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WATCH LIVE: Washington Capitals at Boston Bruins

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The Boston Bruins close out their 2016-17 regular season schedule with a game against one of their possible first-round opponents, the Washington Capitals.

If the Bruins are able to win on Saturday afternoon it would pretty much eliminate any chance of having to play Washington in the opening round and keep them in the far more favorable Atlantic Division bracket. So there is some incentive to make sure they win this game.

The Capitals, meanwhile, have already locked up everything and are simply looking to continue their strong finish into the playoffs.

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

Click here for the Live Stream.

Preview: Bruins wrap up regular season against Capitals

NHL On NBC: Bruins wrap up regular season against Capitals

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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.

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.