Three games on the NHL schedule Tuesday night will have a significant impact on the Eastern Conference wild-card race for the Stanley Cup Playoffs: St. Louis Blues at Toronto Maple Leafs; Detroit Red Wings at Columbus Blue Jackets (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, FS-D, TSN2); and Los Angeles Kings at Washington Capitals.
The Maple Leafs face a daunting task as they attempt to end a five-game losing streak (0-5-0) when they host the Western Conference-leading Blues (103 points). If Toronto can't snap its skid, it's in danger of falling out of an Eastern Conference wild-card position.
Toronto and Detroit each has 80 points, but the Red Wings enter Tuesday in control of the first of two East wild-card spots because they've played two fewer games than the Maple Leafs.
Toronto and Detroit each has one more point than Washington and two more points than Columbus.
In the Western Conference playoff race, the Dallas Stars will look to keep pace with the Phoenix Coyotes for the second of two wild-card spots when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Coyotes, who are one point ahead of the Stars, earned a valuable point in a 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Rangers on Monday, when the Stars beat the Winnipeg Jets 2-1. They will visit the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday.
If the Blackhawks lose to the Stars in regulation, the Colorado Avalanche would move within a point of Chicago for second place in the Central Division with a road win against the Nashville Predators. Chicago and Colorado figure to battle the rest of the way for home-ice advantage in a potential Western Conference Quarterfinal series.
The San Jose Sharks will look to extend their lead in the Pacific Division to four points on the second-place Anaheim Ducks when they visit the Edmonton Oilers. They clinched a playoff berth Monday when they picked up a point in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Calgary Flames.
Here’s a look at all the action Tuesday night:
St. Louis Blues at Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET, FS-MW, SNET-O)
Phoenix Coyotes at Pittsburgh Penguins (7 p.m. ET, FS-A, ROOT)
Los Angeles Kings at Washington Capitals (7 p.m. ET, FS-W, CSN-DC)
New York Islanders at Carolina Hurricanes (7 p.m. ET, MSG PLUS, FS-CR)
Buffalo Sabres at Montreal Canadiens (7:30 p.m. ET, RDS, MSG-B, BELL TV, TSN-HABS)
Ottawa Senators at Florida Panthers (7:30 p.m. ET, SNET-E, FS-F)
Detroit Red Wings at Columbus Blue Jackets (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2, FS-D)
Dallas Stars at Chicago Blackhawks (8 p.m. ET, FS-SW, CSN-CH)
Colorado Avalanche at Nashville Predators (8 p.m. ET, ALT, FS-TN)
San Jose Sharks at Edmonton Oilers (9:30 p.m. ET, TSN, CSN-CA)
The Stanley Cup Playoffs consist of 16 teams, eight in each conference, but it is now division-based and a wild-card system has been added.
The top three teams in each division will make up the first 12 teams in the playoffs. The remaining four spots will be filled by the next two highest-placed finishers in each conference, based on regular-season points and regardless of division. It is possible for one division to send five teams to the postseason while the other sends just three.
Seeding of the wild-card teams within each divisional playoff will be determined on the basis of regular-season points. The division winner with the most points in the conference will be matched against the wild-card team with the fewest points; the division winner with the second-most points in the conference will play the wild-card team with the second-fewest points.
The teams finishing second and third in each division will play in the first round of the playoffs. There is no reseeding as the tournament moves to the second round and winners of that series advance to the conference championship series and the right to play in the Stanley Cup Final.