NHL Playoff Push: Playoff implications galore

The Ottawa Senators will need a win on Saturday night in Toronto as the Maple Leafs welcome Nazim Kadri back after his four-game suspension. (Nathan Denette/CP)

The NHL playoff push is our daily look back and ahead at the post-season picture as teams position themselves for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

If the season ended today…

(M1) vs. (WC2)

(A1) vs. (WC1)

(A2) vs. (A3)

(M2) vs. (M3)

Note: The NHL changed the playoff format last season. Click here for full details.

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 9.19.31 AM

Series we’d love to see: Montreal Canadiens vs. Washington Capitals –The best pure goal scorer going head-to-head with the league’s top goalie would be must-watch television.

What’d I miss? Cam Atkinson scored his second-career hat trick as the Blue Jackets beat the Blackhawks 5-2. However, the result had no real impact on the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Saturday’s game to watch: New York Rangers vs. Boston Bruins — The Rangers clinched a playoff berth Thursday and now their focus shifts to locking up the top seed in the conference. New York is 17-3-3 in their last 23 games and could have Henrik Lunqvist back in the net this weekend. On the other hand, the Bruins are 0-3-3 in their past six games and have fallen out of a playoff position. Entering Saturday, they’re tied in points with the eighth-place Senators but have fewer regulation wins. Ottawa also has a game in hand.

The rest of tonight’s sked:
-Nashville Predators vs. Washington Capitals — Capitals coach Barry Trotz takes on his former team at 12:30 p.m. ET.

-Florida Panthers vs. Montreal Canadiens — Canadiens have an opportunity to secure a post-season berth so they’ll start Carey Price in net against Florida.

-Ottawa Senators vs. Toronto Maple Leafs — Andrew Hammond was feeling the effects of a collision Thursday night and admitted that he’s not 100 per cent. The good news for Ottawa fans: Bob Cole will be on the call for Hockey Night in Canada (CBC).

-Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Detroit Red Wings — Tampa Bay can complete a four-game season sweep over Detroit.

-Anaheim Ducks vs. New York Islanders — Islanders expected to turn to goaltender Michal Neuvirth in an early afternoon game against Anaheim.

-Arizona Coyotes vs. Pittsburgh Penguins –Can the Penguins rebound after ugly loss to Carolina? Their play hasn’t been great lately.

-San Jose Sharks vs. Philadelphia Flyers –Flyers will be without forward Wayne Simmonds, who is out for the remainder of the season with a broken leg.

Fun Fact: The Canadiens are within five points of their highest total since managing 115 in 1988-89.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

If the season ended today…

(P1) vs. (WC2)

(C1) vs. (WC1)

(C2) vs. (C3)

(P2) vs. (P3)

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 9.20.11 AM

Series we’d love to see: Vancovuer Canucks vs. Los Angeles Kings — The Kings upset the Canucks as an eight seed en route to their first Stanley Cup victory in 2012. Would Vancouver get its revenge this time around?

What’d I miss? Minnesota scored three goals in the third period to beat the Flames 4-2…It was Minnesota’s fourth-straight win while Calgary was unable to gain ground on the idle Kings. The Flames remain one point behind Los Angeles (third place) in the Pacific Division and three points out of a wild-card spot…The Wild moved within one point of the Blackhawks, who fell 4-2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Saturday’s game to watch: Los Angeles Kings vs. Minnesota Wild — The Wild and Kings are trying to solidify their playoff chances. The Kings caught a break Friday night with the Flames falling to Minnesota. L.A. remains in third in the Pacific Division and still have a game in hand. Minnesota can jump past the Blackhawks and move into third place in the Central Division with a win Saturday. Chicago would still have two games in hand, however.

The rest of tonight’s sked:

-Nashville Predators vs. Washington Capitals — The Predators had lost nine of 11 before winning three straight.

-Anaheim Ducks vs. New York Islanders — The Ducks are 22-12-4 on the road this season. How will their body clocks adjust to the early start (1 p.m. ET).

-San Jose Sharks vs. Philadelphia Flyers — Sharks goalie Alex Stalock is expected to make his first start since Mar. 2.

-Columbus Blue Jackets vs. St. Louis Blues — Blues are getting healthier with Kevin Shattenkirk and Carl Gunnarsson expected to play.

-Dallas Stars vs. Vancouver Canucks (CBC) — Radim Vrbata has three goals and four assists in his past four games.

–Buffalo Sabres vs. Colorado Avalanche — The Avalanche are 10 points out of a wild-card spot.

Fun fact: Since Devan Dubnyk joined Minnesota, the Wild lead the NHL in goals allowed per 60 minutes (1.7) and team save percentage.