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Push for the Playoffs: Wild getting close to must-win territory

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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.

In Bruce Boudreau’s first 11 seasons as an NHL head coach he missed the playoffs just one time, the 2011-12 season that he split between the Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks (he was fired mid-season by the Capitals, then hired one week later by the Ducks).

Every year in which he has coached a full season behind a team’s bench, he has not only made the playoffs, but has also won eight division titles. His teams win. His teams make the playoffs.

If his Minnesota Wild do not once again start stacking some wins together over their remaining 11 games, he is danger of missing the playoffs for what would be his first time in a full-season as a coach.

Saturday could end up playing a decisive role in whether or not that happens.

The Wild, losers of three in a row and five of their past six, will be home to take on the New York Rangers in what is as close to a must-win game as you can get at this point in the season. They enter the day three points back of the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference, trailing a surging Arizona Coyotes team that gets to play at home against the Edmonton Oilers.

When you look at the remaining schedules for the two teams it is pretty clear that the Coyotes have an easier path down the stretch. Only four of Arizona’s remaining games come against likely playoff teams, while the Wild have to play nine such teams in their remaining 11 games, including one head-to-head matchup with the Coyotes.

So Saturday is probably a pretty big deal for the Wild given that they are playing a struggling Rangers team that just played the night before (and got crushed in the process) and have a pretty daunting schedule still ahead of then.

First, that matchup alone is a situation where the Wild have to come away with two points. Anything less than that would be a huge disappointment given the circumstances of where the Rangers are, where the Wild are, what they have in front of them, and everything that is at stake.

You simply can not drop this game if you are Minnesota.

A Wild win, combined with a Coyotes regulation loss, would bring Minnesota back to within a single point of that playoff spot and totally change the outlook for the final 10 games. Suddenly, you are right back in it.

But a loss, combined with a Coyotes win, would push them to five points out, and might be enough to crush their remaining playoff chances that are already looking slim.

It is also another huge day in the Eastern Conference Wild Card race as Columbus, Carolina, and Montreal are all back in action. After shutting out the Hurricanes on Friday night, the Blue Jackets visit the Boston Bruins, for what is the second of three games against them in a two-week span, while Carolina gets to what has been a dreadful Buffalo Sabres team. The Canadiens, who sit two points back of both the Hurricanes and Blue Jackets, are playing host to a Blackhawks team that enters the game having won four in a row.

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

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

TODAY’S GAMES WITH PLAYOFF CONTENDERS
Blues vs. Penguins (1 p.m. ET)
Islanders vs. Red Wings (1 p.m. ET)
Flames vs. Jets (7 p.m. ET)
Blue Jackets vs. Bruins (7 p.m. ET)
Blackhawks vs. Canadiens (7 p.m. ET)
Maple Leafs vs. Senators (7 p.m. ET)
Capitals vs. Lightning (7 p.m. ET)
Sabres vs. Hurricanes (7 p.m. ET)
Rangers vs. Wild (8 p.m. ET)
Oilers vs. Coyotes (10 p.m. ET)
Predators vs. Sharks (10:30 p.m. ET)

TODAY’S CLINCHING SCENARIOS
EASTERN CONFERENCE

The Lightning will clinch the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference:

• If they defeat the Capitals in any fashion and the Bruins lose in regulation to the Blue Jackets.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

The Flames will clinch a playoff berth:

• If they get at least one point against the Jets.

OR

• If the Wild lose to the Rangers.

The Sharks will clinch a playoff berth:

• If they defeat the Predators in any fashion

OR

• If they get one point against Nashville and Minnesota loses to New York in any fashion.

OR

• If Minnesota loses to New York in regulation and the Blackhawks lose in any fashion to the Canadiens.

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey-Reference)
Lightning — Clinched
Maple Leafs — 100 percent
Bruins — 99.9 percent
Capitals — 99.7 percent
Islanders — 99.4 percent
Penguins — 97.9 percent
Hurricanes — 86.4 percent
Blue Jackets — 76.1 percent
Canadiens — 36.8 percent
Flyers — 2.5 percent
Panthers — 1.3 percent
Sabres — Out
Rangers — Out
Devils — Out
Red Wings — Out
Senators — Out

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey-Reference)
Jets — 100 percent
Flames — 100 percent
Sharks — 100 percent
Predators — 99.7 percent
Golden Knights — 99.4 percent
Blues — 96.1 percent
Stars — 91. 4 percent
Coyotes — 68.6 percent
Wild — 22.3 percent
Avalanche — 10.8 percent
Blackhawks — 9.3 percent
Oilers — 2.3 percent
Canucks — 0.1 percent
Ducks — Out
Kings — Out

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
(*Senators pick belongs to the Colorado Avalanche)

ART ROSS RACE
Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lighting — 115 points
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers — 100 points
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks — 99 points
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins — 92 points
Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames — 91 points

ROCKET RICHARD RACE
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals — 46 goals
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers — 42 goals
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks — 41 goals
John Tavares, Toronto Maple Leafs — 39 goals
Cam Atkinson, Columbus Blue Jackets — 38 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.

Predators’ Arvidsson fined $2,000 under NHL diving policy

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NEW YORK (AP) — Nashville Predators forward Viktor Arvidsson has been fined $2,000 by the NHL under the league’s rules regarding diving and embellishment.

NHL Rule 64 was designed to penalize players who repeatedly dive and embellish in an attempt to draw penalties. A player gets a warning for a first citation and a $2,000 fine for the second citation.

League officials said Arvidsson received a warning following an incident Dec. 27 against Pittsburgh. His second citation occurred during an incident in the first period of a Jan. 7 game with Boston that resulted in coincidental minor penalties on Arvidsson and Bruins forward Brad Marchand.

Fine proceeds go to the players’ emergency assistance fund.

Fans troll with Tkachuk billboard, charities end up the big winners

Tkachuk billboard Kassian Flames Oilers
via CJAY 92
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Matthew Tkachuk‘s trolling made a great impact, and not just by earning the Flames a power play. Thanks to enterprising Flames and Oilers fans, a drive to put up a Tkachuk billboard in Edmonton morphed into something much more, raising a ton of money – more than $50K overall, it seems – for charitable causes.

It’s the sort of thing that might even make Zack Kassian smile.

[Catch up on the feud: Kassian threatens Tkachuk after suspension; witness the carnage]

This began with a modest Tkachuk billboard meant to gently torment

The ball really got (t)rolling when Mohamed Elsaghir (self-proclaimed “second most-hated man in Edmonton after Matthew Tkachuk) started a GoFundMe drive to put up Tkachuk billboards to torment Oilers fans.

CTV’s Glenn Campbell chronicles how that amusing idea morphed into something much bigger. Not only are Tkachuk billboards going up, but the process looks like it will raise at least $20K for ALS research.

The viral sensation drew the attention of Calgary radio station CJAY 92, which is owned by Bell Media. That connection made the billboards happen, and oh are the designs ever glorious:

With the billboards taken care of by CJAY 92/Bell Media, Elsaghir instead shifted the focus of that $10K donation drive to combating ALS. Elsaghir noted that proceeds will be donated to Snowy Strong for ALS in honor of Flames assistant GM Chris Snow’s battle with the disease. To make it even better, entrepreneur W. Brett Wilson pledged to match that $10K, pushing the money raised to $20K and counting.

Oh, and even that doesn’t cover the extent of the money raised by the raised ire between Tkachuk and Kassian.

Oilers fans get into the charitable, trolling spirit, too

Edmonton resident Samantha Costa made about a $25 donation to Calgary charity Brown Bagging It “in honor of Kassian.” That charity seeks to serve needy children with lunches. With that in mind, Costa ended her tweet with a nice barb:I chose @BrownBaggingIt so that kids can get a proper meal and grow up to be tougher than Tkachuk.”

Well, Costa’s tweet went viral, too.

To make this all more delightful, Brown Bagging It has been sharing updates that indicate this side of “The Charitable Battle of Alberta” will be competitive, too.

Wow.

Flames and Oilers meet again soon, and will get to see the Tkachuk billboard

Other NHL trash-talkers need to step their games up now, to be frank. Brad Marchand needs to lick this one now, is what I’m saying.

The Tkachuk billboard notes that the Flames – Oilers “the friendship tour” continues in Edmonton on Jan. 29. After that, the two teams meet in Calgary on Feb. 1. They also close out the regular season in Calgary on April 4.

Kassian vs. Tkachuk Part II already ranked as must-watch hockey, and a potential mess for the NHL. Following this inspiring charitable drive, it’s even more exciting. Honestly, “The Battle of Alberta” just keeps piling on reasons to cross our fingers for a playoff series.

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.

Pass or Fail: LA Kings’ 2020 Stadium Series jerseys

adidas / Kings
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One day after the Colorado Avalanche showed off their jerseys for next month’s Stadium Series game, the Los Angeles Kings revealed what they will wear when they hit the ice at at Falcon Stadium on Feb. 15 (8 p.m. ET; NBC).

As is tradition for Stadium Series games, the design is very unique and out there. The black, white, and silver is there along with the LA from their regular jerseys “taking flight” since the game will take place on the campus of the Air Force Academy.

adidas / Kings

Now while you’re maybe distracted by the black and white of the jerseys and the sweet white gloves, do not overlook one neat feature: the shiny silver helmets.

adidas / Kings

Some additional notes from adidas:

Crest: A new L.A. crest takes flight on diagonal bisected blocking, inspired by aircraft battle stripes.

Design: The architecture of the venue’s Air Force Academy, coupled with a pilot’s ambition to push to the edge, inspired the oblique angles used to shape the jersey’s typography and numbering. A checkerboard design graphic is implemented along the neckline.

What do you think? The black, white, and silver against the burgundy, blue, and white will be an interesting look on the ice.

MORE: Avalanche reveal 2020 Stadium Series jersey

The 2020 Stadium Series game between the Avalanche and Kings will take place Feb. 15 at Air Force Academy’s Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo.. The game will air on NBC at 8 p.m. ET.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Bad news on Hurricanes’ Hamilton: broken bone in leg

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(Update: the Hurricanes announced that Dougie Hamilton underwent leg surgery. The timeline remains unclear, as he’s considered out indefinitely.)

The Carolina Hurricanes and others hoped that Hamilton’s nasty injury looked worse than it was. Unfortunately, the result is pretty bad: Hamilton suffered a broken fibula (broken bone in his left leg) on Thursday.

You can watch and cringe at Hamilton’s bad luck in the video above.

Michael Smith of the Hurricanes website confirmed the broken fibula, stating that Hamilton may undergo surgery as soon as Friday. Smith noted that a recovery timeline might become known later tonight. Either way, it’s clear that this is a huge loss for the Hurricanes.

Hurricanes teammate Jaccob Slavin replaced Hamilton on the 2020 NHL All-Star Game roster.

What Hamilton broken fibula injury might mean to Hurricanes

The Hurricanes face a small margin of error after losing Hamilton and Thursday’s game to the Blue Jackets. Looking at the standings, it’s tough to imagine them wading into the Metro’s top three, while the bubble race could be tight:

Speculating on how long Hamilton might be out is pretty tricky. A commenter in this thread pointed out that Jason Zucker returned from a break in as little as four weeks. On the other hand, Nick Kypreos notes that Hamilton’s Hurricanes teammate Jordan Staal missed half of a season with a similar injury.

Plenty of injuries are tough to figure, and that’s quite true with breaks.

The bottom line is that even an optimistic recovery window would be painful for Carolina. Earlier in January, Adam Gretz broke down why Hamilton ranks as one of the best defensemen in the NHL.

In a nutshell: Hamilton provides explosive offensive (14 goals[!] and 40 points [!!] in 47 games this season) while being better defensively than his critics realize. This Hockey Viz Heat Map tells much of the story:

So, yeah, this hurts a lot for Hurricanes team that could be in quite the battle (most likely) for one of the East’s two wild-card spots. Perhaps it might even push the Hurricanes to try to find some help on the trade market?

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.