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NHL On NBC: Bruins wrap up regular season against Capitals

Following a two-year absence the Boston Bruins are headed back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The only thing left to determine is where they will finish in the standings and who they will end up playing in the first round. They could finish as high as second in the Atlantic Division and get home ice in the first round, or finish as low the second wild card spot and end up getting their opponent on Saturday, the Washington Capitals, in the first round.

Puck drop on Saturday is 3 p.m. ET and you can catch all of the action on NBC or on our Live Stream.

If the Bruins want to avoid the Capitals in round one (and they almost certainly would like to avoid that) a win on Saturday would accomplish that because it would give them a four-point lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs. At that point the Maple Leafs would only be able to tie Boston in the standings, while the Bruins would own the tiebreaker. That would lock Boston into a first-round matchup against either the Maple Leafs or Ottawa Senators.

The Bruins are starting to hit their stride at the right time of the season, owning an 18-9-1 record since Feb. 1 heading into Saturday’s game. They are currently riding a seven-game point streak (6-0-1).

After a miserable start to the season from a goal scoring perspective, it has actually been the Bruins offense that has been the driving force behind that late-season surge.

Brad Marchand, one of the players most responsible for that offensive spike, will not be in the lineup on Saturday afternoon as he serves the second game of his two-game suspension for spearing. It will cost him a chance at his first ever 40-goal season as he will end the regular season with 39 goals. With Marchand out, it will fall on David Patrnak and Patrice Bergeron to continue to help carry the load offensively.

The other issue for the Bruins on Saturday is that Torey Krug will also miss Saturday’s game as he is considered day-to-day with a lower body injury. Krug is by far the Bruins’ top-scoring defenseman with 51 points (eight goals, 43 assists) on the season. Zdeno Chara is second among the team’s defensemen with only 29 points on the season.

The Capitals, meanwhile, have already wrapped up everything there is to wrap up in the regular season, having clinched the Metropolitan Division, the top seed in the Eastern Conference and their second consecutive Presidents’ Trophy (and third in the past eight years).

With nothing of consequence to play for this weekend, coach Barry Trotz had a simple message for his team on Friday: “Be on the plane, let’s make sure we play right and let’s finish strong.”

Finishing strong is already something the Capitals have been doing, carrying a 9-1-1 mark in their past 11 games into Saturday.

If the Capitals win their two games this weekend (against Boston on Saturday then on Sunday against the Florida Panthers) they will match their record and point total from a year ago.

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    Bruins can ill afford to lose Krug for playoffs

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    Torey Krug will not play tomorrow in the Boston Bruins’ regular-season finale against Washington.

    And that’s all we know for now.

    Krug’s status for the playoffs remains unclear after he left Thursday night’s shootout loss to Ottawa with a lower-body injury.

    Today, head coach Bruce Cassidy would only say that the 25-year-old defenseman is day-to-day. (Ditto for forward Noel Acciari, who’s got an upper-body injury.)

    One of the top point-producing defensemen in the NHL, the Bruins can ill afford to lose Krug (8G, 43A). He’s a big part of their dangerous power play, and only Zdeno Chara averages more ice time.

    Of course, the wild card in all this is Charlie McAvoy, the 19-year-old d-man currently with AHL Providence.

    From CSN New England:

    President Cam Neely said just hours before the game on Felger & Mazz that the Bruins didn’t plan to use McAvoy at the NHL level this season — one benefit is that it wouldn’t burn a year off McAvoy’s rookie deal; if he plays even one game in the NHL this season it would enable him to hit free agency sooner — but Neely also added if “there’s an opportunity where we think he can help us when we need him, then that’s a different story.” 

    The Bruins still don’t know who they’ll be facing in the first round. Most likely, it’ll be Ottawa, but Toronto and Washington are also possible opponents.

    Whoever they play, they’d love to have Krug. But if they don’t, it’ll be interesting to see what they decide with McAvoy.

    Senators clinch playoff spot, move ahead of Bruins

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    First, the Ottawa Senators made sure that they’ll make the playoffs by clinching a spot. By beating the Boston Bruins 2-1 via a shootout, they put themselves in a solid position to grab home-ice for a round.

    While the contest hasn’t been a thrill ride, the Senators deserve some credit for getting this key win with Erik Karlsson out of the lineup.

    As a bonus, Viktor Stalberg also returned during OT after a hard hit by Adam McQuaid. Senators GM Pierre Dorion has to love that Alex Burrows‘ goal was the tying tally.

    A lot of things came up in Ottawa’s favor on this one. They managed a sweep of the Bruins, a swing that may just make the difference in the race for second in the Atlantic.

    Granted, there are still plenty of variables that can play out during the final few days of 2016-17.

    Here’s an update on the race for second:

    2. Senators – 96 points (37 ROW, 43 W) in 80 games
    3. Bruins – 95 points (42 ROW, 44 W) in 81 games

    Leafs – 93 points in 80 games after loss to Lightning.

    That’s quite the edge for the Sens, especially if Toronto ends up losing. The Senators host the Rangers on Saturday and then visit the Islanders on Sunday. The Bruins close out 2016-17 by facing the Capitals at home on Saturday.

    WATCH LIVE: Big implications in Ottawa Senators at Boston Bruins

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    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).