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Stanley Cup Playoff Buzz: Jets try to hold off Predators in Central

Canadiens look to tighten grip on East wild card; Bruins could clinch postseason berth @NHLdotcom

Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoff Buzz, a daily look at the races for the 2019 NHL postseason. There are 15 days left in the regular season and the races in each conference are wide open.

Here is a look at the NHL standings and everything else that could impact the playoff picture.


Stanley Cup Playoff clinching scenarios

The Boston Bruins will clinch an Eastern Conference playoff berth:

* If they defeat the Florida Panthers (7 p.m. ET; FS-F, NESN, NHL.TV) in any fashion


* If they get one point against Florida AND the Montreal Canadiens lose to the Buffalo Sabres (7 p.m. ET; CITY, SNE, TVAS, MSG-B, NHL.TV) in any fashion or defeats Buffalo in a shootout


The Winnipeg Jets will clinch a playoff berth:

* If they get at least one point against the Nashville Predators (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, SN360, SNW, SNP, FS-TN, NHL.TV)


On Tap

There are 11 late games on the schedule Saturday, each with playoff implications:


Ottawa Senators at Edmonton Oilers (4 p.m. ET; TVAS, SNW, TSN5, NHL.TV): The Oilers, who are 7-4-0 in their past 11 games, trail the Wild by six points for the second wild card in the West with eight games remaining, but have to climb over the Vancouver Canucks, Blackhawks, Coyotes, Avalanche and Wild to reach a playoff spot.

Nashville Predators at Winnipeg Jets (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, SN360, SNW, SNP, FS-TN, NHL.TV): The top two teams in the Central Division face off with the Jets leading the Predators by two points for first place. Winnipeg, which had its four-game winning streak end with a 5-0 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday, has eight games remaining. Nashville, which is 3-0-1 in its past four games, has seven games left.  

Buffalo Sabres at Montreal Canadiens (7 p.m. ET; CITY, SNE, TVAS, MSG-B, NHL.TV): The Canadiens lead the Columbus Blue Jackets by one point for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference and trail the Carolina Hurricanes by two points for the first wild card. Montreal and Columbus each have eight games remaining. Carolina has nine games left.

Minnesota Wild at Carolina Hurricanes (7 p.m. ET; FS-CR, FS-N, FS-WI, NHL.TV): The Wild climbed one point ahead of the Avalanche and Coyotes into the second wild card into the playoffs from the West with a 2-1 win at the Capitals on Friday and are three points behind the Stars for the first wild card. The Hurricanes will look to solidify their hold on the first wild card in the East. They are two points ahead of the Canadiens, three points ahead of the Blue Jackets, and four points behind the Penguins and Islanders in the Metropolitan Division.

Boston Bruins at Florida Panthers (7 p.m. ET; FS-F, NESN, NHL.TV): Boston, which has won three in a row, leads the Toronto Maple Leafs by six points for second in the Atlantic Division and home-ice advantage in the Eastern Conference First Round. The Panthers trail the Canadiens by seven points for the second wild card in the East with eight games remaining. 

New York Rangers at Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, CBC, SN1, SNO, MSG, NHL.TV): The Maple Leafs will try to pick up ground on the Bruins in the race for second place in the Atlantic. Toronto trails Boston by six points. Each team has eight games remaining.

Tampa Bay Lightning at St. Louis Blues (8 p.m. ET; FS-MW, SUN, NHL.TV: The Blues, who are 2-0-0 so far on a four-game homestand, are third in the Central, four points behind the second-place Predators, six behind the first-place Jets and four points ahead of the Stars. The Lightning, who have won seven straight, need four wins in their final seven games to equal the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings' single-season NHL record of 62 and 12 of the 14 points available to tie the NHL record of 132 points in a season set by the 1976-77 Canadiens.

Pittsburgh Penguins at Dallas Stars (8 p.m. ET; ESPN+, FS-SW+, ATTSN-PT, NHL.TV): The Penguins, who are tied in points with the Islanders for second in the Metropolitan Division, can climb within one point of the Capitals for first with a win. The Stars, who are 1-2-1 so far on a five-game homestand, can solidify their hold on the first wild card in the West with a win. They are three points up on the Wild. 

Calgary Flames at Vancouver Canucks (10 p.m. ET; ESPN+, CBC, SN, SN360, SN1, CITY, NHL.TV: The Flames, who are 5-1-0 in their past six, will look to extend their four-point lead on the idle San Jose Sharks for first in the Western Conference and Pacific Division. The Canucks, who have won three straight games, trail the Wild by five points for the second wild card in the West with eight games remaining.

Detroit Red Wings at Vegas Golden Knights (10 p.m. ET; ATTSN-RM, FS-D, NHL.TV): The Golden Knights, who have won four consecutive games and are 10-1-0 in their past 11, are in third in the Pacific, 11 points ahead of the fourth-place Coyotes, and can move within four points of the Sharks for second with a win. 

Anaheim Ducks at Los Angeles Kings (10:30 p.m. ET; FS-W, PRIME, NHL.TV): The Ducks, who are 3-1-0 in their past four, trail the Wild by eight points for the second wild card in the West with six games remaining. 


Thought of the day

On a busy Saturday in the NHL that features 14 games, the Columbus Blue Jackets are one of three teams (along with the Washington Capitals and San Jose Sharks) who are not playing. That means the Blue Jackets can only hope they don't fall farther behind in the race to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs before their next game, the finale of a four-game road trip against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on Sunday (10 p.m. ET, SNP, FSO, NHL.TV).

A disappointing 4-1 loss at the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday dropped Columbus (40-30-4) one point behind the Montreal Canadiens for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference with eight games remaining. So, the Blue Jackets will be watching closely when the Canadiens host the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday. They'll also have an eye on the Carolina Hurricanes, who hold the first wild card in the East and are three points ahead of them heading into a home game against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday.

It's no doubt a helpless feeling needing help from others at this point in the season, but that's the situation the Blue Jackets have put themselves in by losing the first three games of their trip (0-2-1) and going 5-7-1 since the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 25.

There was so much excitement in Columbus after the Blue Jackets were one of the League's most aggressive teams prior to the deadline. They acquired forwards Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel from the Ottawa Senators, defenseman Adam McQuaid from the New York Rangers and goalie Keith Kinkaid from the New Jersey Devils.

But the Blue Jackets' biggest moves were keeping forward Artemi Panarin, who leads them with 76 points (25 goals, 51 assists) and Sergei Bobrovsky, a two-time winner of the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goalie, though both appear likely to leave as unrestricted free agents on July 1. That sent a clear message about the importance of winning this season after failing to win a playoff series in their first 17 seasons.

The raised expectations have created a pressure the Blue Jackets have struggled to handle so far.

After the loss at Edmonton, coach John Tortorella talked again about needing more urgency in their play. If they don't find it soon, they'll have more days like Saturday, when they can only watch, when the playoffs begin.

Tom Gulitti, Staff Writer


If playoffs started Saturday

Here is a look at the matchups for the first round as they stand entering games Saturday:

Eastern Conference

(1A) Tampa Bay Lightning vs. (WC2) Montreal Canadiens 

(1M) Washington Capitals vs. (WC1) Carolina Hurricanes  

(2A) Boston Bruins vs. (3A) Toronto Maple Leafs

(2M) New York Islanders vs. (3M) Pittsburgh Penguins   

Western Conference

(1P) Calgary Flames vs. (WC2) Minnesota Wild

(1C) Winnipeg Jets vs. (WC1) Dallas Stars 

(2P) San Jose Sharks vs. (3P) Vegas Golden Knights

(2C) Nashville Predators vs. (3C) St. Louis Blues 


About last night

There were two games on Friday, each with playoff implications: 

Minnesota Wild 2, Washington Capitals 1: The Wild moved into the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference with the win, their first in three games. The Wild are one point ahead of the Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes having played one more game. The Capitals have lost two straight and remain three points ahead of the New York Islanders for first place in the Metropolitan Division having played one more game

Video: MIN@WSH: Kunin picks the top corner on Holtby

Anaheim Ducks 4, San Jose Sharks 3 (OT): The Sharks moved within four points of the Calgary Flames for first place in the Pacific Division and the Western Conference despite losing for the fifth straight time (0-4-1), their longest losing streak since six in a row from March 16-25, 2017. The Ducks moved eight points behind the Wild for the second wild card in the West. 

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