The Washington Capitals
look to win their ninth straight game and increase their lead in the Eastern Conference while the Florida Panthers
look to strengthen their hold on a playoff spot as the Southeast Division rivals meet at Verizon Center (7 p.m. ET) in one of six games and three division matchups on Friday night.
The Capitals hold a 21-point lead over the Panthers, who long ago turned their focus to getting into the top eight. They begin play Friday as one of three teams with 55 points, and currently hold the eighth seed by virtue of the tiebreaker procedure. They also carry a two-game winning streak into this game.
Also getting under way at 7 p.m., the Atlantic-leading New Jersey Devils
host the Toronto Maple Leafs
, one of three matchups between these teams over the next eight games. The Devils have lost six of eight and are in a goal-scoring drought, but the struggling Leafs could be just the tonic to help break that slump.
Three more games face off at 7:30 p.m. The Nashville Predators
and Detroit Red Wings
are both looking to get back on the winning side of the ledger when they meet in a Central Division clash at Joe Louis Arena. In the Northeast, the Buffalo Sabres
welcome in the Boston Bruins
, who hope the return of playmaker Marc Savard
will solve their offensive woes. And in a cross-conference battle between teams on the periphery of their respective playoff races, the Anaheim Ducks
visit the Tampa Bay Lightning
Closing out the Thursday schedule at 8:30 p.m., the Dallas Stars
host the Colorado Avalanche
. The only team to play Thursday night, the Avalanche come off a tough 1-0 loss to Minnesota on home ice.