Pregame Skate: First place once again on the line in Southeast

Pregame Skate: First place once again on the line in Southeast

By Adam Gretz | Hockey writer

The Pregame Skate is back. Every morning for the rest of the season we're going to take a look at the games that have the greatest significance in the push for the postseason for you to digest while you drink your java. We'll throw in some miscellany for the fun of it.

CapitalsMaple Leafs5 ET, Toronto at Washington: The Capitals are coming off a huge win in Boston on Saturday afternoon, and enter Sunday's game against the slumping Maple Leafs with an opportunity to reclaim the top spot in the Southeast division, if two things take place. 1) The Capitals have to beat Toronto, and 2) the Florida Panthers have to lose in regulation to the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Capitals have earned at least a point in six of their past eight games, but have had to rely on a couple of last minute comebacks to make it happen, including Thursday's game against Tampa Bay, and they're still going to be without defenseman Mike Green , who is serving the second game of a three-game suspension for an elbow to the head of Lightning forward Brett Connolly .

The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, enter Sunday's game still in a complete free fall mode, having lost 11 of their past 13 games, including a 1-0 shootout loss to the Flyers on Saturday night. Toronto enters the game trailing Washington -- currently in the No. 8, and final, playof spot -- by six points in the standings, with three other teams separating them. A win would go a long way toward keeping their slim playoff hopes alive. A loss would go a long way toward crushing them.

FlyersDevils7 ET, Philadelphia at New Jersey: Thanks to the recent slump by the New York Rangers both the Flyers and Devils (as well as the Penguins) suddenly have an opportunity to, perhaps, catch New York for the top spot in the division, and even if the chances are small, they're still larger than they appeared to be as recently as two or three weeks ago. New Jersey and Philadelphia hit the ice on Sunday night separated by two points in the fifth and sixth playoff spots in the East.

If the Rangers should happen to lose to the Islanders (not a given of course, but certainly a possible outcome) things would really get interesting in the Atlantic Division, not only with the Penguins recent winning streak, but because with a win the Flyers could find themselves just four points out of the top spot, while the Devils could climb to within six points with a win.

The Rangers are still the favorites at this point to take the division, but the footsteps behind them are starting to get louder.

Kings7 ET, Los Angeles at Chicago: The Kings offense has started to show some signs of life over the past couple of weeks (probably not a coincidence that it started when Jeff Carter arrived from Columbus) but they've still hit a snag over the past two games losing back-to-back games to Columbus and Detroit in frustrating fashion.

The loss to Columbus was bad because, well, it was to the worst team in the league, while the loss to Detroit hurt because the Kings managed to take a 3-2 lead with less than four minutes to play in regulation, only to watch the Red Wings answer with two goals in the final three minutes to win in regulation.

With Calgary, one of the teams the Kings are currently competing with for one of the final playoff spots in the West, in action against Minnesota, a win for the Kings seems like it would be a must against the Blackhawks. Though, that's certainly not going to be easy as Chicago seems to have found its stride once again, entering Sunday's game having won four of its past five games, including three of which that came against playoff teams Ottawa, New York and Detroit.

Others worth watching

12:30 ET, Boston at Pittsburgh: Sidney Crosby isn't playing quite yet, but it still should be a big one as the Penguins look to extend their winning streak to nine games.

5 ET, Carolina at Florida: Another big game for the Panthers in the Southeast division race.

6 ET, Calgary at Minnesota: Flames will look to keep pace in the constantly changing Western Conference playoff race, and also to extend their modest two-game winning streak.

7 ET, New York Islanders at New York Rangers: The Rangers lead in the Atlantic, and for the top spot in the East, isn't quite as comfortable as it once was.

Your promised miscellany
  • Saturday's winners and losers
  • No official CBA negotiations until June? Get excited.[ProHockeyTalk]
  • An interesting look at line change responsibilities, because a bad one can be very, very costly. [The Copper and Blue]
  • The Nashville Predators paid a steep price to get Paul Gaustad from the Buffalo Sabres, but so far it seems to be working out. [Puckscene]
  • Finally, unless you speak the language you're probably not entirely sure what's going on in this commercial from the Czech Republic featuring Flyers forward Jaromir Jagr ... then again, even if you do you still may not be sure. We're not sure if Jagr's acting skills are on par with his hockey skills.

Photo: Getty Images

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