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WATCH LIVE: Big implications in Ottawa Senators at Boston Bruins

If the Boston Bruins or Ottawa Senators find themselves grumbling about a lack of home-ice advantage (possibly in a series), Thursday’s losing team could very well point to this setback.

Sure, the stakes might be a touch higher for Ottawa since they still need to clinch a playoff spot, but really, the Atlantic Division could see a lot of shuffling below the top depending upon how this week plays out.

With that in mind, this could be quite the interesting game to watch. You can check it out on NBCSN, online and via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.

Speaking of the Senators, they’re getting Cody Ceci back tonight.

NHL on NBCSN Doubleheader: Senators vs. Bruins; Blackhawks vs. Ducks

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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).

Bruins end playoff drought, deal enormous blow to Lightning’s hopes

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Considering all the Boston Bruins went through lately, it has to feel good to see Zdeno Chara score the goal that really made it clear that they’d clinch a playoff spot on Tuesday.

That 3-0 tally made a Tampa Bay Lightning rally unlikely, with the Bruins ultimately winning 4-0. In doing so, they punched their ticket to the postseason after two lost seasons.

Now, while the Bruins checked off the most important box in actually making it to the playoffs, there are still other matters to settle:

  • Will Brad Marchand face a suspension through the Bruins’ final two games of the season … and maybe even see his punishment extend into the playoffs? (More on that here.)
  • Who will they face in the playoffs? There’s a serious logjam in the Atlantic Division rankings, so we’ll see if the Bruins manage a round of home-ice or if they’ll settle for the third spot or fall to the wild card.
  • There’s no chance to move all the way to the top of the Atlantic, however. The Montreal Canadiens clinched the division title on Monday.

So, the Bruins still have a few pages to write in the story of their regular season, but they already know there will be a “To be continued” to the playoffs.

The Lightning, meanwhile, find themselves in a real bind. At 88 standings points and with just three games remaining on their schedule, it might just be a matter of time before the Lightning are eliminated.

If this game ends up being their undoing, then it will be a bitter way for Tampa Bay’s mad rush to end.

The Bruins can relate in falling just a few strides short of the playoffs … but they’re glad not to share in the Lightning’s misery in 2016-17.

WATCH LIVE: High stakes in Tampa Bay Lightning at Boston Bruins

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The first contest in NBCSN’s doubleheader is big for the Boston Bruins and enormous for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Bolts trail the Bruins by four points in the race for the East’s final spot, and while other Atlantic teams are in Boston’s zip code, Tampa Bay’s best way of making up ground is simply beating the Bruins in regulation.

Don’t expect the Bruins to make it easy, however, as playoff positioning could change dramatically if they can keep it together this week:

Atlantic at a glance (Montreal clinched division title)

2. Maple Leafs – 93 points in 78 games
3. Senators – 92 points in 78 games

Bruins – 92 points in 79 games
Lightning – 88 points in 78 games

Yep, as you can see, the Bolts’ most realistic route to the postseason is by beating the B’s, especially since Boston will only play two more games after tonight.

Check out this preview of both NBCSN games, which also includes a big contest for the Edmonton Oilers against the Los Angeles Kings. You can also watch this game online and via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream link.

No Stamkos tonight versus Bruins

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Steven Stamkos will not return for the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight in Boston (on NBCSN).

Stamkos (knee) didn’t participate in line rushes this morning, and he stayed on the ice after his teammates left. Head coach Jon Cooper then confirmed that his captain would not play.

This is essentially a must-win game for the Bolts. Four points back of Boston for the second wild-card spot, a loss would cripple their already-slim playoff hopes.

But the long-term health of their star forward takes precedence over a slightly better chance to beat the Bruins.

Forward J.T. Brown and d-man Jason Garrison will also miss tonight’s contest with injuries.