Push for the Playoffs: Jets looking to add some cushion to Central Division lead

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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 lead for the Central Division has flip-flopped back and forth lately, but the Winnipeg Jets can begin to distance themselves from the Nashville Predators with a win against the Washington Capitals on Sunday.

Winnipeg holds three games in hand over the Predators and a one-point lead in the Central. With Nashville dropping a 5-3 decision to the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday (a team the Jets walloped 8-1 the night before), the Jets can add a bit of cushioning to their lead with a win.

Neither team has looked like it’s wanted to take the bull by the horns. Winnipeg has just four wins in their past 10 games and Nashville has only done one better. St. Louis, whose charge has put them in third place, have also cooled off (although they have two games in hand on the Predators and are four points back of Nashville, with both teams level on ROWs).

Winnipeg’s offensive onslaught on Friday night in Raleigh was a game Jets fans were wondering had gone. The once dominant Jets have hit a snag recent weeks, but are now winners of three of their past four games. Patrik Laine has found his game again and Blake Wheeler has traded his assist stick in for a goalscorer’s one.

Winnipeg’s strength of schedule is one of the worst down the stretch. This week alone, the Jets play Washington today, San Jose Tuesday, Boston on Thursday and Calgary Saturday. Every one of those teams is in a high-ranked playoff position.

IF PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY

Eastern Conference
Lightning vs. Blue Jackets
Capitals vs. Penguins
Islanders vs. Hurricanes
Bruins vs. Maple Leafs

Western Conference
Sharks vs. Wild
Jets vs. Stars
Flames vs. Golden Knights
Predators vs. Blues

TODAY’S GAMES WITH PLAYOFF CONTENDERS
Red Wings vs. Panthers (5 p.m. ET)
Jets vs. Capitals (7 p.m. ET)
Bruins vs. Penguins (7:30 p.m. ET — WATCH LIVE on NBCSN)
Golden Knights vs. Flames (9:30 p.m. ET)
Kings vs. Ducks (10 p.m. ET — WATCH LIVE on NBCSN)

EASTERN CONFERENCE

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Sports Club Stats)
Tampa Bay Lightning — Clinched
Boston Bruins — 100 percent
Toronto Maple Leafs — 100 percent
Washington Capitals — 99.4 percent
New York Islanders — 98.9 percent
Pittsburgh Penguins — 94.2 percent
Carolina Hurricanes — 88.7 percent
Columbus Blue Jackets — 68.1 percent
Montreal Canadiens — 44.1 percent
Philadelphia Flyers — 5.8 percent
Florida Panthers — 0.6 percent
Buffalo Sabres — 0.3 percent
New York Rangers — 0.0 percent
Detroit Red Wings — 0.0 percent
New Jersey Devils — Out
Ottawa Senators — Out

Western Conference

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Sports Club Stats)
Calgary Flames — 100 percent
San Jose Sharks — 100 percent
Winnipeg Jets — 100 percent
Nashville Predators — 99.5 percent
Vegas Golden Knights — 98.9 percent
St. Louis Blues — 98.6 percent
Dallas Stars — 80.2 percent
Arizona Coyotes — 44.5 percent
Minnesota Wild — 40.2 percent
Colorado Avalanche — 34.3 percent
Edmonton Oilers — 2 percent
Chicago Blackhawks — 1.7 percent
Vancouver Canucks — 0.2 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
Edmonton Oilers — 6 percent
New York Rangers — 5 percent
Buffalo Sabres — 3.5 percent
Florida Panthers — 3 percent
Colorado Avalanche — 2.5 percent
Minnesota Wild — 2 percent
Philadelphia Flyers — 1.5 percent
Montreal Canadiens — 1 percent

(*OTT’s 2019 first-round pick owned by COL)

ART ROSS RACE
Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning — 110 points
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks — 97 points
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers — 96 points
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins — 87 points
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche — 87 points

ROCKET RICHARD RACE
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals — 46 goals
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers — 41 goals
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks — 40 goals
Cam Atkinson, Columbus Blue Jackets — 38 goals
John Tavares, Toronto Maple Leafs — 38 goals


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck