The eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference hangs in the balance Saturday, as the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers—who are currently tied with 91 points but with the tiebreaker belonging to the 'Canes—finish out their season.
The Blueshirts battle the New Jersey Devils at 12:30, needing at least a point to keep their postseason hopes alive, while the Hurricanes face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:00, understanding what's necessary to fulfill their dreams.
For more on this last-minute battle, read a more in-depth preview here.
The NHL also has nine other important—but less-playoff implicating—games on the slate for this Saturday.
The Senators host the Bruins at 1:00. With a win in this one and another victory tomorrow, Boston may be able to squeak into the second seed; a Senators loss and an Isles win gives Ottawa, most likely, the fourth overall pick in the upcoming draft.
Rivals Montreal and Toronto play at 7:00. The Canadiens are tied with Boston for sixth in the East; Toronto is merely playing for bragging rights.
The Islanders visit Wachovia Center and the Flyers, also at 7:00. Philadelphia is all square with rival Pittsburgh for the Atlantic Division lead; with a loss, the Isles get the fourth overall pick in the draft.
Washington heads to Florida at 7:00. The Capitals have secured the Eastern Conference regular season title yet again and will likely rest many of their stars; the Panthers have lost 10 in a row and are guaranteed the third draft pick entering the lottery.
The now-clinched Sabres visit the disheartened Blue Jackets at 7:00. The Sabres need a win and Toronto victory over the Habs to earn the sixth seed, and Columbus is locked in at 13th in the West.
At 8:00 ET, the Predators hope to prepare for the playoffs with a win in St. Louis. If they pull it off, they will have home-ice advantage for the first round; if not, they could finish as low as eighth. The Blues need to lose—and have Toronto and Minnesota win—to get the ninth draft pick.
Two hours later, Calgary and Vancouver meet for the final time this season. The Canucks have long since secured the Presidents Trophy; the Flames, despite winning three in a row, were eliminated from playoff competition yesterday.
Now-clinched Anaheim visits Los Angeles at 10:30 ET; the Ducks and Kings sit one point apart and are both in the massive logjam that could finish anywhere from fourth to eighth.
Finally, the day wraps up with a Pacific Division battle as Phoenix visits the Shark Tank. The Coyotes are also part of the aforementioned clog-up in the Western Conference standings; San Jose leads Detroit by one point for the second seed with one game remaining for both sides.
Stay tuned here for a plethora of live game updates, playoff race tidbits, and additional analysis on a variety of happenings around the NHL. With the first game starting just a half past noon, be ready for a full day of massively important hockey.
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