunity for me to pull him out and maybe even try and change the momentum. But certainly not because of his play."
Missing defenseman Kevan Miller and Dennis Seidenberg because of lower-body injuries, the Bruins have allowed 11 goals in their past two games (1-1-0).
"It hurts," Krug said. "We all know what they [Miller and Seidenberg] bring to the table. Both guys work so hard and they battle for us. They block shots, they penalty kill. They do a lot of good things defensively. But we don't have them so you can't sit there and dwell on it."
MOTORIN' IN DETROIT
If the Red Wings win their final three games in regulation they will make the playoffs for the 25th consecutive season. Those three games each have huge playoff implications starting with a back-to-back set against the Flyers on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports) and the Bruins on Thursday.
The Red Wings, third place in the Atlantic Division, end the regular season at the New York Rangers on Saturday, but they're not looking ahead.
"We knew that we had it in our own hands for the last week. So if we took care of business and win games we'd be in just because we're playing teams that are battling for those spots," captain Henrik Zetterberg told the Red Wings website Saturday after a 3-2 defeat of the Toronto Maple Leafs. "But until we play them we have to win games, so those games matter. We've done that now and now we just have a nice day off tomorrow and regroup on Monday."
Video: DET@TOR: Howard makes a pair of nice saves
What's gotten the Red Wings going following a brief slump is the play of goalie Jimmy Howard, who has started the past two games and is 3-1-0 with a 2.12 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in his past four. Howard's turnaround is remarkable considering he went nearly three months between victories (0-5-4 in 11 games since Dec. 8 and Feb. 21). He's 6-4-0 since and has relieved Petr Mrazek, who had supplanted him as the No. 1 goaltender in Detroit, three times.
With the Red Wings getting closer to another postseason appearance, the play of Howard and Mrazek in the final week of the regular season are critical.
"We all believe in our goalies, both Petr and [Howard]," Zetterberg said. "[Howard] now has come up and played real huge for us, played with a lot of confidence, and that confidence spreads around the team.
"We got to play solid hockey, minimize our mistakes and be in games. Have good starts and build from that. We've done it before but we're not there yet. Now we just want to play good on Wednesday."