Ryan Clowe, Jon Quick

Race for the playoffs: Two games with major playoff implications tonight

With the season winding down and the playoff picture sorting itself out, we’ll be taking a look at the night’s games and how they’ll potentially affect the playoff races. This is ProHockeyTalk’s “Race for the Playoffs.”

Eastern Conference

x-1. Philadelphia 103 pts (3 GR)
x-2. Washington – 103 pts (3 GR)
y-3. Boston – 99 pts (4 GR)
x-4. Pittsburgh – 100 pts (3 GR)
x-5. Tampa Bay – 99 pts (3 GR)
6. Montreal – 91 pts (3 GR)
7. Buffalo – 90 pts (3 GR)
8. NY Rangers – 89 pts (3 GR)
9. Carolina – 87 pts (3 GR)
10. Toronto – 84 pts (3 GR)

y – clinched division title
x – clinched playoff spot

Boston @ NY Rangers – 7:30 p.m. ET

Boston has the Northeast Division under wraps and a top three seed guaranteed. They’ve still got a shot at moving up in the Eastern Conference and earning a better seed than third overall however and that’s their motivation in this game. They’d also love to put a hurting on the Rangers chances of the playoffs. The Rangers are coming off a big shootout win over Philly yesterday afternoon but the Sabres win over Carolina in overtime put the Rangers back in eighth place just two points ahead of the Hurricanes for eighth in the East.

Both teams have something at stake in this game, but for the Rangers it’s a bit more intense with their shot at the postseason hanging on each of their final three games. If the Rangers lose to Boston, they’ll have games at home against Atlanta and New Jersey to try and win to stay in the postseason picture. As it is, fans of Carolina and Toronto are huge Bruins fans on this night.

Western Conference

p – 1. Vancouver – 113 pts (3 GR)
y-2. Detroit – 102 pts (3 GR)
x-3. San Jose – 101 pts (4 GR)
4. Los Angeles – 96 pts (4 GR)
5. Phoenix – 96 pts (3 GR)
6. Nashville – 95 pts (3 GR)
7. Anaheim – 93 pts (3 GR)
8. Chicago – 92 pts (4 GR)
9. Calgary – 91 pts (2 GR)
10. Dallas – 89 pts (4 GR)

p- clinched Presidents’ Trophy
z – clinched conference title
y – clinched division title
x – clinched playoff spot

Los Angeles @ San Jose – 10 p.m. ET

For the Kings their task is simple on paper. A win in any form puts the Kings into the playoffs. Earning just a point gets them right on the precipice of the postseason but would require a loss of any kind by Dallas to put them into the postseason. For San Jose, a win regardless of whether it’s in regulation or not wraps up the Pacific Division and a top three seed in the Western Conference playoffs. While the Sharks have the division essentially wrapped up, their battle lies with Detroit for the #2 seed in the conference. A Sharks loss keeps the window open ever so slightly for the Kings or Coyotes to have a shot at the divisional crown. Either way, expect a playoff-like atmosphere between these two teams with so much at stake.

The Sharks roll into this one winners of three in a row while the Kings have won five of their last six. Expect both teams to come into this one on fire and ready to roll.

Jason Demers tweets #FreeTorres, gets mocked

Los Angeles Kings v San Jose Sharks - Game One

Following his stunning 41-game suspension, it looks like Raffi Torres has at least one former teammate in his corner.

We haven’t yet seen how the San Jose Sharks or the NHLPA are reacting to the league’s hammer-dropping decision to punish Torres for his Torres-like hit on Jakob Silfverberg, but Jason Demers decided to put in a good word for Torres tonight.

It was a simple message: “#FreeTorres.”

Demers, now of the Dallas Stars, was once with Torres and the Sharks. (In case this post’s main image didn’t make that clear enough already.)

Perhaps this will become “a thing” at some point.

So far, it seems like it’s instead “a thing (that people are making fun of).”

… You get the idea.

The bottom line is that there are some who either a) blindly support Torres because they’re Sharks fans or b) simply think that the punishment was excessive.

The most important statement came from the Department of Player Safety, though.

Bruins list Chara on IR, for now

Zdeno Chara

Those who feel as though the Boston Bruins may rebound – John Tortorella, maybe? – likely rest some of their optimism on the back of a healthy Zdeno Chara.

It’s possible that he’s merely limping into what may otherwise be a healthy 2015-16 season, but it’s definitely looking like a slow start thanks to a lower-body injury.

The latest sign of a bumpy beginning came on Monday, as several onlookers (including CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty) pointed out that Chara was listed on injured reserve.

As Haggerty notes, that move is retroactive to Sept. 24, so his status really just opens up options for the Bruins.

Still … it’s a little unsettling, isn’t it?

The Bruins likely realize that they need to transition away from their generational behemoth, but last season provided a stark suggestion that may not be ready yet. Trading Dougie Hamilton and losing Dennis Seidenberg to injury only make them more dependent on the towering 38-year-old.

This isn’t really something to panic about, yet it might leave a few extra seats open on the Bruins’ bandwagon.