Push for the Playoffs: Hurricanes, Canadiens look to build some cushion in East

Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2018-19 NHL season. We’ll highlight the current playoff picture in both conferences, take a look at what the first-round matchups might look like, see who’s leading the race for the best odds in the draft lottery and more.

The Carolina Hurricanes and Montreal Canadiens received some big help on Thursday in the form of the Columbus’ Blue Jackets loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins (read about it here), keeping both of them two points up  in the Eastern Conference Wild Card race.

Now they have a chance to help themselves on Friday night.

The Canadiens missed an opportunity to gain some ground with their loss to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday, but are right back in action tonight when they visit the Anaheim Ducks with Carey Price going for the franchise’s all-time wins record. A win would give them a four-point cushion over the Blue Jackets heading into the weekend with still one head-to-head meeting remaining on the schedule. Given where the Ducks are in the standings and how they have played for most of the season you have to think this is two points the Canadiens do not want to leave sitting on the table.

Carolina, meanwhile, looks to continue its white-hot play since the start of the calendar year when it plays host to the Winnipeg Jets. The Hurricanes are 19-6-1 since the start of the new year and would jump back into the third spot in the Metropolitan Division with a win over a slumping Jets team that is stuck in a back-and-forth race with the Nashville Predators for first place in the Central.

Elsewhere in the East, the Washington Capitals are facing a completely depleted New Jersey Devils roster and have a chance to regain the top spot in the Metropolitan Division with a win.

Out west, the Minnesota Wild are coming off of a massive win over the Tampa Bay Lighting on Thursday night to increase their current point streak to eight games. They have a chance to make it nine games in a row on Friday against the Florida Panthers. A win would increase their lead over the Arizona Coyotes to five points in the Western Conference Wild Card race.

IF PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Lightning vs. Canadiens
Islanders vs. Hurricanes
Capitals vs. Penguins
Bruins vs. Maple Leafs

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Flames vs. Wild
Predators vs. Stars
Jets vs. Blues
Sharks vs. Golden Knights

TODAY’S GAMES WITH PLAYOFF CONTENDERS
Minnesota Wild vs. Florida Panthers (7 p.m. ET)
New Jersey Devils vs. Washington Capitals (7 p.m. ET)
Winnipeg Jets vs. Carolina Hurricanes (7:30 p.m. ET)
Montreal Canadiens vs. Anaheim Ducks (10 p.m. ET)

Here is today’s Stanley Cup Playoff clinching scenario:

The Lightning will clinch a playoff berth:
• If the Canadiens lose in regulation at the Ducks.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Sports Club Stats)
Tampa Bay Lightning — 100 percent
Boston Bruins — 100 percent
Toronto Maple Leafs — 100 percent
New York Islanders — 99.4 percent
Washington Capitals — 98.4 percent
Pittsburgh Penguins — 95.2 percent
Carolina Hurricanes — 87.3 percent
Montreal Canadiens — 72.1 percent
Columbus Blue Jackets — 44.8 percent
Philadelphia Flyers — 2.2 percent
Buffalo Sabres — 0.5 percent
Florida Panthers — 0.2 percent
New York Rangers — 0.0 percent
New Jersey Devils — 0.0 percent
Detroit Red Wings — Out
Ottawa Senators — Out

WESTERN CONFERENCE

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Sports Club Stats)
Calgary Flames — 100 percent
San Jose Sharks — 100 percent
Winnipeg Jets — 99.9 percent
Nashville Predators — 99.7 percent
Vegas Golden Knights — 97.6 percent
St. Louis Blues — 96.5 percent
Dallas Stars — 87.7 percent
Minnesota Wild — 54.4 percent
Arizona Coyotes — 34.4 percent
Colorado Avalanche — 24.7 percent
Edmonton Oilers — 3.8 percent
Chicago Blackhawks — 0.8 percent
Vancouver Canucks — 0.6 percent
Anaheim Ducks — 0.0 percent
Los Angeles Kings — 0.0 percent

JACK OR KAAPO? THE DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE
Ottawa Senators — 18.5 percent*
Los Angeles Kings — 13.5 percent
Detroit Red Wings — 11.5 percent
New Jersey Devils — 9.5 percent
Anaheim Ducks — 8.5 percent
Vancouver Canucks — 7.5 percent
Chicago Blackhawks — 6.5 percent
New York Rangers — 6.0 percent
Edmonton Oilers — 5.0 percent
Florida Panthers — 3.5 percent
Buffalo Sabres — 3.0 percent
Colorado Avalanche — 2.5 percent
Arizona Coyotes — 2.0 percent
Philadelphia Flyers — 1.5 percent
Columbus Blue Jackets — 1.0 percent**
(*OTT’s 2019 first-round pick owned by COL)
(**CBJ’s 2019 lottery-protected first-round pick is owned by OTT. If top three, moves to 2020)

ART ROSS RACE
Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning — 108 points
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks — 96 points
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers — 94 points
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins — 87 points
Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche — 85 points

ROCKET RICHARD RACE
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals — 46 goals
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers — 41 goals
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks — 40 goals
John Tavares, Toronto Maple Leafs — 37 goals
Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning — 37 goals

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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