WHO CAN CLINCH: The idle Washington Capitals will repeat as Eastern Conference champs if the Philadelphia Flyers lose to the Buffalo Sabres in regulation, overtime or a shootout.
The Philadelphia Flyers will clinch the Atlantic Division title with either:
- a victory over the Sabres combined with Pittsburgh Penguins loss to the New York Islanders.
- an overtime loss to Sabres and a Penguins loss.
The Buffalo Sabres can secure a berth with either:
- they net a point against the Flyers
- the Carolina Hurricanes fall to the Atlanta Thrashers in regulation, overtime or a shootout.
The Nashville Predators will clinch a berth if either:
- they get at least one point against the Columbus Blue Jackets
- the Dallas Stars fall to the Colorado Avalanche.
The Phoenix Coyotes can clinch a berth one of three ways:
- a victory or a shootout/overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks
- the Stars lose to the Avalanche in regulation, overtime or a shootout.
- the Stars beat the Avalanche, but it’s in a shootout.
The Anaheim Ducks can secure a berth three different ways:
- the Ducks beat the Los Angeles Kings
- the Ducks get one pints against the Kings AND the Stars lose to the Avalanche.
- the Stars lose to the Avs in regulation.
The Chicago Blackhawks advance to the postseason with either:
- a victory over the Detroit Red Wings in regulation or overtime coupled with a Stars loss or if the Stars need a shootout to beat the Avs.
- the ‘Hawks beat the Wings in a shootout coupled with a Stars loss.
ALREADY IN: Vancouver, Montreal, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia, San Jose, Tampa Bay, Detroit and Washington.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Carolina Hurricanes (39-30-11) at Atlanta Thrashers (34-34-12), 7:30 p.m.
Any kind of victory will move the Hurricanes into the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, although they may want to take care of things in regulation or overtime. Sure, a shootout win will give them two points and that’d be enough to boot the New York Rangers out of eighth. That would, however, still leave the Hurricanes and the Rangers with the same amount of regulation/overtime wins (34) heading into Saturday. (The Rangers finish up against the rival New Jersey Devils, while the ‘Canes play Tampa Bay.) The ‘Canes still hold the second tiebreaker, a better head-to-head record against the Rangers.
All of the first five meetings between these two Southeast Division rivals have been one-goal games with four contests reached overtime. (One of the games also went to a shootout.) The Canes’ have won four of the five games with forward Erik Cole netting the game-winner Carolina’s three regulation/overtime wins. The road team has won nine of the last 11 meetings.
The Thrashers showed with their 3-0 victory over the Rangers Thursday that they don’t mind playing the role of spoiler. Of course, they could just as easily help the Rangers with a victory tonight. Atlanta goalie Ondrej Pavelec made 29 saves Thursday for his fourth shutout of the season.
ALTERNATIVE VIEWING: Dallas Stars (41-28-11) at Colorado Avalanche (29-43-8)
The Stars can either rein in their playoff destiny or get eliminated tonight. No pressure. Dallas will probably know by sometime during the second period of their game how the Blackhawks-Red Wings contest turned out. A ‘Hawks regulation loss coupled with a Dallas regulation/overtime win puts the Stars back in control heading into their finale against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday. (In that scenario, a Stars victory in the finale would mean an entry in the playoffs and would mark the first time a division has gotten all of its teams into postseason at once.) The Avs have one two of the first three meetings between these two clubs.
GOLF WATCH: The Stars will be eliminated with a loss combined with a regulation victory by Chicago. Calgary, Toronto, Atlanta, St. Louis, New Jersey, Minnesota, Ottawa, Florida, New York Islanders, Columbus, Colorado and Edmonton are already mathematically eliminated.
-- A.J. Perez
Photo: Getty Images