2018 NHL Draft Lottery Watch: Should-lose games

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By defeating the Wild 4-1 on Saturday, the Stars kept their very thin playoff hopes alive, most likely delaying the inevitable.

Meanwhile, the Florida Panthers are in danger of falling out of the East playoff races after dropping three straight games. Losing to Carolina tonight wouldn’t mathematically eliminate Florida, but would almost guarantee that they’d start looking at the lottery rankings toward the end.

[Playoff push]

Tank watch
1 – Sabres (18.5 percent), 62 points, 78 games, 24 ROW
2 – Senators (13.5), 65 points, 78 GP, 25 ROW
3 – Coyotes (11.5), 67 points, 79 GP, 26 ROW
4 – Canadiens (9.5) 68 points, 79 GP, 26 ROW
5 – Canucks (8.5), 69 points, 79 GP, 30 ROW
6 – Red Wings (7.5) 71 points, 79 GP, 25 ROW
7 – Islanders (6.5) 74 points, 79 GP, 29 ROW
8 – Oilers (6.0) 74 points, 79 GP, 30 ROW
9 – Blackhawks (5.0) 74 points, 79 GP, 31 ROW
10 – Rangers (3.5), 77 points, 79 GP, 31 ROW
11 – Hurricanes (3.0) 81 points, 79 GP, 32 ROW
12 – Islanders (2.5) 82 points, 79 GP, 34 ROW (*Previously owned by CGY)
13 – Panthers (2.0) 86 points, 77 GP, 36 ROW
14 – Stars (1.5) 88 points, 79 GP, 36 ROW
15 – Blues (1.0) 92 points, 78 GP, 40 ROW

(The 2018 NHL Draft Lottery, to be held April 28, will consist of three drawings: the 1st Lottery Draw will determine the club selecting first overall, the 2nd Lottery Draw will determine the club selecting second overall and the 3rd Lottery Draw will determine the club selecting third overall.)

The Devils are the most likely team to fall into the bottom 15 if Florida leaps over them, although there’s a slight chance that Columbus or Philly could fall instead. Still, the Panthers need a lot to go right for any of those scenarios to happen.

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

Out West, the Blues have a strong chance to get out of this mix and into the playoff picture. It could very well come down to the Avalanche or Blues.

***

As far as already-eliminated teams go, bottom dwellers are generally facing higher-end teams that, in some cases, might be winding down as much as battling for positioning.

The Sabres, for example, face the Maple Leafs in Toronto. While the Maple Leafs would prefer to go into the playoffs on a high note, they’re locked into the third spot in the Atlantic, so this isn’t huge for them. Ottawa’s in a similar situation in facing the Jets, although Winnipeg has a slight chance to win the Central.

Edmonton faces a team a little more in the middle, as the Wild are fairly comfortably in third in the Central, but they do have some incentive to get that settled.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Hurricanes face a desperate Panthers team. Carolina’s unlikely to improve its lottery odds, but a strong finish could really drop the Hurricanes.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.