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Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Wild try to take over second wild card in West

Islanders, Capitals seek to break tie atop Metropolitan; Sharks can clinch postseason berth

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Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily look at the races for the 2019 NHL postseason. There are 19 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 scenario

The San Jose Sharks, who do not play Tuesday, will clinch a playoff berth if the Minnesota Wild lose to the Colorado Avalanche (8 p.m. ET; FS-N+, ALT, NHL.TV) in any fashion.

 

On Tap

There are 10 games on the Tuesday schedule, nine with playoff implications.

Boston Bruins at New York Islanders (7 p.m. ET; SNE, SNO, MSG+, NESN, NHL.TV): The Bruins are second in the Atlantic Division, four points ahead of the third-place Toronto Maple Leafs and 21 behind the Presidents' Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning. The Islanders, who have won three of their past four games and five of seven, are tied for first in the Metropolitan Division with the Washington Capitals. They are three points ahead of the third-place Pittsburgh Penguins.

Montreal Canadiens at Philadelphia Flyers (7 p.m. ET; NBCSP, RDS, TSN2, NHL.TV): The Canadiens are three points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. Montreal has lost four of its past five games, scoring eight goals in that span. The Flyers are six points behind the Blue Jackets. 

Pittsburgh Penguins at Carolina Hurricanes (7 p.m. ET; TVAS, FS-CR, ATTSN-PT, NHL.TV): The Penguins, who begin a four-game road trip, are third in the Metropolitan, three points behind the first-place Islanders and Capitals. The Hurricanes, who have won three of their past four games, hold the first wild card from the East. They are one point ahead of the Blue Jackets and three points behind the Penguins. 

Washington Capitals at New Jersey Devils (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NBCSWA, NHL.TV): The Capitals are tied for first in the Metropolitan Division with the Islanders. Washington is 8-2-0 in its past 10 games. The Devils were eliminated from playoff contention when the Blue Jackets defeated the Hurricanes 3-0 on Friday. New Jersey has won twice in its past 10 games (2-7-1).

Edmonton Oilers at St. Louis Blues (8 p.m. ET; SN1, SNE, SNO, SNP, FS-MW, NHL.TV): Edmonton wraps up a three-game road trip against the Blues. The Oilers, who play their next five games at home, are seven points behind the Arizona Coyotes for the second wild card from the West. The Blues are third in the Central Division, five points behind the second-place Nashville Predators and two ahead of the Dallas Stars, who hold the first wild card in the West. The Blues are 1-2-2 in their past five games. 

Toronto Maple Leafs at Nashville Predators (8 p.m. ET; ESPN+, FS-TN, TSN4, NHL.TV): The Maple Leafs, who have lost three of their past four games, are third in the Atlantic Division, four points behind the second-place Bruins. The Predators are second in the Central, three points behind the first-place Winnipeg Jets and five points ahead of the third-place Blues. 

Colorado Avalanche at Minnesota Wild (8 p.m. ET; FS-N+, ALT, NHL.TV): The Avalanche are four points behind the Coyotes for the second wild card from the West and have a game in hand. The Wild, who are 1-3-1 in their past five games, are one point behind the Coyotes. Minnesota and Arizona each has nine games to play.

Florida Panthers at Dallas Stars (8:30 p.m. ET; FS-SW, FS-F, NHL.TV): The Stars hold the first wild card from the West and are two points behind the Blues for third in the Central. Dallas is two points ahead of Arizona, which holds the second wild card. The Panthers are eight points behind the Blue Jackets for the second wild card from the East.

Columbus Blue Jackets at Calgary Flames (9 p.m. ET; ESPN+, TVAS, SNW, FS-O, NHL.TV): The Blue Jackets, who hold the second wild card from the Eastern Conference, are one point behind the Hurricanes for the first wild card and four points behind the Penguins for third place in the Metropolitan Division. The Flames became the first team in the West to clinch a playoff berth when the Wild lost 3-2 in overtime to the New York Islanders on Sunday. Calgary is first in the Pacific Division and Western Conference, one point ahead of the second-place San Jose Sharks. 

 

Thought of the Day

The Dallas Stars are in a good position in the Stanley Cup Playoffs picture. They hold the first wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference, two points ahead of the Arizona Coyotes, who hold the second wild card. And they are two points behind the St. Louis Blues for third place in the Central Division.

But the Stars have a stiff test coming up. After their five-game homestand concludes Saturday, they play four of their next five games on the road, where they are 16-17-3 this season.

And three of their next five opponents currently hold playoff spots (they host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, play at the Winnipeg Jets on Monday and play at the Calgary Flames on March 27). It's a tough schedule for the Stars, who are 6-2-1 in their past nine games, but coach Jim Montgomery said that's a good thing.

"You don't want to be comfortable. You want to have a fear of losing. That drives you to have success," Montgomery said. "I'm confident in our bunch and where we're at."

The Stars are also getting healthier. 

Goalie Ben Bishop, who left with a lower-body injury at 6:33 of the second period of Dallas' 4-1 win at the Minnesota Wild on Thursday and missed the next two games, could start against the Panthers. Bishop has not allowed a goal in 230:53, the longest streak in Dallas/Minnesota North Stars history. 

Video: Bishop sets new Stars shut out streak record

Forward Mats Zuccarello, who broke his right arm in the Stars' 4-3 win at the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 24, is expected to travel with Dallas on its four-game road trip that begins in Winnipeg. And forward Tyler Pitlick, who had wrist surgery Feb. 5, will also go on that trip. Zuccarello, who the Stars acquired in a trade with the New York Rangers on Feb. 23, had a goal and an assist against the Blackhawks in his Dallas debut but hasn't played since. 

The Stars have dealt with a lot this season, from president Jim Lites publicly criticizing forwards Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn to 347 man games lost to injury. If they can successfully navigate the remainder of the regular-season, they could be a tough playoff opponent. 

-- Tracey Myers, NHL.com staff writer

 

Need to know

The latest news surrounding the playoff races:

Goalie Ben Bishop will start for the Dallas Stars against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. Bishop (lower body) left a 4-1 win at the Minnesota Wild on Thursday and missed the next two games. He brings a franchise-record shutout streak of 230:53 into the game. Stars forward Jason Spezza is expected to be a healthy scratch against the Panthers. 

St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko returns to the lineup against the Edmonton Oilers. The 27-year-old missed five games with an upper-body injury sustained in a 4-0 win against the Los Angeles Kings on March 7. He has 58 points (28 goals 30 assists) in 66 games. 

Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak is a game-time decision against the New York Islanders. The 22-year-old, who missed 16 games after injuring his left thumb following a team sponsorship dinner Feb. 10, has 66 points (31 goals, 35 assists) in 56 games.

 

If playoffs started Tuesday

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

Eastern Conference

(1A) Tampa Bay Lightning vs. (WC2) Columbus Blue Jackets 

(1M) New York Islanders vs. (WC1) Carolina Hurricanes  

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

(2M) Washington Capitals vs. (3M) Pittsburgh Penguins   

Western Conference

(1P) Calgary Flames vs. (WC2) Arizona Coyotes

(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

All four games on the schedule Monday had playoff implications: 


Tampa Bay Lightning 4, Arizona Coyotes 1: The Lightning became the second-fastest team to clinch the Presidents' Trophy, doing so in 73 games. The 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings clinched in 71 games. The Lightning, who play the second wild card from the Eastern Conference in the first round, will have home ice advantage for each round of the playoffs they play. The Coyotes, the second wild card from the Western Conference, failed to gain ground in the playoff chase. They are one point ahead of the Minnesota Wild and four points ahead of both the Colorado Avalanche and Chicago Blackhawks. Arizona is two points behind the Dallas Stars for the first wild card.

Video: Lightning beat Coyotes to clinch Presidents' Trophy

Vancouver Canucks 3, Chicago Blackhawks 2 (OT): The Blackhawks lost for the first time in six games but gained a point on the Coyotes for the second wild card from the Western Conference. Chicago trails Arizona by four points. Forward Bo Horvat scored the second fastest regular-season overtime goal (16 seconds) in franchise history to give Vancouver points in four straight games (3-0-1). The Canucks are six points behind the Coyotes. Each team has nine games remaining.

Winnipeg Jets 3, Los Angeles Kings 2: The Jets increased their lead in the Central Division to three points and have a game in hand on the Nashville Predators after getting a goal and an assist from forward Kyle Connor and 15 saves from Laurent Brossoit. The Kings, 2-12-4 in their past 18 games, were eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention.

Vegas Golden Knights 7, San Jose Sharks 3: The Golden Knights won for the ninth time in their past 10 games in what could be a preview of the Western Conference First Round. The Sharks, who failed to clinch a playoff berth for the third straight game, are second in the Pacific Division, seven points ahead of the third-place Golden Knights. Each team has nine games remaining. The Sharks remain one point behind the Calgary Flames for first in the division and the conference and have played one more game.

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