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Playoff Platter: Streaking Bruins set sights on division lead

First place in Atlantic among prizes available Thursday

NHL.com @NHL

The end of the NHL regular season is a month away, and not one team has clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, setting up what should be a wild finish.

Each day, NHL.com will take a closer look at the playoff races.

KEY GAME

Carolina at Boston (7 p.m. ET; FS-CR, NESN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV): The race for the Atlantic Division title and a top-two seed in the Eastern Conference for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, appears to be a three-team sprint to the finish. The Boston Bruins, who have 83 points, can leapfrog the idle Tampa Bay Lightning for first place by gaining at least a point Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes. After Thursday, though, Boston will have played two more games than the Lightning, who also have 83 points. The Florida Panthers, in third place with 81 points, host the Ottawa Senators on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; FS-F, RDS2, TSN5). The Hurricanes are four points out of the final wild card in the East and need to keep winning to find a payoff for their impressive second-half surge.

IN GOOD SHAPE

The Nashville Predators lost in overtime Wednesday to the Calgary Flames but have points in 14 straight games (9-0-5) and have opened a nine-point lead on the Minnesota Wild in the race for the two wild cards in the Western Conference. The Predators haven't lost in regulation since Feb. 9.

LOOK OUT FOR

The Philadelphia Flyers. They are 7-2-1 in their past 10 games and are two points out of the second wild card in the East. They also have one game in hand on the two current wild card teams, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings. The Flyers have 17 games left, including seven against the teams directly above them in the playoff race: the Red Wings, Penguins and New York Islanders.

Video: TBL@PHI: Gostisbehere cranks PPG past Vasilevskiy

NEED HELP

The New Jersey Devils. They are six points out of the final wild card in the East and have to climb over four teams in their final 15 games to get there. Plus they start a three-game, five-day road swing through California on Thursday, facing the San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks, the top three teams in the Pacific Division.

Best first-round matchup if playoffs started today:

In the recent past the battles of California have been among the most compelling playoff series, whether it be Kings vs. Sharks or Ducks vs. Kings. Now there may be another one in the cards as the Ducks and the Sharks are second and third, respectively, in the Pacific Division. The Ducks have a 3-1 lead in the season series and have won the only playoff meeting between the teams, in the 2009 conference quarterfinals.

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