Push For The Playoffs: Crunch time for Canadiens, Coyotes

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Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2020-21 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 Coyotes are starting to run out of time in their quest for the fourth playoff spot in the West Division.

They enter Friday’s game trailing the Blues by five points in the standings, while St. Louis still has two games in-hand. That leaves the Coyotes with almost no margin for error over their remaining six games this season and means they almost have to run the table. Considering that Arizona has won just two of their past 11 games, that is going to be asking a lot. Especially as they start a two game set against a Golden Knights team that is fighting for the top spot in the division and has won 10 games in a row.

Vegas enters Friday’s game with a six-point lead over the second place Avalanche.

Colorado is also in action on Friday when it hosts the Sharks.

[Your 2020-21 NHL on NBC TV schedule]

Meanwhile, in the North, the Canadiens are still trying to hold on to their playoff spot, and it has suddenly started to get really close.

Montreal has been slumping down the stretch, and when combined with losing two out of three to the Flames, as well as Calgary’s Thursday night win over Edmonton, the gap in the playoff race has been narrowed to just four points.

Montreal can rebuild some of that cushion with a win over the Jets. The Canadiens are just 6-10-0 in 16 games during the month of April. Considering where they were in the standings at the start of the season it is stunning that this race has become as close as it has during the stretch run of the regular season.

IF PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY (matchups by total points)

EAST DIVISION
1. Capitals vs. 4. Bruins
2. Penguins vs. 3. Islanders

NORTH DIVISION
1. Maple Leafs vs. 4. Canadiens
2. Oilers vs. 3. Jets

CENTRAL DIVISION
1. Hurricanes vs. 4. Predators
2. Panthers vs. 3 Lightning

WEST DIVISION
1. Golden Knights vs. 4. Blues
2. Avalanche vs. 3. Wild

TODAY’S KEY GAMES
Jets vs. Canadiens, 7 p.m. ET
Golden Knights vs. Coyotes, 10 p.m. ET

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Capitals – Clinched
Penguins – Clinched
Islanders – 99.8%
Bruins – 99.8%
Rangers – 0.4%
Flyers – eliminated
Devils – eliminated
Sabres – eliminated

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Hurricanes – Clinched
Panthers – Clinched
Lightning – Clinched
Predators – 68.6%
Stars – 30.7%
Blackhawks – 0.7%
Red Wings – eliminated
Blue Jackets – eliminated

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Maple Leafs – Clinched
Oilers – 100%
Jets – 99.4%
Canadiens – 79.3%
Flames – 20.2%
Canucks – 1.1%
Senators – 0%

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Golden Knights – Clinched
Avalanche – Clinched
Wild – Clinched
Blues – 94.9%
Coyotes – 3%
Sharks – 1.3%
Kings – 0.9%
Ducks – eliminated

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DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE (via MoneyPuck)

Sabres – 18.2%
Ducks – 12.9%
Devils – 10.6%
Blue Jackets – 8.9%
Red Wings – 8.9%
Senators – 7.6%
Kings – 6.2%
Canucks – 6.1%
Sharks – 5.2%
Coyotes – 4.3%
Blackhawks – 3.2%
Flyers – 2.3%
Flames – 2.2%
Stars – 1.2%
Rangers – 1.1%

ART ROSS TROPHY RACE

Connor McDavid, Oilers – 84 points
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 67
Mitch Marner, Maple Leafs – 62
Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche – 61
Patrick Kane, Blackhawks – 61

ROCKET RICHARD RACE

Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs – 36 goals
Connor McDavid, Oilers – 28
Brad Marchand, Bruins – 27
Mikko Rantanen, Avalanche – 26
Tyler Toffoli, Canadiens – 25

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.