NBCSN’s coverage of the 2016-17 NHL season continues on Thursday, as the Boston Bruins host the Ottawa Senators at 7:00 p.m. ET. To watch the game online, click here.
The Bruins clinched a playoff spot earlier this week and the Ottawa Senators will likely do the same tonight. These two teams are actually tied for second in the Atlantic Division with 94 points, but Ottawa has a game in hand.
Tonight’s game is huge because although the Sens have played one less game, they trail the Bruins in regulation/overtime wins (Boston has five more).
So this game will go a long way in determining who will have home ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs. But the team that loses tonight’s tilt could also find themselves in the second Wild Card spot before the end of the night if the Maple Leafs win their game.
Since losing four games in a row in late March, the Bruins have rattled off six straight wins over Islanders, Predators, Stars, Panthers, Blackhawks and Lightning.
Later today, we’ll find out if Boston will have Brad Marchand in their lineup. The Bruins forward will have a hearing with the Department of Player Safety for his spear on Lightning defenseman Jake Dotchin.
Ottawa could be without defenseman Erik Karlsson, as he continues to battle a foot injury. Karlsson left Ottawa’s last game against Detroit, but he eventually came back to the bench. He didn’t hit the ice in the last 14 minutes of the game.
In the late game, it’ll be the battle of first-place teams with the Anaheim Ducks hosting the Chicago Blackhawks at 10:00 p.m. ET. To stream that game live, click here.
For most of the season, the Ducks found themselves in second or third in the Pacific Division, but thanks to their improved play and San Jose’s recent struggles, they’ve managed to climb to the top of the hill.
There’s a few reasons why they’ve been able to get hot. First, backup goalie Jonathan Bernier was terrific while filling in for the injured John Gibson. Second, the Ducks’ top players are producing like top players again.
Ryan Getzlaf has piled up 30 points in his last 24 games and he’s likely going to hit the 70-point mark again this season, while Corey Perry, who’s been a huge disappointment, has started putting the puck in the net with a little more regularity.
The Blackhawks have been in a similar situation to the Ducks this year. They spent most of the first half of the season in second place behind Minnesota, but thanks to the Wild’s huge collapse, the ‘Hawks have managed to move into first in the Central.
Chicago is coming off back-to-back losses to Boston and Colorado, but they’ve also started resting players (Duncan Keith didn’t play against the Avs).
The ‘Hawks don’t have much to play for at this point. The Ducks can’t pass them for the Western Conference crown, so they’ll have home-ice advantage throughout the first three rounds of the playoffs (if they make it that far).