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.

Caps re-sign Copley, who could be Holtby’s future backup

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Pheonix Copley, who returned to Washington this season as part of the Kevin Shattenkirk trade with St. Louis, has signed a two-year extension worth $1.3 million, the Caps announced on Wednesday.

The key wrinkle in the deal is that year one is of the two-way variety, while year two is of the one-way.

It’s worth mentioning because Philipp Grubauer — Washington’s current backup to starter Braden Holtby — is currently a restricted free agent, and believed to be have No. 1 potential.

The 25-year-old has capably served under Holtby for the last two years. He’s coming off an excellent campaign — 13-6-2, .926 save percentage, 2.05 GAA — and sounds like he’s ready to make the next step in his career.

“I would like to stay here; Washington is awesome and the whole organization’s been awesome the last couple of years,” Grubauer said, per the Post. “But I’m ready if the opportunity comes to make the next step and try to be a starting goalie somewhere.”

Grubauer was made available to Vegas at the expansion draft, but Golden Knights GM George McPhee opted to take blueliner Nate Schmidt instead. There are still rumblings that Washington might dangle Grubauer in trade talks.

Copley has a very small NHL resume — just two games, both with St. Louis — but fared very well with AHL Hershey last year. In 16 regular-season games he went 11-5-0 with a .931 save percentage and 2.15 GAA and, in the playoffs, went 5-4 with a .933 save percentage and 2.13 GAA.

Report: Ryan Miller may land in Anaheim

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The Anaheim Ducks might be getting a former Vezina Trophy winner as their backup.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, “there is a lot of expectation of Ryan Miller to Anaheim for approximately $1 million, although I’m not sure if bonuses will be added to that.”

Miller, an unrestricted free agent, has spent the last three years in Vancouver. The Canucks would like to keep him; however, his wife, Noureen DeWulf, is an actress, so Southern California has always been a potential landing spot.

Also, let’s face it, Miller would have a much better shot at winning the Stanley Cup with the Ducks, and that’s something the 36-year-old has never done.

As for the Ducks’ motivations, signing Miller would give them a viable starting option should John Gibson struggle or get hurt again. Recall that Anaheim’s last backup, Jonathan Bernier, had a tough time after he was forced into action in the Western Conference Final.

Related: What does the future hold for Ryan Miller?

Jets have contacted Mason about goalie gig

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Though most signs point to Brian Elliott in goal for Winnipeg next season — see here and here — there are other options out there.

Per the Winnipeg Sun, the Jets have reached out to ex-Flyers netminder Steve Mason during the free agent interview window.

Mason, 29, just wrapped the last of a three-year, $12.3 million deal with a $4.1M average annual cap hit. He’s spent the last four-plus seasons with the Flyers but, over the last two, had been part of a platoon with Michal Neuvirth.

Mason played 58 games to Neuvirth’s 28 this year, but didn’t fare especially well, finishing with a .908 save percentage.

We bring this up because whoever signs in Winnipeg will likely have to concede some starts to Connor Hellebuyck, the one-time goalie of the future that struggled mightily through ’16-17. Hellebuyck is still only 24 and the hope is that last year can be spun as a positive learning experience.

“We went through a growing period and the goaltenders were exactly like that,” head coach Paul Maurice said of Hellebuyck’s campaign, per the Free Press. “Put them back in the net after a tough night, yanked [Hellebuyck] early a bunch of times.”

The Sun reports that Winnipeg was “one of several teams that inquired about Mason,” which isn’t surprising. He’d make for a high-caliber backup and a likely upgrade in a number of markets.

 

Bruins re-sign Acciari — two years, $1.45 million

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Looks like Noel Acciari will be around Boston for the foreseeable future.

Acciari, who has spent most of his career shuttling between AHL Providence and the NHL, has signed a two-year, one-way deal worth $725,000, the B’s announced on Wednesday.

Acciari’s contract comes after he appeared in 29 games for the Bruins last year, scoring five points. He also appeared in four of the club’s opening-round playoff games against Ottawa, scoring once.

The former Providence standout, who went undrafted, caught on with Boston in ’15-16 and quickly worked his way into the mix at the NHL level.

There’s a pretty decent chance he’ll eclipse the 29 games played last year, especially if the club doesn’t return veteran forwards Dominic Moore and Drew Stafford, both of whom become unrestricted free agents on Saturday.