Push for the Playoffs: Golden Knights still pushing for home-ice advantage

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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 Vegas Golden Knights’ second season hasn’t been as good as their first, but they’re starting to take off at the right time. Heading into tonight’s action, the Golden Knights are sitting in third place in the Pacific Division. They’re five points behind the San Jose Sharks, who are in second place, with six games to go. Can they make a run at the Sharks?

“I think that’s definitely on our mind,” forward Ryan Carpenter said of catching the Sharks. “I think as a group, this time of year we just want to be playing our best hockey and starting to peak. It’s been nice getting the wins, and just having this momentum and this confidence, and hopefully it will carry over…this time of year, these games seem to matter that much more and seem to be that much tighter.”

Some teams that made splashes at the trade deadline are having a hard time developing chemistry with some of their new players, but that hasn’t been an issue for Mark Stone. Since joining the Golden Knights, Stone has picked up four goals and four assists in 13 games. Those are modest numbers by his standards, but the chemistry between he, Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty is undeniable. The trio gives Vegas a formidable second line heading into the postseason. They won’t be easy to stop.

If the Golden Knights want to make a push up the standings, they’ll have little margin for error. They’re unlikely to catch San Jose, but a win tonight and a win in San Jose next Saturday would be huge for their chances of doing so.

“You keep winning. You keep playing. You don’t know who you’re going to meet in the playoffs. You don’t know who down the road. You get as many points as you can get,” head coach Gerard Gallant said. “And if we get home ice some time in the series, that’s great. If we don’t and start on the road, it’s no big deal, either… you’ve got to fight for points every night. When you go into a game and it doesn’t mean nothing, it’s no fun playing those games and we don’t want to do that. We want to play every game for a reason.”

Gallant’s words are nice, but their home/road splits suggest otherwise. The Golden Knights have a 23-10-5 record at T-Mobile Arena, but they’re just 19-18-1 away from home.

Can they go on another long playoff run without home ice advantage?

TODAY’S GAMES WITH PLAYOFF CONTENDERS
Maple Leafs vs. Flyers, 7 p.m. ET
Rangers vs. Bruins, 7:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN, stream)
Stars vs. Flames, 9:30 p.m. ET
Golden Knights vs. Avalanche, 10 p.m. (NBCSN, stream)

TODAY’S CLINCHING SCENARIOS
The Golden Knights will clinch a playoff berth:
• If they earn one point against the Avalanche

The Blues will clinch a playoff berth:
• If the Avalanche lose to the Golden Knights in regulation

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)
Lightning — Clinched
Bruins — Clinched
Capitals — 100 percent
Maple Leafs — 99.9 percent
Penguins — 99.8 percent
Islanders — 99.6 percent
Hurricanes — 93 percent
Blue Jackets — 56.3 percent
Canadiens — 51.4 percent
Flyers — Out
Panthers — Out
Sabres — Eliminated
Rangers — Eliminated
Devils — Eliminated
Red Wings — Eliminated
Senators — Eliminated

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)
Flames — Clinched
Jets — Clinched
Sharks — Clinched
Predators — Clinched
Blues — 100 percent
Golden Knights — 100 percent
Stars — 96.7 percent
Avalanche — 61.8 percent
Coyotes — 32.4 percent
Wild — 6.8 percent
Blackhawks — 1.4 percent
Oilers — 0.9 percent
Canucks — Out
Ducks — Eliminated
Kings — Eliminated

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

ART ROSS RACE
Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning — 121 points
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers — 112 points
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks — 102 points
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers — 99 points
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins — 94 points
Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins — 94 points

ROCKET RICHARD RACE
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals — 48 goals
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers — 46 goals
John Tavares, Toronto Maple Leafs — 45 goals
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning — 41 goals
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks — 41 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.