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Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Predators first to clinch berth

Kane's four goals help Sharks increase second-place lead in Pacific @NHLdotcom

Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily look at the races for the 2018 NHL postseason.
There are 23 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.


Clinching scenarios

The Tampa Bay Lightning will clinch a playoff berth on Saturday:

If they defeat the Boston Bruins in regulation or overtime AND any of the following occurs:

* The Columbus Blue Jackets lose to the Ottawa Senators in any fashion.
* The Philadelphia Flyers lose to the Carolina Hurricanes in any fashion.
* The New Jersey Devils lose to the Los Angeles Kings in regulation.


* If they defeat the Bruins in a shootout AND any of the following occurs:

* The Blue Jackets lose to the Senators in any fashion.
* The Flyers lose to the Hurricanes in regulation.


If they get one point against the Bruins AND the Blue Jackets lose.

What's on tap

It's a busy Saturday schedule, one with plenty of playoff implications 

Chicago Blackhawks at Buffalo Sabres (1 p.m. ET; NHLN, MSG-B, WGN, NHL.TV) -  The Blackhawks are 18 points out of the second wild card in the West and need every point they can get.

Edmonton Oilers at Florida Panthers (2 p.m. ET, FS-F, SNW, NHL.TV) -  The Panthers are 8-1-1 in their past 10 games and are three points behind the New Jersey Devils for the second wild card in the East. The Oilers are 19 points out of a playoff spot in the West.

New Jersey Devils at Los Angeles Kings (4 p.m. ET; FS-W, MSG+, NHL.TV) -  Each team is a dogfight for a playoff spot. The Devils, who have won the first two games on their road trip, are one point behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the first wild card and three points ahead of Panthers. The Kings are tied with the San Jose Sharks for second in the Pacific.

Montreal Canadiens at Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, CBC, SN, TVAS, NHL.TV) - The Maple Leafs, who have won 11 in a row at home, are five points behind the Boston Bruins for second in the Atlantic. The Canadiens are 16 points behind the Devils for the second wild card. 

Boston Bruins at Tampa Bay Lighting (7 p.m. ET; SUN, NESN, NHL.TV) - The two top teams in the East meet with the Bruins looking to close the four-point gap between them and the Lightning. Tampa Bay is four points behind the Nashville Predators for the top spot in the League. 

Philadelphia Flyers at Carolina Hurricanes (7 p.m. ET; FS-CR, NBCSP) -  The Flyers, who have three wins in their past 10 games, are in third place in the Metropolitan, tied in points with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Hurricanes have dropped to nine points out of the first wild card in the East.

Ottawa Senators at Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m. ET; CITY, TVAS2, FS-O, NHL.TV) - The Blue Jackets could move into third in the Metropolitan with a win. The Senators are 17 points out of the second wild card. 

New York Rangers at St. Louis Blues (8 p.m. ET; FS-MW, MSG, NHL.TV)- The Blues are five points behind the Dallas Stars for the second wild card in the West and are in desperate need of a win. The Rangers are nine points out of the second wild card in the East. 

Minnesota Wild at Arizona Coyotes (9 p.m. ET; FS-A PLUS, FS-N, NHL.TV) - The Wild are in third place in the Central, three points ahead of the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars.  

San Jose Sharks at Vancouver Canucks (10 p.m. ET; CBC, SN, NBCSCA, NHL.TV) - Evander Kane scored four goals in a 7-4 win against the Calgary Flames to put San Jose three points ahead of the Kings for second place in the Pacific Division.


Thought of the day

How impressive have the Winnipeg Jets been this season? Despite 238-man games lost to injury/illness, the Jets have found ways to win and thrive in the Central Division. Now they've got a firm hold on second place in the division, 10 points behind the first-place Nashville Predators and seven points ahead of the third-place Minnesota Wild.

Video: CHI@WPG: Little pots tricky wrister to pad the lead

 Connor Hellebuyck (36-11-9, 2.35 goals-against average, .925 save percentage) hasn't buckled under the extra work; with backup goaltenders Steve Mason and Michael Hutchinson out with upper-body injuries, Hellebuyck has played in a career-high 59 games. 

Patrik Laine, 19, who has 66 points (41 goals, 25 assists) is on a 14-game point streak (16 goals, eight assists). Forward Paul Stastny, acquired from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for a first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, forward Erik Foley and a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2020 draft, has three goals and six assists in eight games with the Jets.

The Jets' injury issues haven't completely subsided. Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov is out at least eight weeks after having back surgery. But defenseman Jacob Trouba returned in the Jets' 6-2 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday. Forwards Adam Lowry (upper body) and Mark Scheifele (lower body) and defenseman Tobias Enstrom (lower body) could return when the Jets host the Dallas Stars on Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET, TVA-S, SN, FS-SW, NHL.TV). 

The Jets' last playoff appearance was brief; the Anaheim Ducks swept them in the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. But these Jets are more seasoned and getting contributions from everyone. They'll also get a chance to work recovering players back into the lineup without the pressure of jockeying for playoff position. --- Tracey Myers, Staff Writer

Need to know

Pittsburgh Penguins: Matt Murray practiced and the goaltender who is recovering from a concussion could return to play as soon as Tuesday against the Jets.


About last night 

Washington Capitals 6, New York Islanders 3 -- The Capitals won their fourth straight to extend their lead in the Metropolitan Division to two points over the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Islanders fell 10 points behind the New Jersey Devils for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. Washington will be without forward Evgeny Kuznetsov (upper body) against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday; he is listed day to day.

Ottawa Senators 3, Dallas Stars 2 (OT) -- The Stars lost their season-high fourth straight game (0-2-2) and remained in the second wild card in the West. Ottawa is 17 points out of the second wild card in the East.

Nashville Predators 4, Colorado Avalanche 2 -- The Predators became the first team to clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when they matched their record of 14th consecutive games with a point (13-0-1), and set their record by getting a point in 14 straight road games (11-0-3). The Avalanche remained in the first wild-card spot in the West. 

San Jose Sharks 7, Calgary Flames 4-- Evander Kane scored four goals to help the second-place Sharks increase their lead to three points over the third-place Los Angeles Kings in the Pacific Division. The Flames fell four points behind the Stars for the second wild card in the West. 

Anaheim Ducks, 4, Detroit Red Wings 2 -- The Ducks moved into a tie with the Los Angeles Kings for third place in the Pacific and with the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars for the two wild cards in the West. All three teams hold a tiebreaker over Anaheim.

Minnesota Wild 4, Vegas Golden Knights 2 -- The Wild, third in the Central, maintained their three-point lead over the Stars and Avalanche. The Golden Knights, who lost their fourth straight home game, saw their lead shrink to eight points over the second-place Sharks in the Pacific.


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) New Jersey Devils  
(1M) Washington Capitals vs. (WC1) Columbus Blue Jackets  
(2M) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (3M) Philadelphia Flyers
(2A) Boston Bruins vs. (3A) Toronto Maple Leafs

Western Conference

(1C) Nashville Predators vs. (WC2) Dallas Stars 
(1P) Vegas Golden Knights vs. (WC1) Colorado Avalanche 
(2C) Winnipeg Jets vs. (3C) Minnesota Wild
(2P) San Jose Sharks vs. (3P) Los Angeles Kings

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