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B's, Caps, Bolts could own No. 2 spot with wins

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com
With 31 days left in the regular season the playoff races in each conference simply are on fire. Almost every game has added significance, with points at such a premium, as teams jockey for positioning. NHL.com is here to give you a Down the Stretch daily that will highlight what you need to know about the games that can directly impact the playoff races.

Here is the installment for Friday, March 11:


BOSTON (38-20-9, 85 points) at NEW YORK ISLANDERS (26-32-10, 62 points)


Where they stand: Boston is third in the Eastern Conference; New York is 14th in the East

What's at stake: Boston can jump Washington and move into second in the conference with a win and a Capitals loss of any kind. The Bruins still are three points ahead of Montreal for first in the Northeast Division because the Canadiens lost at St. Louis on Thursday.

How it's going: The Bruins are winless in three straight since going on a seven-game winning streak. They lost in overtime to Buffalo on Thursday, in regulation at Montreal on Tuesday and in overtime at Pittsburgh last weekend.

The Islanders are playing the spoiler role quite well. They have points in five straight games (3-0-2), and in the process have taken points away from teams in need of them like the Maple Leafs and Wild.

Upcoming: Boston continues its four-game road trip next week with games in Columbus, Nashville and Toronto. The Islanders don't have to go far to play at New Jersey on Saturday and at the Rangers on Tuesday.

CAROLINA (31-26-10, 72 points) at WASHINGTON (38-20-10, 86 points)

Where they stand: Carolina is ninth in the East; Washington is second in the East

What's at stake: With a win, the Hurricanes can jump the Rangers and move into eighth place. The Capitals can move within two points of first in the Eastern Conference with a win. A regulation loss coupled with a Lightning win will drop Washington down to fifth.

How it's going: Washington is one of the League's hottest teams, with six straight wins. Alex Ovechkin has 3 goals and 7 assists during the streak, and 6 goals and 10 assists in his last 11 games. He has points in 10 of them as the Capitals have rode into first place in the Southeast Division behind their captain's hot play.

Carolina picked up a point in an overtime loss at Atlanta on Tuesday, but the Hurricanes can't afford to give away too many points at this time of the season, especially to teams on their tail, like the Thrashers.

Upcoming: Washington hosts Chicago on Sunday in the NHL on NBC Game of the Week (12:30 p.m. ET), and then starts a six-game road trip Tuesday in Montreal. Carolina hosts Columbus on Saturday and then plays back-to-back huge games at Buffalo on Tuesday and home against Toronto on Wednesday.

OTTAWA (23-34-9, 55 points) at TAMPA BAY (38-21-8, 84 points)

Where they stand: Ottawa is 15th in the East; Tampa Bay is fifth in the East

What's at stake: The Lightning are hoping to keep pace with the streaking Capitals in the Southeast Division race. Tampa Bay can move back into first in the division and second in the conference if it wins and Washington loses in regulation to Carolina. Most importantly, though, the Lightning want to build on their win against Chicago on Wednesday, which snapped their four-game winless streak (0-3-1).

How it's going: Tampa Bay had to withstand a comeback by the Blackhawks before winning 4-3 in a shootout. After being criticized for not using Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis in the shootout two nights earlier against Washington, coach Guy Boucher went with his stars Wednesday. St. Louis was the lone scorer in the shootout as he converted with a spin-o-rama move.

Ottawa has played better of late, winning two in a row and six of its past nine games.

Upcoming: The Lightning start a four-game road trip Saturday against the Panthers. They also visit Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa next week. Ottawa goes to Buffalo on Sunday and then starts a three-game homestand.

LOS ANGELES (37-27-5, 79 points) at COLUMBUS (31-26-9, 71 points)

Where they stand:
Los Angeles is eighth in the Western Conference; Columbus is 12th in the West

What's at stake: Los Angeles can move as high as fifth with a win, but also would need Dallas to lose in regulation. The other way the Kings can jump to fifth is if they win in regulation and the Stars either lose in regulation or pick up one point in an overtime/shootout loss. But L.A. also can fall to ninth if it loses in regulation and Anaheim beats Colorado.

How it's going: The Kings are coming off a huge, much-needed 2-1 win against Detroit on Wednesday. Jonathan Quick was brilliant, making 28 saves for his 29th win. However, the Kings are just 2-2-1 in their last five games.

Columbus has fallen almost out of the race with six-game winless streak (0-3-3). The Blue Jackets blew a 3-0 lead Wednesday against St. Louis and lost in overtime. They are eight points off the playoff pace now.

Upcoming: The Kings go to Dallas and then Nashville before starting a five-game homestand late next week. Columbus goes to Carolina and then comes home to play Boston and Detroit next week.

EDMONTON (23-37-8, 54 points) at DETROIT (39-20-8, 86 points)

Where they stand: Edmonton is 15th in the West; Detroit is second in the West

What's at stake: Detroit can extend its hold on second place in the Western Conference because the Sharks, who are one point back, are idle Friday. Catching Vancouver for first place doesn't seem all that realistic anymore as the Canucks are 11 points up.

How it's going: The Red Wings are having a tough time lately. They aren't playing poorly, but they also haven't won any of their previous four games, going 0-2-2. They were stymied by Quick in Wednesday's 2-1 loss to the Kings. In fact, the Red Wings haven't managed more than one goal in three of the past four games.

The Oilers have lost two in a row, giving up nine goals in the process, since winning three straight to start March.

Upcoming: Detroit goes to St. Louis on Saturday and then gets three days off before starting a stretch of three games in four nights by hosting Washington. It also plays at Columbus and Nashville late next week. The Oilers close their five-game road trip in Pittsburgh on Sunday.

NEW JERSEY (30-32-4, 64 points) at ATLANTA (28-28-11, 67 points)

Where they stand: New Jersey is 12th in the East; Atlanta is 11th in the East

What's at stake: Neither team can afford to give up points if it wants to stay in the race. Atlanta can deliver another crushing blow to New Jersey's playoff hopes while also increasing its odds with a regulation win. The Devils can move within one point of the Thrashers and eight points of eighth place win a regulation win. A three-point game either way would hurt the Devils more.

How it's going: Atlanta came up with a huge overtime goal Wednesday to beat Carolina and pick up two much-needed points. The Thrashers didn't want to give the Hurricanes one, but getting the two is what mattered to Atlanta, which starts the day seven points out of eighth.

For all the good the Devils have done in the past two months, their 2-1 loss to Ottawa on Tuesday hurt bad, especially because Buffalo lost in regulation and Toronto lost in overtime that night. The Devils had won four straight prior to playing the Senators.

Upcoming: Atlanta goes to Philadelphia on Saturday, visits the Devils on Tuesday and then comes back home to play the Flyers again. The Devils host the Islanders on Saturday before the Thrashers come to town. They also go to Ottawa next Thursday and host the Capitals the following night.

MINNESOTA (35-26-7, 77 points) at DALLAS (36-23-8, 80 points)

Where they stand: Minnesota is 11th in the West; Dallas is seventh in the West

What's at stake: Minnesota can't move into a playoff spot Friday, but it can move within a tiebreaker of eighth. It would need to win and get some help, though. Dallas can leap Phoenix, Calgary and Chicago and move into fourth with a win.

How it's going: The Wild started their four-game road trip with a 4-0 loss in Nashville on Thursday. The Wild are 5-6-2 since it last put together a winning streak (three in a row from Feb. 9-12).

The Stars came back from an early 3-0 deficit against Calgary on Wednesday only to lose in a shootout. They've now picked up points in seven straight games (5-0-2). Dallas has won the last five meetings against Minnesota and 10 of the previous 12, and 13 straight at American Airlines Center. Brad Richards played 22:39 Thursday against the Flames, his first game back after missing 10 with concussion symptoms.

Upcoming: Dallas continues its seven-game homestand with the Kings on Sunday and the Sharks, Blackhawks and Flyers next week. Minnesota continues its road swing in Vancouver on Monday and San Jose on Thursday.

ANAHEIM (36-26-5, 77 points) at COLORADO (26-32-8, 60 points)

Where they stand: Anaheim is 10th in the West; Colorado is 14th in the West

What's at stake: Anaheim needs a win and Los Angeles to lose in regulation in order to jump into eighth place. The Ducks can fall to 11th if they lose and Minnesota wins.

How it's going: The Ducks beat the Rangers 5-2 on Wednesday behind an eight-point night from their top line of Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf. They've won four of five, with the lone blemish a 3-0 loss to Vancouver. Lubomir Visnovsky also had 2 goals in the win against the Rangers, becoming the first defenseman in team history to have 5 goals in a three-game span.

Colorado has won just once since the All-Star break (1-13-2).

Upcoming: The Ducks return home to play three of their next four at Honda Center starting Sunday against Phoenix. Colorado hits the road for four in a row starting Saturday in Nashville.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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