Push for the Playoffs: Hurricanes, Blue Jackets square off in huge matchup

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 Columbus Blue Jackets haven’t locked up a playoff spot just yet, but a win tonight would go a long way in solidifying their chances of making an appearance in the postseason. As you’ll notice below, the ‘Canes have a much better chance of getting in right now. On the other hand, that could change significantly with tonight’s result.

Carolina suffered an embarrassing result against the Winnipeg Jets last Friday, as they fell, 8-1, at home. How did they bounce back? Well, they went to Nashville and won, and they followed that up by winning in Colorado, 3-0. If you’re going to suffer an embarrassing home loss like that, you can’t let it linger at this stage of the season.

“There’s a level, a standard, the room expects every night and that’s to win,” Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour said after the win over Colorado, per NHL.com. In order to win, you have to play a certain way and compete a certain way. That’s what we’re getting night in and night out for the most part. We’ve had a little hiccup there, but other than that the group comes ready to play.”

After making all those “win-now” moves at the deadline, the Blue Jackets stumbled into the month of March. They dropped five of their first six games (their only win came in a shootout against the Devils), but they managed to get a huge win against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night.

After hosting the Hurricanes tonight, the Jackets will hit the road, as they’ll play in Boston, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver over the next week. This is an important stretch for this Jackets team, because they’re tied for the final Wild Card spot with Montreal, but they own a game in hand and they have more ROW victories. They have an opportunity to put some space between themselves and the Canadiens, and they have to do it if they want to play meaningful games in April.

IF THE PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY
Lightning vs. Blue Jackets
Capitals vs. Hurricanes
Islanders vs. Penguins
Bruins vs. Maple Leafs

Sharks vs. Coyotes
Jets vs. Blues
Flames vs. Golden Knights
Predators vs. Stars

TODAY’S GAMES WITH PLAYOFF CONTENDERS 
Flyers at Maple Leafs, 7 p.m. ET
Hurricanes at Blues Jackets, 7 p.m. ET
Golden Knights at Stars, 8 p.m. ET
Ducks at Avalanche, 9 p.m. ET
Rangers at Flames, 9 p.m. ET
Devils at Canucks, 10 p.m. ET

EASTERN CONFERENCE

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)
Lightning – In
Maple Leafs – 100 percent
Capitals – 100 percent
Bruins – 99.9 percent
Islanders – 99 percent
Penguins – 99 percent
Hurricanes – 91.6 percent
Blue Jackets – 67.6 percent
Canadiens – 37.9 percent
Flyers – 3.4 percent
Panthers – 1.6 percent
Sabres – Out
Rangers – Out
Devils – Out
Red Wings – Out
Senators – Out

WESTERN CONFERENCE

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)
Sharks – 100 percent
Flames – 100 percent
Jets – 100 percent
Predators – 99.8 percent
Golden Knights – 98.6 percent
Blues – 94.7 percent
Stars – 92.8 percent
Coyotes 64.4 percent
Avalanche – 20.9 percent
Wild – 18.9 percent
Blackhawks – 7.9 percent
Oilers – 1.3 percent
Canucks – 0.7 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
Rangers – 6.5 percent
Sabres – 6 percent
Oilers – 5 percent
Blackhawks – 3.5 percent
Avalanche – 3 percent
Wild – 2.5 percent
Panthers – 2 percent
Flyers – 1.5 percent
Canadiens – 1 percent
(*OTT’s 2019 first-round pick owned by COL)

ART ROSS RACE
Nikita Kucherov, Lightning – 115 points
Connor McDavid, Oilers – 100 points
Patrick Kane, Blackhawks – 99 points
Sidney Crosby, Penguins – 92 points
Johnny Gaudreau, Flames – 90 points

ROCKET RICHARD RACE
Alex Ovechkin, Capitals – 46 goals
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 42 goals
Patrick Kane, Blackhawks – 41 goals
John Tavares, Maple Leafs – 39 goals
Cam Atkinson, Blue Jackets – 38 goals
Alex DeBrincat, Blackhawks – 38 goals
Brayden Point, Lightning – 38 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.

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