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NHL on NBCSN Doubleheader: Red Wings at Flyers; Bruins at Sharks

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The 2015-16 season is winding down and the playoff picture is becoming increasingly clear, but the Wild Card spots in the East are far from decided.

The Philadelphia Flyers will have an opportunity to close the gap between themselves and the final playoff spot when they take on the Detroit Red Wings at 7:30 pm ET. You can watch the game on NBCSN by clicking here.

The Flyers enter tonight’s game trailing the Red Wings by three points. Philadelphia has two games in hand. Winning tonight’s game would improve their playoff chances significantly. A month ago, their chances of making the postseason looked slim, but their recent run has put them back in striking distance.

“The way we’re playing, [Detroit has] got to be more worried about not making the playoffs than us because … everybody knows how good we’re playing right now and everybody watches the games,” said injured forward Jakub Voracek, per CSN Philly.

The Red Wings are coming off a 1-0 loss (in regulation) to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday night. Detroit had their oppotunities, but they were unable to beat Jonathan Bernier. A win would have given them a five-point lead over Philadelphia and more importantly, they would’ve controlled their own destiny.

After the shutout loss to Toronto, the Wings decided it was time to give top prospect Anthony Mantha an opportunity to prove himself. The former 50-goal scorer in the QMJHL is expected to suit up in tonight’s crucial game.

After that game, NBCSN will have coverage of the Boston Bruins and San Jose Sharks starting at 10:00 pm ET. If you want to watch that game online, you can do so here.

 Neither one of these teams is in danger of missing the playoffs right now, but they both are battling for top spot in their respective divisions.

The Bruins are currently in top spot in the Atlantic Division by a slim one point margin. Boston has been terrific on the road this season (23-7-3), but their recent trips through California have been a bit of a disaster.

“Obviously, I’m sure someone’s going to bring it up, but our record against those teams is not the greatest. They’re always tough buildings to play in, and tough games to play against,” said goaltender Tuukka Rask, per CSN Boston. “We really have to bring our ‘A game’ in order to get some points out of the trip. It’s one of the most important times of the year and probably one of the biggest trips of the year. So we look forward to the challenge.”

The Sharks are five points behind the Kings in the chase for the Pacific Division crown. San Jose is also three points behind Anaheim for second spot in the division. Passing either one of those teams would give them home ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.

Like the Bruins, the Sharks are also playing some good hockey. They’re coming off an impressive win over the Washington Capitals. The Sharks have suffered just one regulation loss in the month of March.

“We’ve been doing a lot of stuff on video, it’s nice to be able to get out and practically work through some situations,” head coach Peter DeBoer said after Monday’s practice, per CSN Bay Area. “We had great jump today. A win always makes you feel better, especially against a good team. We’re in a good place right now.”

Bruins will wear green St. Patrick’s Day jersey during pregame warm up

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The Boston Bruins will be wearing green St. Patrick’s Day jerseys during their pregame warm up on Saturday afternoon.

You may be asking yourself why they’d celebrate St. Patrick’s Day today if it’s actually next week, but the answer is simple. This is their final home game before the big day.

The green jerseys are a hit with some, but they’re far from unanimous.

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Green jerseys aside, Saturday’s game against the Islanders is a huge one for the Bruins. As mentioned above, this is their final home game before they ship out for a four-game road trip that will take them to San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles and New York.

The Bruins are currently in first place in the Atlantic Division. They have a one-point lead over the Panthers, but Florida has two games in hand.

Video: Overtime win versus Bruins keeps Hurricanes in playoff hunt

David Pastrnak, Cam Ward
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The Carolina Hurricanes continue to hang around in the Eastern Conference playoff race, while the Boston Bruins moved to the top of the Atlantic Division standings.

Phillip Di Giuseppe scored the winner in overtime, although the goal was subject to a review, and the Hurricanes left Boston with a 3-2 victory on Thursday. The single point puts the Bruins ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic.

It’s also an important win for Carolina considering the Detroit Red Wings — now holding down the first Wild Card spot in the East — also won Thursday.

The Hurricanes remain four points back of the Detroit. They’re also three behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final post-season spot.

From the NHL’s Situation Room blog:

At 1:30 of overtime in the Hurricanes/Bruins game, the Situation Room initiated a review under the terms of a Coach’s Challenge to review whether a Carolina player interfered with Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask prior to Phillip Di Giuseppe’s goal.

After reviewing all available replays and consulting with NHL Hockey Operations staff, the Referee confirmed no goaltender interference infractions occurred before the puck crossed the goal line.

Here is how this game got to overtime:

Bruins’ forward David Pastrnak scoring his 10th of the season and busting the water bottle behind Cam Ward in the process with a shot to the top shelf.

Video: Bruins’ Liles catches Kucherov with elbow to the head

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Boston Bruins defenseman John-Michael Liles caught Nikita Kucherov with an elbow to the head as the Tampa Bay Lightning forward was trying to carry the puck over the Boston blue line during the first period of Tuesday’s game.

Kucherov was being pursued on the back check by Noel Acciari. Liles stepped up, throwing out the left elbow just as Kucherov crossed the blue line.

There was no call against Liles on the play. Kucherov was shaken up but did remain in the game.

Related: Bruins hoping Liles can bolster blue line for playoff run

Bruins hoping Liles can bolster blue line for playoff run

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 03:  Dale Weise #25 of the Chicago Blackhawks defends John-Michael Liles #26 of the Boston Bruins during the second period at TD Garden on March 3, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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In the last week, PHT has explored whether Christian Ehrhoff could be a “style fit” in Chicago and if Rob Scuderi “can still play” for the Kings.

So we’d be remiss not to write something about John-Michael Liles, and what he could possibly do for the Boston Bruins.

In case you missed it, the B’s picked up Liles from Carolina at the trade deadline, in return for prospect Anthony Camara, a third-round draft pick in 2016 and a fifth-round pick in 2017. A veteran defenseman with almost 800 NHL games of experience, Liles is 35 and in the final year of his contract.

In other words, this was not a move for the future. Liles was added, along with pending UFA forward Lee Stempniak, to help the B’s in the upcoming playoffs.

“I’ve seen him for a long time,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of Liles, per The Fourth Period. “He’s been in the league for quite a few years so nothing has really surprised me from him. We’re looking for that puck-moving part from our back end, having a good balance of guys that can defend well and having guys that can move the puck well and he’s brought that element to our hockey team.”

Last night, Liles logged 22:37 of ice time in Boston’s 5-4 OT defeat of the Panthers. Only Zdeno Chara (25:18) and Torey Krug (23:04) played more for the B’s.

Liles also registered an assist on Stempniak’s winner in three-on-three.

Now, granted, GM Don Sweeney could live to regret his actions at the trade deadline, which included not trading pending UFA winger Loui Eriksson.

But for the Bruins to make a playoff run, Sweeney obviously felt his much-maligned blue line needed an upgrade.

“He’s not what I call a prototypical shutdown defenseman, but if you spend less time in your own end you don’t have to defend,” said Sweeney, per the Bruins’ website. “I think we will have the ability to have a guy with experience that can move the puck and complement, again, some of the hard and heavy guys that we have and go in and play an important role going forward.”

For Boston, the future of the defense remains very much in doubt. Chara is 38; Dennis Seidenberg is 34; and even Jack Edwards can admit “there’s no alpha dog on the way.”

You know the saying, though.

“Once you’re in the playoffs,” said Liles, “anything can happen, and that’s what it’s about.”