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Playoff Buzz: Canadiens can clinch Atlantic Division

Montreal needs victory vs. Panthers, or can get it with one point, losses by Maple Leafs, Senators

by Shawn Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director of Editorial

Welcome to the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, your daily look at the stories impacting the sprint to the finish line of the 2016-17 regular season and the mad scramble for the three remaining spots - all in the Eastern Conference -- in the postseason. There are seven days remaining in the season. If the playoffs were to start today, this is what the bracket would look like. Here is all the playoff news for Monday:

 

Clinching scenario

The Montreal Canadiens will clinch the Atlantic Division if they defeat the Florida Panthers on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET; FS-F, SNE, RDS, NHL.TV) in any fashion.

OR

If they get one point against the Panthers AND the Toronto Maple Leafs lose to the Buffalo Sabres (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVA Sports, MSG-B, NHL.TV) in any fashion AND the Ottawa Senators lose to the Detroit Red Wings (7 p.m. ET; FS-D, RDS2, TSN5, NHL.TV) in any fashion.

OR

If the Maple Leafs and Senators both lose in regulation.

 

6:05 p.m.
Let the games begin

Well, the bewitching hour is almost here. Faceoff for the start of action on Monday is less than an hour away. There may not be many games, but each of the three are important.

And, don't forget to take a bit of a breather inherent in a three-game schedule. The 13-game slate that awaits us all on Tuesday is epic in both its quantity and quality.

Here's a refresher of what is at stake for Monday to help you plan your viewing strategy to catch the most important storylines throughout the night:

Toronto Maple Leafs at Buffalo Sabres (7 p.m. ET; SN, TVA Sports, NHLN, MSG-B, NHL.TV) -- The Maple Leafs need a win to keep pace in the Atlantic Division race. The matchup of brothers William Nylander, of the Maple Leafs, and Alexander Nylander, of the Sabres, should be interesting. It is Alex's NHL debut.

Ottawa Senators at Detroit Red Wings (7 p.m. ET; FS-D, RDS2, TSN5, NHL.TV) -- Senators captain Erik Karlsson returns after missing two games because of a lower-body injury. Plus, forward Colin White is making his NHL debut for Ottawa. 

Montreal Canadiens at Florida Panthers (7:30 p.m. ET; FS-F, SNE, RDS, NHL.TV) -- The Canadiens can clinch the Atlantic Division with a win. They can also clinch in two other scenarios, each of which requires the Senators and Maple Leafs to lose. Defenseman Shea Weber will not play for Montreal and is expected to be out the next game as well.

Enjoy the games and we'll see you tomorrow, bright and early.

 

3:52 p.m.
A lull before Pacific storm rages again

The Pacific Division race is lined up four-across coming out of the turn toward the finish line Sunday. Like in NASCAR, there promises to be some bumping along the way to the conclusion of the regular season, NHL.com staff writer Tim Campbell says in his latest column.

If it ain't rubbing, it ain't racing is how the saying goes.

Starting Tuesday, the Anaheim Ducks, Edmonton Oilers, San Jose Sharks and Calgary Flames will be trading paint when they jostle for positioning at the finish line. 

The Ducks, Oilers and Sharks each have a shot at the Pacific title and a postseason date with the first wild card from the Western Conference. The Sharks are limping a bit to the finish line and now have to worry about an injury to star center Joe Thornton, who is having his lower-body injury evaluated Monday. 

The Flames, who hold the first wild card, can get no higher than second in the Pacific because they have three games left and are seven points behind the Ducks.

It remains to be seen who will take control but the next six days should be a fantastic display of hockey passion out West.

 

3:15 p.m.
Ottawa received bad news

Things are not looking good for the Ottawa Senators at the moment. Not only have they fallen to the second wild card in the East, they are being decimated by injuries.

The Senators got captain Erik Karlsson back from a lower-body injury against the Detroit Red Wings on Monday (7 p.m. ET; FS-D, RDS2, TSN5, NHL.TV). Ottawa was without two other top defensmen. Cody Ceci was injured Saturday and Marc Methot has been out with a finger injury. Methot and Ceci were ruled out for the rest of the regular season, reports NHL.com correspondent Dave Hogg.

 

1:06 p.m.
Focus on Monday turns to Atlantic Division

There are three games Monday but each could have a profound impact on the race for positioning within the Atlantic Division.

Here is what's at stake:

Toronto Maple Leafs at Buffalo Sabres (7 p.m. ET; SN, TVA Sports, NHLN, MSG-B, NHL.TV) -- The Maple Leafs (91 points) can move back into second place in the division with a win, passing the Boston Bruins (92 points). This is one of the Maple Leafs' two games in hand on the Bruins. The Ottawa Senators also have 91 points but the Maple Leafs have the tiebreaker of more regulation/overtime wins (ROW), 37-36.

Ottawa Senators at Detroit Red Wings (7 p.m. ET; FS-D, RDS2, TSN5, NHL.TV) -- The Senators have lost four straight but will get Erik Karlsson back in the lineup. They do, however, welcome forward Colin White to the lineup for his first NHL game. The Senators need to start getting points if they want to get out of the second wild card and a likely matchup with the Washington Capitals, who hold the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

Montreal Canadiens at Florida Panthers (7:30 p.m. ET; FS-F, SNE, RDS, NHL.TV) -- The Canadiens will be without defenseman Shea Weber but they have an opportunity to clinch the division title in one of three ways: With a win; if they earn a point against the Panthers, and the Maple Leafs and Senators each lose in any fashion; or if the Maple Leafs and the Senators each lose in regulation. 

 

11:09 a.m.
Five reasons Nashville clinched

Why did the Nashville Predators make the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs?

There are multiple reasons why the Predators booked passage to the postseason when the Los Angeles Kings lost to the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday.

We asked NHL.com Debuty Managing Editor Brian Compton to come up with the five most telling reasons for the Predators' return to the postseason. Among them, he cited defensive depth, the emergence of a young forward and one of the best finds of the season.

Intrigued? You should be. Go read the article to get educated.

 

10:56 a.m.
Ottawa receives reinforcements

The suddenly free-falling Ottawa Senators received some much-needed reinforcements Sunday with the signing of forward Colin White, the No. 21 pick of the 2015 NHL Draft.

White was on an amateur tryout with Binghamton of the American Hockey League, who he joined after finishing his season at Boston College. White had three points (one goal, two assists) in three AHL games. 

He is expected to join Ottawa for its game at the Detroit Red Wings on Monday (7 p.m. ET; FS-D, RDS2, TSN5, NHL.TV).

White had 76 points (35 goals, 41 assists) in 72 games over two seasons with Boston College.

 
8:20 a.m.
Western Conference playoff picture coming into focus

The eight teams playing in the Western Conference portion of the Stanley Cup Playoffs have been determined; all that is left to determine is the final positioning.

The Nashville Predators, who lost to the St. Louis Blues on Sunday, clinched a berth anyway when the Los Angeles Kings lost 2-1 to the Arizona Coyotes, 2-1. The game eliminated the Kings from postseason contention and ended a 13-hour stretch of hockey Sunday that had all sorts of playoff ramifications.

When all was said and done, the Blues, Boston Bruins, New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers, San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks were smiling about their results and what they meant to the playoff picture. The Predators, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Calgary Flames, Philadelphia Flyers and Kings had little to celebrate, especially the Flyers and Kings, who were eliminated.

Here's a look at the playoff implications from the 11-game schedule Sunday:  

Boston Bruins 3, Chicago Blackhawks 2: Huge road win for the Bruins, who have reeled off five straight wins and climbed to second place in the Atlantic Division, one point ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators, who each have played two fewer games.

New York Islanders 4, Buffalo Sabres 2: The Islanders announced Sunday that John Tavares is done for the regular season, but moved within five points of the Senators in the wild-card race with a win.

St. Louis Blues 4, Nashville Predators 1: The Blues took a two-point lead on the Predators in the race for third place in the Central. The Blues have a game in hand and hold the first tiebreaker, regulation/overtime wins (ROW), 42-38. The winner of this race likely will draw the Minnesota Wild in the first round, while the loser would play either the Blackhawks or the first-place team in the Pacific.

Pittsburgh Penguins 3, Carolina Hurricanes 2: The Hurricanes are seven points out with four games remaining. The Penguins (107 points) moved ahead of the Blue Jackets (106) in the race for second place in the Metropolitan Division. Each team has four games remaining.

Minnesota Wild 5, Colorado Avalanche 2: The Wild have a seven-point lead on the Blues for second place in the Central.

Tampa Bay Lightning 6, Dallas Stars 3: The Lightning have points in six straight games (5-0-1), but are running out of runway to move into a postseason spot in the East. The Lightning are three points behind the Senators for the second wild card, but the Senators have one game in hand.

Video: Erne, Palat power Lightning to 6-3 win against Stars

Washington Capitals 3, Columbus Blue Jackets 2: The Capitals increased their lead in the Presidents' Trophy race to five points on the Blackhawks and the Penguins, the Capitals' closest Metropolitan Division rival.

San Jose Sharks 3, Vancouver Canucks 1: The Sharks won for the second time in 10 games, opening a three-point lead on the Calgary Flames for third-place in the Pacific. The Sharks are two points behind the Edmonton Oilers for second and four points behind the Anaheim Ducks for first. The win could be costly though as center Joe Thornton injured his knee and will be re-evaluated Monday.

New York Rangers 4, Philadelphia Flyers 3: The loss eliminated the Flyers from playoff contention. The Rangers, who ended an eight-game losing streak at home, can finish no worse than the first wild card in the East.

Anaheim Ducks 4, Calgary Flames 3: This was a barn-burner of a game. The Ducks reclaimed first in the Pacific with the win, moving two points ahead of the Oilers, who have one game in hand. The Flames are in the first wild card, three points behind the Sharks for third in the Pacific and a point ahead of the Predators.

Arizona Coyotes 2, Los Angeles Kings 1: The Kings were eliminated from playoff contention with the loss.

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