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NHL Playoffs Update: Previewing tonight’s action

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I apologize for not having an update based on last night’s action, so I thought we’d merge the update from last night’s games into a preview for tonight’s games, and focus on the ones that truly affect the playoff standings.

The big news from yesterday in the East was the loss by the New Jersey Devils, which dropped them down from 2nd to 4th in the conference standings. They do have one game in hand on the Pittsburgh Penguins, so there’s still time left to make another run for the division. Of course, since the Pens and Devils don’t face each other for the rest of the season (thanks NHL!!) we won’t have the privilege of head-to-head matchup with the title on the line.

In the West, the Colorado Avalanche continue their slide and have opened up the possibility (once again) for the Calgary Flames to somehow make it into the playoffs.

After the jump, we take a look at the standings and at tonight’s big games.

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The games that matter:

Buffalo Sabres @ Boston Bruins, 7:00 p.m. EDT - The Bruins have a big, big game tonight as they fight to keep in the playoff standings. Doing so against Ryan Miller and the Sabres will be tough, especially as they continue to struggle without Marc Savard (don’t let that big game on Saturday fool you). Another such win tonight, against the Sabres, would go a long ways to assuaging the fears that the Bruins are on their ways to backing out of the playoffs.

Carolina Hurricanes @ Atlanta Thrashers, 7:00 p.m. EDT - This game is why the Bruins should be feeling the heat. The Thrashers have yet another chance to win a big game at home and somehow sneak into a playoff spot -- however temporarily.

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The games that matter:

Los Angeles Kings @ Minnesota Wild, 9:00 p.m. EDT - Just a month ago we were talking about the Los Angeles Kings perhaps threatening for the top spot in the West. Now they’re close to falling out of the playoffs altogether. The Wild should prove an easy foe for the Kings, but one thing to keep an eye on: Jonathan Quick may get the Kings to the playoffs but he may fall apart from exhaustion once they get there.