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Playoff Buzz: Capitals face resting Rangers

Washington needs one point for Presidents' Trophy; Penguins lose Kris Letang for postseason

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

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 two remaining spots -- both in the Eastern Conference -- in the postseason. There are five 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 Wednesday:

 

3:55 p.m.
Rangers giving it a rest

The Washington Capitals need one point to win a second straight Presidents' Trophy and have a chance to do it Wednesday against a New York Rangers team that will be resting several of its top players. 

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault has decided to sit forwards Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello and Jesper Fast, and defenseman Ryan McDonagh, for the remainder of the regular season. He said they should all be ready for the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs next week.

It's all but certain the Rangers will be the first wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference and play the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference First Round, so it's clear Vigneault wants his team rested when that series begins. 

Let's take one final look at the two NHL games on tap for Wednesday:

New York Rangers at Washington Capitals (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV)

It would seem now is as good a time as any for the Capitals to clinch the Metropolitan Division, Eastern Conference and Presidents' Trophy, although they'll have to do so without defenseman John Carlson (lower body). If the Capitals finish first in the NHL, they will have a first-round matchup with the second wild card from the East. That spot belongs to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have a five-point lead over the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lighting with three games remaining. 

Montreal Canadiens at Buffalo Sabres (7:30 p.m. ET; SN, MSG-B, RDS, NHL.TV)

The Canadiens aim for their sixth straight win and will have forwards Brian Flynn and Torrey Mitchell back in the lineup. Flynn has missed the past 12 games because of an upper-body injury, and Mitchell missed a 4-1 win against the Florida Panthers on Monday with an illness. Montreal, which has clinched first place in the Atlantic Division, will have home-ice advantage for at least the first two rounds of the playoffs.

 

12:55 p.m.
Letang lost for season

The Pittsburgh Penguins' drive to a second straight Stanley Cup hit a major speed bump on Wednesday.The Penguins announced defenseman Kris Letang , who played a key role in last season's title, will miss the entire postseason. Letang will have surgery for a herniated disk in his neck and will be out 4-6 months. 

Letang had 15 points (three goals, 12 assists) in 23 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.

He hasn't played since Feb. 21, missing the past 20 regular-season games. Letang, 29, had 34 points (five goals, 29 assists) in 41 games this season.

Letang, a two-time Stanley Cup champion, has 68 points (18 goals, 50 assists) in 116 NHL playoff games.

 

Capitals can clinch Presidents' Trophy

The Washington Capitals will win the Presidents' Trophy and the No. 1 seed throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs if they get at least one point against the New York Rangers in the Wednesday Night Rivalry game. It's one of two games on the NHL menu for Wednesday:

New York Rangers at Washington Capitals (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV)

Washington will be without defenseman John Carlson (lower body), who was a late scratch in a 4-1 win at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday. The Capitals are listing Carlson as day to day. Defenseman Nate Schmidt was in the lineup for the first time since March 14 and is expected to assume that same role against New York. The Rangers enter the game leading the League with 27 road wins and aim to equal their single-season record of 28 set in 2014-15.

Montreal Canadiens at Buffalo Sabres (7:30 p.m. ET; SN, MSG-B, RDS, NHL.TV)

The Canadiens have already secured home-ice advantage for at least the first two rounds of the playoffs and will likely play the Rangers in the Eastern Conference First Round. The Rangers defeated the Canadiens in the 2014 Eastern Conference Final.

 

9:42 a.m.
Bruins punch their playoff ticket

The Boston Bruins clinched a berth into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the eighth time in the past 10 seasons, and first time since 2013-14, with a 4-0 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday.

That leaves four teams -- the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, New York Islanders and Lightning -- to compete for the final two spots. 

In the Western Conference, the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks each won to gain ground in the ongoing battle for the No. 1 seed in the Pacific Division.

Here's a look at the playoff implications from games played Wednesday:  

Boston Bruins 4, Tampa Bay Lightning 0-- The Bruins won their sixth straight game and earned a playoff berth for the first time in three seasons. They are tied for second place in the Atlantic Division with the Ottawa Senators, who have one game in hand. The Lightning and Islanders are five points behind the Maple Leafs for the second wild card from the Eastern Conference with three games left. 

Pittsburgh Penguins 4, Columbus Blue Jackets 1 -- The Penguins moved three points ahead of the Blue Jackets and five points behind the Capitals in the Metropolitan Division with three games remaining. Columbus has lost four straight (0-3-1) and has scored fewer than three goals in seven of its past eight. 

Washington Capitals 4, Toronto Maple Leafs 1 -- The Capitals maintained a five-point lead over the Penguins for first place in the Metropolitan Division, Eastern Conference and NHL. They need one point over the final three games to clinch. The Maple Leafs trail the Bruins and Senators by one point in the Atlantic Division and are five points ahead of the Lightning and Islanders for the second wild card from the East. 

Ottawa Senators 2, Detroit Red Wings 0 -- The Senators ended a five-game losing streak and tied the Bruins for second place in the Atlantic Division with one game in hand. The Bruins and the Senators, who play in Boston on Thursday, are one point ahead of the Maple Leafs.

Video: Anderson's shutout leads Sens past Red Wings, 2-0

Winnipeg Jets 5, St. Louis Blues 2 -- Despite the loss, St. Louis still leads Nashville by one point for third place in the Central Division with one game in hand. It was the first regulation loss in 10 games for the Blues (7-1-2).

New York Islanders 2, Nashville Predators 1 (OT) -- The Islanders, winners of three straight, moved within five points of the Maple Leafs for the second wild card in the East with three games left. The Predators are one point behind the Blues for third place in the Central Division. 

Minnesota Wild 5, Carolina Hurricanes 3-- The Wild clinched second place in the Central Division with their second straight win. Minnesota will open its Western Conference First Round series at home against either the Blues or Predators. The loss eliminated the Hurricanes from playoff contention.

Colorado Avalanche 4, Chicago Blackhawks 3 (OT) -- The Blackhawks, who fell out of contention for the Presidents' Trophy, have already clinched the Central Division and No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. 

Anaheim Ducks 3, Calgary Flames 1 -- The Ducks are four points ahead of the Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks for first place in the Pacific Division. John Gibson made 26 saves for his first win since Feb. 19. Anaheim defenseman Cam Fowler left the game with a lower-body injury in the third period after a collision with Calgary defenseman Mark Giordano. The Ducks are already without defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen, each out with an upper-body injury. The Flames are tied with the Predators in points (92) but hold the first wild card from the West by virtue of two more regulation/overtime wins (40-38), the first tiebreaker. Calgary has lost 25 straight regular-season games (0-20-5) at Honda Center.  

Los Angeles Kings 6, Edmonton Oilers 4 -- The Oilers fell four points behind the Ducks for first place in the Pacific Division with three games remaining. 

San Jose Sharks 3, Vancouver Canucks 1 -- The Sharks moved into a tie for second place with the Oilers in the Pacific Division with 97 points, but the Oilers have one game in hand. San Jose, which has won two straight for the first time since March 12-14, trails Anaheim by four points for first place in the division. Sharks center Joe Thornton (left knee injury) missed the game, ending his streak of 201 straight games.

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