With seven games and counting remaining in the regular season for Washington, the Capitals are looking for all the points they can get to hold onto their lead over the Metro. But with the road ahead getting tougher, each result will have massive implications for playoff seeding.
After falling 5-4 in overtime to the Tampa Bay Lightning Wednesday, Washington has a three-point lead over the Metro. From there, the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins each have a four-point lead over the Hurricanes, who are sitting in the first wild-card spot, and the Blue Jackets are one point out of a playoff spot.
As the postseason looms, the current race is a close one, and the games this weekend could ultimately decide who faces who in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and if the regular season ended today, the Caps would play host to the Carolina Hurricanes. Still, there's plenty of time left and things can always change; here are the games to keep an eye on heading into the weekend.
New York Islanders (42-25-7, 91 points) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (36-30-8, 80 points)
Though the Isles are currently tied with the Penguins for second in the Metro, they hold the tiebreaker with fewer games played. Recently, they were shutout by the Montreal Canadiens 4-0. Carey Price made 28 saves, and the Canadiens moved into the second wild-card spot with the win.
They'll take on the Philadelphia Flyers, who are still fighting for a playoff spot and are 6-4 in their last 10 games, in a Saturday afternoon matchup. The Islanders will have a chance to diminish Philadelphia's last gasp at a playoff spot, while also moving ahead of the Penguins and staying in the fight for first.
Pittsburgh Penguins (40-24-11, 91 points) vs. New York Rangers (28-32-13, 69 points)
The Penguins still have a shot at taking the Metro lead away from Washington, but they've played 75 games and have lost their first chance at a tiebreaker. Pittsburgh slugged out a 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators Thursday and have gone 6-2-2 in their last 10.
After taking on the Dallas Stars, also in a heated playoff race in the West, Saturday, Pittsburgh will face a cellar-dwelling New York Rangers team that has lost four straight, but is still looking to spoil their division rivals' season finishes.
Carolina Hurricanes (40-26-7, 87 points)
The Hurricanes have snuck into the first wild-card position, nd it's looking more likely than not that is the team the Caps will face in the first round. Riding goalie Petr Mrazek's improved play in net, the Canes have managed a 6-3-1 record in their last 10 games.
After falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday, the Hurricanes will look to redeem themselves against the Minnesota Wild Sunday, who are fighting for one of the coveted wild-card spots in the Weest and face the Capitals Friday. With a victory, they can extend their lead and maintain their hold on that first wild-card spot.
Columbus Blue Jackets (40-30-4, 84 points)
The Jackets are on the cusp of the playoffs this season, just one point out. Even after making a push to sign Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and Keith Kinkaid at the trade deadline, they've had trouble racking up much-needed wins. They could not crack even in their last 10 games, with a 4-5-1 record, including a loss to Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers 4-1.
With time flying fast, Columbus needs to scrounge as many points as possible, starting with a must-win against the Vancouver Canucks Sunday. However, the victory won't come easy; Vancouver has won three straight and is still very much in the running for a shot at the playoffs.
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