NHL Playoff Push: Stars, Panthers need wins; Jackets go for 9 in a row
The NHL season is quickly wrapping up which means time is running out for the teams that are still trying to make up ground in the playoff races.
With 11 games on the schedule on Tuesday night there is plenty at stake, both for teams that are still scrambling to get in and teams that are trying to get the possible seed.
Let’s take a look at what is on the line for Tuesday starting with the Wester Conference.
In the Western Conference the Dallas Stars, losers of eight of their past 10 games, are desperate for a win in an effort to stop the recent bleeding. They have been fading fast in recent weeks, are without starting goalie Ben Bishop, and have to go on the road (where they have struggled all season) to play a first-place Capitals team.
They enter the day two points back of the second Wild Card spot which is currently occupied by the Anaheim Ducks. A win would bring the Stars back even for the time being, though Anaheim would still have a game in hand. It could also bring them even with the Colorado Avalanche if they fail to gain a point against the Chicago Blackhawks. And speaking of the Blackhawks, a loss on Tuesday would officially mathematically eliminate them from playoff contention this season and end their run of nine consecutive postseason appearances.
It is a significantly busier night in the Eastern Conference race, though most of that comes down to seeding and potential first-round matchups.
[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]
The Blue Jackets are looking to run their current winning streak to nine consecutive games when they visit the New York Rangers, and depending on what happens with the Penguins and Flyers they could find themselves tied for the second spot in the Metropolitan Division. The Blue Jackets enter the day tied with the Flyers with 85 points (the Flyers have the tiebreaker at the moment) and just two points back of the Penguins.
The Penguins are in New York to play the Islanders, while the Flyers take on a Detroit Red Wings team that has lost 10 games in a row.
You can catch the Flyers-Red Wings game on NBCSN.
Tampa Bay can extend its lead for the top spot in the Atlantic Division (and the Eastern Conference) with a win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Lightning are currently three points ahead of the Boston Bruins, but the Bruins will have two games in hand after Tuesday.
When it comes to competing for an actual playoff spot, the Florida Panthers continue their current road trip in Ottawa. The Panthers were 2-0 winners on Monday night in Montreal and have a quick turnaround for this one. A week ago the Senators handed the Panthers a tough loss on home ice, part of a stretch that saw the Panthers drop games to two teams well out of the playoff race.
The Panthers can not afford to let that happen tonight. A Panthers loss, combine with a Devils win in San Jose would put them in a five-point hole. Or, on the other hand, a Panthers win and a Devils loss could narrow that gap down to a single point. The Panthers are catching a break in this one, too, because an already bad Senators team will be without All-Star defenseman Erik Karlsson.
Needless to say, there is plenty on the line for both teams.
If the playoffs started today
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New Jersey Devils
Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
Nashville Predators vs. Anaheim Ducks
Vegas Golden Knights vs. Colorado Avalanche
Winnipeg Jets vs. Minnesota Wild
San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings
Tuesday’s Key Games
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Islanders, 7 p.m. ET
Columbus Blue Jackets vs. New York Rangers, 7 p.m. ET
Dallas Stars vs. Washington Capitals, 7 p.m. ET
Florida Panthers vs. Ottawa Senators, 7:30 p.m. ET
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Detroit Red Wings, 7:30 p.m. ET
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Tampa Bay Lightning, 7:30 p.m. ET
Colorado Avalanche vs. Chicago Blackhawks, 8:30 p.m. ET
New Jersey Devils vs. San Jose Sharks, 10:30 p.m. ET