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Trio of West showdowns highlight busy Saturday

by Corey Masisak
It's April 2, there are 9 days left in the regular season and the playoff races in each conference are still on fire and so many games have added meaning with points at such a premium. As always, is here to give you a Down the Stretch daily that will highlight what you need to know about the games that directly impact the playoff races.

Here is the installment for Saturday, April 2:

BUFFALO (39-29-9, 87 points) at WASHINGTON (45-22-11, 101 points)

Where they stand: Washington is second in the Eastern Conference while Buffalo sits in seventh place.
What's at stake: The Sabres would move into sixth place with a win and a regulation loss by the Canadiens. The Capitals will be atop the conference with a win, though the Flyers would be one point back and have one game in hand. Washington can also clinch the Southeast Division with a win and a regulation loss by Tampa Bay.
How's it going: Buffalo has won four of five, including a 1-0 victory against the New York Rangers on Wednesday without goaltender Ryan Miller. Washington had a franchise-best March, going 12-2-1 in the month.
Upcoming: The Sabres are at Carolina on Sunday before home games against Tampa Bay and Philadelphia. The Capitals have road trips to Toronto and Florida around a home game against the Panthers to finish the regular season.

TORONTO (36-32-10, 82 points) at OTTAWA (30-38-10, 70 points)

Where they stand: Toronto is in 10th place in the East. Ottawa is in 14th.
What's at stake: The Maple Leafs would be three points back of the Rangers with a win, but New York will have a game in hand.
How's it going: Toronto has won five of six to stay alive in the playoff race.
Upcoming: The Maple Leafs welcome Washington and Montreal to Air Canada Centre with a trip to New Jersey in between.

DETROIT (44-23-10, 98 points) at NASHVILLE (42-26-10, 94 points)

Where they stand: Detroit is third in the Western Conference, while Nashville is in sixth place.
What's at stake: The Predators will be at least fifth with a regulation win (ahead of Phoenix) and fourth if Los Angeles loses. A regulation win also gets them within two points of the Red Wings for first in the division. Detroit could move back into second in the West with a regulation win and a loss by San Jose. The Red Wings would clinch a playoff berth if they obtain at least one point or if the Stars lose.
How's it going: Detroit has lost five of seven, including a 10-3 thrashing by St. Louis on Wednesday. Nashville has won seven of eight with the only loss to Vancouver on Tuesday.
Upcoming: The Red Wings have games against Minnesota and Carolina before a home-and-home with Chicago to finish the season. The Predators finish up with home games against Atlanta and Columbus and a trip to St. Louis.

DALLAS (38-27-11, 87 points) at LOS ANGELES (44-27-6, 94 points)

Where they stand: Los Angeles is fifth in the West. Dallas is in 10th place.
What's at stake: The Stars need a win to stay within three points of idle Chicago in eighth place with five games to play. The Kings will be fourth with a win but could also finish the day seventh with a loss and wings by Nashville and Anaheim.
How's it going: Dallas has lost five games in a row, including a 6-0 defeat by San Jose on Thursday. Los Angeles has won four of five but lost Thursday to Vancouver.
Upcoming: The Stars are at Anaheim on Sunday before home games against Columbus and Colorado. The Kings finish with four games against teams currently in the top seven of the West -- vs. San Jose, at Phoenix and then a home-and-home with Anaheim.

ANAHEIM (44-28-5, 93 points) at SAN JOSE (45-23-9, 99 points)

Where they stand: San Jose is second in the West, while Anaheim is seventh.
What's at stake: The Ducks could move up to fifth with a win and losses by the Kings and Predators. The Sharks will stay in second place with a win or an overtime/shootout loss.
How's it going: Anaheim has won three games in a row and seven of eight. San Jose has won six of seven after a three-game losing streak.
Upcoming: The Ducks play host to Dallas on Sunday before a return trip from San Jose on Wednesday. The Sharks play Los Angeles and another game against Anaheim before finishing with a home-and-home against Phoenix.

MONTREAL (41-30-7, 89 points) at NEW JERSEY (36-36-5, 77 points)

Where they stand: Montreal is sixth in the East while New Jersey is 12th.
What's at stake: The Canadiens need a point to ensure they stay in sixth place and could be four shy of Tampa Bay for fifth with a win and a regulation loss by the Lightning. The Devils will be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss.
How's it going: Montreal has lost four of five, including three shutout losses and a 6-2 defeat by Carolina on Wednesday. New Jersey has won two straight after a three-game skid severely damaged their playoff hopes.
Upcoming: The Canadiens welcome Chicago to Bell Centre on Tuesday before trips to Ottawa and Toronto. The Devils have two sets of back-to-backs to finish the season -- the first is at Pittsburgh and home against Toronto on Tuesday and Wednesday.

ATLANTA (33-32-12, 78 points) at BOSTON (43-23-11, 97 points)

Where they stand: Boston is third in the East. Atlanta is in 11th place.
What's at stake: The Thrashers would be eliminated from playoff contention with an overtime/shootout win or a loss. The Bruins can clinch the Northeast Division with a point gained or a point lost by Montreal.
How's it going: Atlanta has defeated first-place Philadelphia three times since March 12, but has lost four of six to everyone else in that span. Boston has won four of six, including victories over Montreal and Philadelphia.
Upcoming: The Thrashers have trips to Nashville and Manhattan to face the Rangers before closing with home games against Carolina and Pittsburgh. The Bruins have trips to Madison Square Garden and Prudential Center as bookends to home games against the Islanders and Senators.

CAROLINA (37-30-10, 84 points) at NEW YORK ISLANDERS (30-36-12, 72 points)

Where they stand: Carolina is in ninth place in the East while New York is 13th.
What's at stake: The Hurricanes would be one point behind the eighth-place New York Rangers with a win.
How's it going: Carolina has won five of six and six of eight, with the only two losses being on the second day of back-to-backs.
Upcoming: The Hurricanes are home for Buffalo on Sunday and have a game against Detroit before another back-to-back to finish the season.

PITTSBURGH (45-25-8, 98 points) at FLORIDA (29-37-12, 70 points)

Where they stand: Pittsburgh is fourth in the East while Florida is in 15th place.
What's at stake: The Penguins would be two points behind the Flyers for first place in the Atlantic Division with a win. They would also be only one point ahead of Tampa Bay with a regulation loss and a Lightning victory.
How's it going: Pittsburgh has lost two straight after winning four consecutive games via the shootout.
Upcoming: The Penguins are home against New Jersey on Tuesday before a trip to Long Island and Atlanta to finish the regular season.

TAMPA BAY (42-24-11, 95 points) at MINNESOTA (37-32-8, 82 points)

Where they stand: Tampa Bay is fifth in the East while Minnesota is 11th in the West.
What's at stake: The Lightning could be within a point of Pittsburgh for fourth place with a win and a regulation loss by the Penguins. Tampa Bay would also have one game in hand. The Wild are one point lost from playoff elimination.
How's it going: Tampa Bay has won three straight after dropping 10 of 12.
Upcoming: The Lightning are in Chicago on Sunday and Buffalo on Tuesday before back-to-backs with Florida and at Carolina to finish the season.

Follow Corey Masisak on Twitter at: @cmasisak22

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