Push for the Playoffs: Hurricanes look to keep climbing standings

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 have been on a roll over the last few weeks. Outside of an embarrassing 8-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Friday, the ‘Canes have done a great job of collecting points in the standings. That loss to the Jets is the only one they’ve suffered in regulation since Feb. 21. You’d think that this recent surge would put them in a secure spot when it comes to the playoffs, but they haven’t locked anything up just yet.

As of right now, the Hurricanes are sitting in the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference thanks to their 81 points. They’re two points up on Columbus, who owns the second Wild Card spot, and two points up on Montreal, who is out of the postseason picture (Carolina has a game in hand).

Even though tonight’s matchup against Colorado is a non-conference game, it still looms large for both teams. The Avs have their own playoff battle going on, which means they need the points just as much as Carolina does.

Instead of looking behind them, the Hurricanes can also look ahead. Pittsburgh is simply two points ahead. A Carolina win in regulation or overtime would allow them to move in front of the Pens for third in the Metropolitan Division.

“It’s been the story of the year,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said after Saturday’s win over Nashville, per the News & Observer. “We’re a battling team. We’re working hard, but we’re making mistakes just like everyone else. We need big saves at key times, and that’s what we’ve been getting.”

Can the Hurricanes finally get back into the playoffs?

TODAY’S GAMES WITH PLAYOFF CONTENDERS
Lightning at Maple Leafs, 7:00 p.m. ET
Blue Jackets at Islanders , 7:00 p.m. ET
Senators at Flyers, 7:00 p.m. ET
Sharks at Wild, 8:00 p.m. ET (NBCSN, live stream)
Coyotes at Blackhawks, 8:30 p.m. ET
Hurricanes at Avalanche, 9:00 p.m. ET
Rangers at Oilers, 9:00 p.m. ET

EASTERN CONFERENCE

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Sports Club Stats)
Lightning – In
Bruins – 100 percent
Maple Leafs – 100 percent
Capitals – 99.7 percent
Islanders – 98.8 percent
Penguins – 96.7 percent
Hurricanes – 88.1 percent
Blue Jackets – 67.5 percent
Canadiens – 42.6 percent
Flyers – 5.4 percent
Panthers – 0.9 percent
Sabres – 0.3 percent
Rangers – 0 percent
Devils – Out
Red Wings – Out
Senators – Out

WESTERN CONFERENCE

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Sports Club Stats)
Sharks – 100 percent
Flames – 100 percent
Jets – 100 percent
Predators – 99.5 percent
Golden Knights – 99 percent
Blues – 98.6 percent
Stars – 80 percent
Coyotes 44.3 percent
Wild – 40.3 percent
Avalanche – 34.6 percent
Oilers – 2 percent
Blackhawks – 1.7 percent
Canucks – 0.2 percent
Ducks – 0 percent
Kings – 0 percent

JACK OR KAAPO? THE DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE
Senators – 18.5 percent*
Red Wings – 13.5 percent
Kings – 11.5 percent
Devils – 9.5 percent
Ducks – 8.5 percent
Canucks – 7.5 percent
Blackhawks – 6.5 percent
Oilers – 6 percent
Rangers – 5 percent
Sabres – 3.5 percent
Panthers – 3 percent
Avalanche – 2.5 percent
Wild – 2 percent
Flyers – 1.5 percent
Canadiens – 1 percent
(*OTT’s 2019 first-round pick owned by COL)

ART ROSS RACE
Nikita Kucherov, Lightning – 110 points
Patrick Kane, Blackhawks – 97 points
Connor McDavid, Oilers – 96 points
Sidney Crosby, Penguins – 88 points
Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche – 87 points
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 86 points

ROCKET RICHARD RACE
Alex Ovechkin, Capitals – 46 goals
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 41 goals
Patrick Kane, Blackhawks – 40 goals
Cam Atkinson, Blue Jackets – 38 goals
John Tavares, Maple Leafs – 38 goals
Alex DeBrincat, Blackhawks 37 goals

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Scroll Down For: