NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight with a doubleheader. The Detroit Red Wings host the Boston Bruinns from Joe Louis Arena at 8:00 p.m. ET followed by the Los Angeles Kings hosting the Phoenix Coyotes from Staples Center at 10:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.
The season is winding down quickly and that means many games come with a little added pressure. Two of those come your way tonight on NBCSN.
It starts in Detroit where the Red Wings have a tenuous hold on the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Wings have a one point lead on Columbus and are two points ahead of Toronto, three ahead of Washington, and four up on New Jersey. There are just enough games for everyone that any loss can be a playoff dream-killer and that puts the Bruins in a special sort of position.
The Bruins’ next two games are with the Red Wings tonight and the Maple Leafs tomorrow. As the top team in the Eastern Conference they’ll have a strong hand in helping shape who they’ll get to face in the first round of the playoffs. That means their choice of which game to start Tuukka Rask or Chad Johnson could have major ramifications.
The Red Wings have played a bit more consistent lately due to the play of Gustav Nyquist, they’ll be getting Pavel Datsyuk back from injury soon, and Jimmy Howard has been strong and steady. That sounds like the kind of team no one wants to face in the playoffs. The Bruins will hope Jarome Iginla will have flashbacks of facing the Wings in postseasons gone by and try to do his part to keep them down.
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Things are a bit dicier out West for the Phoenix Coyotes.
The Coyotes fell out of the second wild card spot last night after losing in a shootout to Winnipeg while the Dallas Stars blew out the Washington Capitals. The Coyotes and Stars each have 85 points, but the Stars have four more regulation/overtime wins. Making up ground in that category isn’t likely, so it’s up to the Coyotes to do it the old-fashioned way and just win.
Standing in their way tonight is a team that’s made life miserable for them in the Los Angeles Kings and the Coyotes are catching them at absolutely the wrong time. L.A. has won 14 of the past 18 but are coming off a loss to the Minnesota Wild on Monday.
Coyotes-Kings games bring out a lot of bad blood and perhaps that spark is what Shane Doan and Thomas Greiss need to close out strong. They’ll have to do their part to wrangle Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty, and their hated nemesis Dustin Brown to make it happen. Even if they do that, Jonathan Quick is still back there to keep them off the board.
It might not be the playoffs yet, but these games are as close as it will get until then.