Race for the playoffs: Rangers and Hurricanes play for their playoff lives

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 playoff race

z-1. Washington – 107 pts (1 GR)
x-2. Philadelphia 104 pts (1 GR)
y-3. Boston – 101 pts (2 GR)
x-4. Pittsburgh – 104 pts (1 GR)
x-5. Tampa Bay – 101 pts (1 GR)
x-6. Montreal – 94 pts (1 GR)
x-7. Buffalo – 94 pts (1 GR)
8. Carolina – 91 pts (1 GR)
9. NY Rangers – 91 pts (1 GR)

z – clinched conference title
y – clinched division title
x – clinched playoff spot
GR – games remaining

New Jersey @ NY Rangers – 12:30 p.m. ET

It’s not the position the Rangers wanted to be in. Last week it seemed almost elementary that they’d make the playoffs but today they must get at least one point to put any pressure on Carolina to do the same tonight. If the Rangers lose in regulation, that’s it – season over. Carolina owns the tiebreakers on the Rangers, which right now means that they’ve got more regulation/overtime wins than New York (35 to 34).

Should the Rangers win in regulation and Carolina wins in the shootout, the edge still goes to Carolina by virtue of better head-to-head record. While the two teams split their four games, Carolina won both of theirs in regulation while the Rangers won once in overtime (good) and once in the shootout (not good).

Should the Rangers get either a point for losing in overtime or the shootout or a win of any kind, they can force Carolina to either match them or equal them later tonight. With both teams sitting on 91 points today turns into a high-stakes game of “can you top this?” for the Rangers. Again, New York can’t afford a regulation loss today and a loss in overtime or shootout means they’ll be rooting doubly hard for Tampa Bay tonight.

Tampa Bay @ Carolina – 7 p.m. ET

Tampa Bay is locked in as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference and they’ll get to face either Philadelphia or Pittsburgh in the first round of the playoffs. Their fate is simple as they can’t move. Carolina won’t have to do any scoreboard watching at all as they’ll know what they have to do before they even hit the ice for warmups tonight. This game could turn out to be a meaningless playoff warm up for both teams if the Rangers lose in regulation as it would be set in stone that Carolina makes the playoffs as the eighth seed and has a first round date with Washington. If this game does turn out to be just a 60 or 65 minute practice for these two, you might see some drastically different lineups and starters in goal.

NY Islanders @ Philadelphia – 7 p.m. ET

The task is simple on paper for the Flyers: Win the game, win the division. A win by Philadelphia regardless of how they do it gives the Flyers the Atlantic Division title and the second seed in the playoffs. An overtime/shootout loss would put the pressure on Pittsburgh to beat Atlanta tomorrow while a regulation loss means Pittsburgh could get a point through any means to win the Atlantic. The fact that this comes down to the final game of the season for the Flyers is stunning considering how they’ve led the division virtually all season long. The Flyers have lost 14 of their last 20 games dating back to February 26 while the Penguins have stayed steady all along. Finishing fourth means facing Tampa Bay in the first round. Finishing second (or even third should Boston win out) means getting either Buffalo or Montreal.

Montreal @ Toronto – 7 p.m. ET
Buffalo @ Columbus – 7 p.m. ET

Two games will help figure out where Montreal and Buffalo sit in the standings. Should Montreal and Buffalo finish tied in points, Montreal will start the playoffs as the sixth seed. Buffalo still has a shot at sixth and a first round rematch with Boston if they earn more points than Montreal today. With the Sabres facing a hapless Blue Jackets team and the Habs taking on their bitter rivals from Toronto, nothing at all is set in stone here especially with Toronto breaking out a pair of prospects tonight in Joe Colborne and Hobey Baker Award finalist Matt Frattin.

Ottawa @ Boston – 1 p.m. ET

We’ll keep it simple here, a Boston win keeps them alive for a shot at the second seed. That’s the upside. The flipside of that is their first round opponent is going to be Buffalo or Montreal one way or another. The higher the seed, the better it is for home ice purposes in match-ups later on, of course. The secret highlight of this game is seeing former Merrimack College star Stephane Da Costa return to Boston for the first time since leaving college to go pro.

Habs prospect Juulsen out six weeks with fractured foot

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Tough news for the Montreal Canadiens and prospect defenseman Noah Juulsen on Thursday.

The Habs have announced that the 2015 first-round pick is expected to be sidelined six weeks after suffering a fractured foot on Monday.

The Habs selected Juulsen with the 26th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft following his 52-point regular season with the Everett Silvertips in the Western Hockey League.

This past spring, Juulsen appeared in two playoff games for the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps. He turned 20 years old in April and it seemed like the Habs were going to give him a serious look to make the NHL club out of training camp.  

“We like the way he skates and his transition game,” said head coach Claude Julien earlier this week, before the injury was revealed. “He’s going to get a chance to make this team and if he doesn’t he’s not going to be too far away.”

Fight Video: Lappin, Puempel land some good shots in preseason tilt

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Who says players don’t care about preseason hockey?

Matt Puempel and Nick Lappin are trying to earn spots on their respective clubs, so they know they may have to do the little things others aren’t willing to do to stick around in the NHL.

On Wednesday night, that involved dropping the gloves against each other. These two seemed to be in mid-season form when it came to throwing punches.

Neither player is considered a tough guy. Lappin had 17 penalty minutes in 43 games with the Devils last season, while Puempel has 28 penalty minutes in 79 career NHL games.

Here’s the video footage of the scrap:

By the way, the Rangers won 4-3 in overtime.

Flames say they were prepared to contribute $275M for new arena

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The arena situation in Calgary took another twist Thursday, with the Flames revealing that they had been prepared to contribute $275 million to a new arena.

The Flames released a nine-page report, which included the financial details of their proposed contributions. The organization said funding would also include $225 million from a Community Revitalization Levy, which would be generated from other developments in the immediate area around the arena.

Last week, it was reported that the Flames were no longer pursuing a new arena in Calgary. The club reiterated as much in their report Thursday.

“In a “small market” city, even one with an NHL team, a privately funded arena is not economically viable. The City’s proposal is just not workable (or even for that matter, “fair”, based on other arena deals in comparable cities),” the organization stated in the report.

“As a result, after over two years of discussions, we see absolutely no basis upon which a new arena agreement can be achieved with the City, and we have concluded that there is no point to continue the pursuit of a new arena in Calgary. Many, including us, believe Calgary is a terrific place for NHL hockey and we certainly have great fans. As such, we will strive to operate, as we have for the past 34 years, in the Saddledome for as long as we believe it is feasible.”

More from The Canadian Press:

The city proposed a three-way split on the cost of a $555-million arena, with the city and the Flames each paying $185 million and the remaining third raised from a surcharge on tickets sold to events in the new building.

Flames president Ken King contended the city’s plan amounted to the team paying the entire cost, or more, because the team considers a ticket surcharge paid by users revenue that belongs to the Flames and because they’d pay property tax back to the city.

The Flames current arena, the Saddledome, is now 34 years old and has drawn criticism in the past from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. In 2015, the Flames unveiled their plans for a new arena — the CalgaryNEXT project — with an original cost of $890 million.

The city said at the time that the original proposed plan was not feasible. This issue has since continued for over two years now. In June, Brian Burke said the Flames could leave Calgary without a new arena. King, himself, has said the current arena situation in Calgary is not “viable in the near or long-term.”

“That’s why we’re having this discussion is about a new facility,” King told the Calgary Herald. “So, if we’re successful in that initiative, our near and long-term future is here (in Calgary). If not, we have to decide what the alternatives are … Anyone can connect the dots to how many choices we have left.

“If we don’t get a deal, what are our choices?”

There was also this from the commissioner.

Kings outlast Canucks in first edition of NHL China Games

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The Los Angeles Kings came away with a 5-2 preseason win over the Vancouver Canucks in the first of the 2017 NHL China Games. This contest took place in lovely Shanghai.

Adrian Kempe got the ball rolling for Kings, as he scored the first goal of the game on the power play to make it 1-0 for his team (top).

Kings forward Tanner Pearson scored a great shorthanded breakaway goal to extend Los Angeles’ lead to 2-0 (check out the Pearson goal by clicking the video below).

The shorthanded goal against wasn’t the only issue the Canucks power play had in this game. Vancouver managed to score once on the man-advantage, but they finished the game 1-for-14 in that department (yes, it’s only a preseason game).

with Vancouver trailing 3-0 in the second period, Sven Baertschi finally got them on the board to cut the Kings lead to 3-1.

Markus Granlund made it 3-2 in the third period, but that’s as close as the Canucks would come to tying the score.

Pearson extended Los Angeles’ lead to 4-2 before Jeff Carter finished off the game with an empty-net goal.

These two teams will meet again in Beijing on Saturday at 3:30 a.m. ET.