Push for the Playoffs: Hurricanes, Penguins battle for third in Metro

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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.

There will be no shortage of motivation for the Carolina Hurricanes and the Pittsburgh Penguins when they lock horns on Sunday.

Neither team has locked up a playoff spot yet, so that’s a priority No. 1. A win for either team would go a long way to achieving that goal. But the battle for third place in the Metropolitan Division is also up for grabs in this one, too.

That’s important, as seeding in the Eastern Conference could mean the difference between playing the New York Islanders and the Tampa Bay Lightning. And that’s no disrespect to the Islanders, but no one wants to face Tampa early on in the postseason.

Carolina could leapfrog the third-place Penguins with a regulation win while Pittsburgh could put a stranglehold on that top-three spot if they’re to find a victory.

The benefit for the Penguins is they had Saturday off, a chance to lick their wounds after a 3-1 loss to the Nashville Predators. Carolina, meanwhile, will have to contend with playing in the second game of a back to back, having beaten the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 a day earlier.

Carolina’s plight is slightly more worrying in that they have the Columbus Blue Jackets and their four-game winning streak hot on their heels. Columbus also plays Sunday, also in the second game of a back to back, and a slip up by the Hurricanes could have them sitting in a more precarious position in the second and final wild card.

So, suffice it to say, the stakes are pretty high between the Hurricanes and the Penguins to end the penultimate weekend on the NHL calendar.

TODAY’S GAMES WITH PLAYOFF CONTENDERS
Wild at Coyotes, 5 p.m. ET
Hurricanes at Penguins, 5 p.m.  ET
Blue Jackets at Sabres at 6 p.m. ET
Bruins at Red Wings, 7:30 p.m. ET — Watch Live on NBCSN
Flames at Sharks, 8 p.m. ET

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

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

TODAY’S CLINCHING SCENARIOS

The Calgary Flames will clinch the Pacific Division title and the top seed in the Western Conference if… 

• they win in any fashion against the San Jose Sharks.

The Dallas Stars (idle) will clinch a playoff berth if…

• the Arizona Coyotes lose in any fashion.

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)
Lightning — Clinched
Bruins — Clinched
Capitals — Clinched
Islanders —  Clinched
Maple Leafs — 100 percent
Penguins — 98.4 percent
Hurricanes — 87.5 percent
Blue Jackets — 86 percent
Canadiens — 28.1 percent
Flyers — Eliminated
Panthers — Eliminated
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 — Clinched
Golden Knights — Clinched
Stars — 99.8 percent
Avalanche — 82 percent
Coyotes — 11.2 percent
Wild — 6.5 percent
Blackhawks — 0.5 percent
Oilers — Eliminated
Canucks — Eliminated
Ducks — Eliminated
Kings — Eliminated

 

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

ART ROSS RACE
Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning — 122 points
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers — 114 points
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks — 105 points
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers — 101 points
Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins — 97 points

ROCKET RICHARD RACE
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals — 51 goals
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers — 47 goals
John Tavares, Toronto Maple Leafs — 45 goals
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning — 41 goals
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks — 41 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