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Playoff Buzz: Senators, Maple Leafs can clinch berths

Wins by Ottawa, Toronto would complete postseason field

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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 remaining two spots -- both in the Eastern Conference -- in the postseason. There are four days remaining in the season. If the playoffs were to start today, this is what the matchups would be. Here is all the playoff news for Thursday:

 
Clinching scenarios

The Ottawa Senators will clinch a playoff berth:

* If they get at least one point against the Boston Bruins (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NESN, RDS, TSN5, NHL.TV).

OR

* If the Tampa Bay Lightning lose to the Toronto Maple Leafs (7:30 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, TSN4, FS-F, NHL.TV) in any fashion AND the New York Islanders lose to the Carolina Hurricanes in any fashion (7 p.m. ET; FS-CR, MSG+2, NHL.TV).

The Toronto Maple Leafs will clinch a playoff berth:

* If they defeat the Lightning in any fashion

OR

* If they lose to the Lightning via shootout AND the Islanders lose to the Hurricanes in any fashion or defeat the Hurricanes in a shootout.

The Anaheim Ducks will clinch the Pacific Division title:

* If they defeat the Chicago Blackhawks (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CSN-CH, NHL.TV) in any fashion AND the Edmonton Oilers lose to the San Jose Sharks (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCS CA, SNW, NHL.TV) in any fashion.

OR

* If they get one point against the Blackhawks AND the Oilers lose to the Sharks in regulation.

The Pittsburgh Penguins will clinch the No. 2 seed in the Metropolitan Division:

* If they defeat the New Jersey Devils (7 p.m. ET; SN360, MSG+, ROOT, NHL.TV) in any fashion AND the Columbus Blue Jackets lose to the Winnipeg Jets (7 p.m. ET; FS-O, TSN3, NHL.TV) in regulation.

The St. Louis Blues will clinch the No. 3 seed in the Central Division:

* If they defeat the Florida Panthers (7:30 p.m. ET; SUN, FS-MW, NHL.TV) in any fashion AND the Nashville Predators lose to the Dallas Stars (8 p.m. ET; FS-SW, FS-TN, NHL.TV) in any fashion.

OR

* If they get one point against the Panthers AND the Predators lose to the Stars in regulation

The Calgary Flames will clinch the No. 1 wild card from the Western Conference:

* If they defeat the Los Angeles Kings (10:30 p.m. ET; SN360, FS-W, NHL.TV) in any fashion AND the Predators lose to the Stars in regulation.

 

6:01 p.m.
Setting up the night

Two Stanley Cup Playoff berths, a division title and a wild-card spot are on the line Thursday, as well as some important positioning in the standings.

With so much at stake, let's jump right into what everyone's playing for:

Ottawa Senators at Boston Bruins (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NESN, RDS, TSN5, NHL.TV) -- The Senators need one point to clinch a playoff berth. The Bruins won't have forward Brad Marchand, who is suspended for their final two games of the regular season.

Pittsburgh Penguins at New Jersey Devils (7 p.m. ET; SN360, MSG+, ROOT, NHL.TV) -- The Penguins will have home-ice advantage in their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets with a win and a Blue Jackets loss to the Winnipeg Jets. No center Evgeni Malkin for the Penguins but he's getting close to a return.

New York Islanders at Carolina Hurricanes (7 p.m. ET; FS-CR, MSG+2, NHL.TV) -- Goaltender Jaroslav Halak starts in a must-win game for the Islanders and their fading playoff hopes.

Winnipeg Jets at Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m. ET; FS-O, TSN3, NHL.TV) -- The Blue Jackets will play their final regular-season home game Thursday in need of a win to keep alive the chance to have home-ice advantage in a playoff series for the first time. Also worth noting for the home fans: Jets forward Jack Roslovich will become the first Columbus-born player to skate in an NHL game.

Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs (7:30 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, TSN4, FS-F, NHL.TV) -- The Maple Leafs win and they're in the playoffs for the first time since 2013. They also can get in if they lose in a shootout and the Islanders lose or win in a shootout. "Of course, we want to get it done and win tonight," goaltender Frederik Andersen said. The Lightning won't have center Steven Stamkos.

St. Louis Blues at Florida Panthers (7:30 p.m. ET; SUN, FS-MW, NHL.TV) -- The Blues can assure themselves third place in the Central Division and a Western Conference First Round series with the Minnesota Wild with a win and a loss by the Nashville Predators. It also would happen if they get one point and the Predators lose in regulation. Look for Jake Allen in goal for the Blues and rookie Ivan Barbashev centering the top line.

Nashville Predators at Dallas Stars (8 p.m. ET; FS-SW, FS-TN, NHL.TV) -- The Predators can jump into third place in the Central with a win and a Blues loss. Or they can move into the first wild card from the Western Conference with a win and a loss by the Calgary Flames. Either way, they won't have center Mike Fisher and defenseman Ryan Ellis in the lineup as coach Peter Laviolette will rest two of his veterans.

Minnesota Wild at Colorado Avalanche (9 p.m. ET; ALT, FS-N, NHL.TV) -- The Wild have a chance to win a third straight game for the first time since Jan. 24-31. "We have to ramp it up for the playoffs," coach Bruce Boudreau said. Captain Mikko Koivu is expected to sit out for rest.

Chicago Blackhawks at Anaheim Ducks (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CSN-CH, NHL.TV) -- The Ducks can clinch their fifth straight Pacific Division title with a win and a loss by the Edmonton Oilers. They'll have to do it without injured defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler. Potentially lowering the level of difficulty for the Ducks however will be the Blackhawks scratching center Jonathan Toews, forward Marian Hossa and defensemen Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson to get ready for the playoffs.

Calgary Flames at Los Angeles Kings (10:30 p.m. ET; SN360, FS-W, NHL.TV) -- The Flames can clinch the first wild card from the West with a win and a Predators loss. Goaltender Jon Gillies, a third-round pick (No. 75) in the 2012 NHL Draft, will make his NHL debut. No pressure, kid.

Edmonton Oilers at San Jose Sharks (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCS CA, SNW, NHL.TV) -- The Oilers need a win to keep their hopes of winning the Pacific Division alive. They also would get an edge in home-ice advantage on the Sharks in a potential Western Conference First Round series. Centers Joe Thornton and Logan Couture won't play for San Jose.

 

3:39 p.m.
Malkin getting close, Stamkos not likely to return

Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin was on the ice for an optional morning skate and said he's trying to do what he can to get back in the lineup.

Malkin has been out since March 15 because of an upper-body injury.

"If I feel I can play the last game or the last two, I will," Malkin said, according to NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen. "If not, I'm ready for playoffs."

After playing at the New Jersey Devils on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; SN360, MSG+, ROOT, NHL.TV), the Penguins finish the regular season with games at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday and the New York Rangers on Sunday.

The news wasn't as good for Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who likely won't play again this season. The Lightning play the Toronto Maple Leafs (7:30 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, TSN4, FS-F, NHL.TV) in a game they have to win to keep their faint playoff hopes alive. The Lightning are five points behind the Maple Leafs for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference with three games remaining and will be eliminated from postseason contention with a loss.

Stamkos has been trying to get his surgically repaired right knee in shape. He was expected to need 4-5 months to recover from surgery Nov. 17.

"We're not quite there yet," he said. "It's been tough but I'll continue to keep going out there and doing the things I need to do on the ice, off the ice, to make sure it's healthy and I can get back whenever it feels ready."

 

1:45 p.m.
Marchand suspended, won't play for Bruins vs. Senators

The Boston Bruins will be without leading scorer Brad Marchand for their final two regular-season games after he was suspended Thursday by the NHL Department of Player Safety.

He was banned for spearing Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Jake Dotchin on Tuesday.

Marchand has been the Bruins' biggest offensive driver this season. He's fourth in the NHL with 85 points and tied for second with 39 goals. He's also a League-leading plus-434 in shot attempts.

The Bruins play the Ottawa Senators on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NESN, RDS, TSN5, NHL.TV), then finish the regular season against the Washington Capitals on Saturday. The Bruins start the day third in the Atlantic Division, but without Marchand they could fall to the second wild card in the East, and that season-ending game against the Capitals would serve as an Eastern Conference First Round series preview.

The Senators can clinch a playoff berth by getting at least one point against Boston.

 

1:15 p.m.
Karlsson out for Senators

The Ottawa Senators can clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs tonight, but they'll have to do it without their captain and top defenseman, Erik Karlsson.

Karlsson sustained a lower-body injury against the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday and coach Guy Boucher said he won't play against the Boston Bruins on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NESN, RDS, TSN5, NHL.TV). The Senators can clinch a playoff berth with one point against the Bruins, or if the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders lose.

But despite being without their best player and leading scorer, Boucher said the Senators won't change how they play, according to staff writer Amalie Benjamin.

"As a team our game won't change," Boucher said. "We're playing the same way. We're expecting our players to continue to buy in like they've bought in all year and have the consistency in our structure. So that doesn't change."

 

11:22 a.m.
Capitals focused on playoffs, not Presidents' Trophy

The Presidents' Trophy is the NHL award for regular-season success. But the Washington Capitals aren't interested in regular-season success.

"We didn't mention it," coach Barry Trotz said after the Capitals beat the New York Rangers 2-0 on Wednesday and won the trophy given to the League's top regular-season finisher for the second straight season. "All I said was, 'Good work by us.'"

Staff writer Tom Gulitti talked to Trotz and a number of the players, who are more concerned with what they do next week when the Stanley Cup Playoffs start. They feel they're heading the right direction, Presidents' Trophy or not.

"The most important season is coming soon," captain Alex Ovechkin said. "I think we [are going] in the right way. I think everybody's focusing, everybody's playing the right direction."

 

10:20 a.m.
So much at stake

There are 12 games on the schedule on a busy Thursday, and 10 have direct impact on the Stanley Cup Playoff race.

Here's what's on the line:

Ottawa Senators at Boston Bruins (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NESN, RDS, TSN5, NHL.TV) -- The Senators can clinch their playoff berth with one point Thursday, or if the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders lose, but a win would be even better. The jam-packed Atlantic Division starts with the Senators and Bruins with 94 points and the Maple Leafs one point back. The Senators have a game in hand on the Bruins, so they open ahead of the pack. It'll be fun to see where they all finish.

Pittsburgh Penguins at New Jersey Devils (7 p.m. ET; SN360, MSG+, ROOT, NHL.TV) -- The Penguins know they'll play the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference First Round. But where will the series start? The answer will be Pittsburgh if the Penguins win and the Blue Jackets lose in regulation to the Winnipeg Jets in regulation.

New York Islanders at Carolina Hurricanes (7 p.m. ET; FS-CR, MSG+2, NHL.TV) -- The Islanders are five points behind the Maple Leafs for the second wild card from the Eastern Conference with three games left, so the math is pretty simple: They need a win and some help to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Winnipeg Jets at Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m. ET; FS-O, TSN3, NHL.TV) -- The Blue Jackets are three points behind the Penguins for second place in the Metropolitan Division with three games remaining. They need a win to retain any hope of having home-ice advantage in their first-round series against the Penguins.

Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs (7:30 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, TSN4, FS-F, NHL.TV) -- The Maple Leafs can punch their ticket to the postseason dance with a win, or if they lose in a shootout and the Islanders either lose or win in a shootout. The Maple Leafs also could move into third in the Atlantic with a victory if the Bruins-Senators game ends in regulation, or if the Bruins win in overtime or a shootout, because the Maple Leafs have the regulation/overtime win (ROW) tiebreaker against the Senators, 38-37.

St. Louis Blues at Florida Panthers (7:30 p.m. ET; SUN, FS-MW, NHL.TV) -- The Blues can lock up third place in the Central Division with a win and a Nashville Predators loss, or if they get one point and the Predators lose in regulation. The Blues have a one-point lead on the Predators and one game in hand.

Nashville Predators at Dallas Stars (8 p.m. ET; FS-SW, FS-TN, NHL.TV) -- The Predators can move into third place in the Central with a win and a Blues loss in regulation. If the Blues win, the Predators can move from the second wild card in the West to the first with a win and a loss by the Calgary Flames.

Chicago Blackhawks at Anaheim Ducks (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CSN-CH, NHL.TV) -- The Ducks can win the Pacific Division with a victory and a loss by the Edmonton Oilers, or if they get one point and the Oilers lose in regulation.

Calgary Flames at Los Angeles Kings (10:30 p.m. ET; SN360, FS-W, NHL.TV) -- The Flames can clinch the first wild card in the West with a win and a Predators regulation loss. Both teams have 92 points after 80 games but the Flames lead 40-38 in ROW.

Edmonton Oilers at San Jose Sharks (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN CA, SNW, NHL.TV) -- The winner has the advantage in claiming home ice in a potential Western Conference First Round series between the teams.

 

8:10 a.m.
One win sets two series

The Washington Capitals defeated the New York Rangers 2-0 on Wednesday to win the Presidents' Trophy for the second straight season. 

Thought it's still unclear who will win the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference and play the Capitals in the first round, two other series in the East were set when this game was over.

The Rangers are locked into the first wild card from the East and will open the playoffs at the Montreal Canadiens, who have clinched first in the Atlantic Division.

Video: Williams, Holtby help Caps seal Presidents' Trophy

The Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins, who are still battling for second place and in the Metropolitan Division, will play each other in the first round. 

There are 12 games on the schedule for Thursday, 10 of them carrying playoff implications. But before we look ahead to Thursday, let's look back at the two games from Wednesday.  

Washington Capitals 2, New York Rangers 0: Justin Williams and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and an assist, and Braden Holtby had his NHL-best ninth shutout. The Capitals are the first team to repeat as Presidents' Trophy winners since the Vancouver Canucks in 2010-11 and 2011-12. 

Buffalo Sabres 2, Montreal Canadiens 1:   The Canadiens had their five-game winning streak ended but know the Rangers are the team they'll face in the Eastern Conference First Round. Montreal went 3-0-0 against the Rangers this season, including two wins at Madison Square Garden.

 

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