Posted on: March 16, 2011 3:29 pm
Edited on: March 16, 2011 3:30 pm
WHO CAN CLINCH: The Vancouver Canucks will become the first team to clinch a playoff berth (via securing the Northwest Division title) by earning at least one point tonight against the Colorado Avalanche.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Toronto Maple Leafs (30-30-10) at the Carolina Hurricanes (32-28-10), 7 pm ET.
The Maple Leafs could all but call off their bid to return to the postseason for the first time in since before the lockout with a loss tonight. Losers of four of their last five entering tonight’s contest at RBC Center, Toronto would slip to 12th in the Eastern Conference and fall to six points back of eighth-place Buffalo if they don't manage to secure at least a point.
The Hurricanes are coming off 1-0 victory over the Sabres, Carolina’s first road win in a month, and could pull even with Buffalo (76 points) with a victory. (Buffalo would remain in eighth since it has a game in hand, thus a better winning percentage.) Cam Ward made 44 saves against the Sabres on Tuesday as he made Brandon Sutter’s goal late in the first period hold up.
ALTERNATIVE VIEWING: Washington Capitals (41-20-10) at Detroit Red Wings (41-20-8), 7:30 pm, Versus.
There are only four games on the schedule tonight, but Versus will broadcast what should be a high-powered contest against two of the best teams in NHL. The Caps enter on a nine-game winning streak and we’ll get to see two Russian buddies, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk, go head to head.
GOLF WATCH: Edmonton Oilers have been mathematically eliminated.
-- A.J. Perez
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 14, 2011 4:29 pm
Edited on: March 14, 2011 4:54 pm
Tampa Bay Lightning (38-22-9) at Toronto Maple Leafs (30-29-10)
Air Canada Centre, 7 pm ET
SERIES: Tampa 3-0-0; Toronto 0-2-1
IMPLICATIONS: Tampa can pull within a point of fourth-place Pittsburgh in the conference standings and to within three points of Southeast Division-leading Washington. Toronto can climb back within fourth points of eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
BREAKDOWN: The Maple Leafs aren’t just looking to just avoid a season sweep by the Lightning. A victory is nearly a must to keep pace in the hyper-competitive East. There is currently one team (Carolina) between the Leafs and the eighth-place New York Rangers and there will only be a dozen games left on Toronto’s schedule after tonight. With the Atlanta Thrashers and a resurgent New Jersey Devils team on their tail, the Leafs might not to want to squander this home tilt.
Tampa has shut out the Toronto in each of the last two meetings and the Lightning have outscored the Leafs 10-3 overall this season. Martin St. Louis, Simon Gagne and Steven Stamkos each have two goals and an assist versus Toronto this season. The Lightning enter on a two-game skid.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Tampa Bay D Eric Brewer vs. Toronto D Dion Phaneuf. Brewer played more than 25 minutes in Saturday’s loss to Florida and he can expect a heavy workload again tonight. This is the final game the Lightning will be without defenseman Pavel Kubina, who was suspended three games for his hit to the head of Chicago’s Dave Bolland. Phaneuf, Toronto’s captain, logs nearly 25 minutes a game himself has thrown 161 shots on net, but only has four goals to show for it -- only two more than a season ago when he was limited to 26 games due to injury.
KEY STAT: 26.4. The average age of Toronto’s roster, the third-youngest in the NHL.
Photo: Getty Images