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I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Is the NHL – 2018 Olympics discussion over? Depends on who you ask

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One common ploy in negotiations Рand boy, the NHL and NHLPA sure seem to love negotiations Рis to pretend to walk away from the table to try to put pressure on the other side.

More than a few people probably hope that the discussion really isn’t over regarding sending NHL players to the 2018 Winter Olympics, so is there room for movement?

Well … maybe it depends.

In an exclusive interview with Sportsnet 590’s Prime Time Sports, Gary Bettman provided a lot of gloom and doom.

“We know clubs don’t want to go and we’re not looking to negotiate,” Bettman said at one point.

The overriding theme of Bettman’s argument was that the NHL is the only sports league that interrupts its season to participate in the Olympics, and that owners have “had enough” of the disruption to regular seasons.

There are plenty of other interesting nuggets from that discussion. For one thing, Bettman said he’d be “thrilled” by the idea of moving hockey to the Summer Olympics, thus seemingly getting around the more disruptive aspects of such participation.

The players may disagree even on that note, however:

Another interesting wrinkle? The players/NHLPA might’ve dropped the ball on the Olympics … or maybe they don’t care as much as they lead on.

Wow. The interview is worth listening to, though it will provide little consolation if you’re unhappy about players not being sent to the Olympics.

Speaking of which, NHLPA head Donald Fehr does seem to hope that maybe the discussion could book back up, after all.

Bettman doesn’t paint a rosy picture, but for all we know, maybe something could work out?

(Probably not, but still.)

WATCH LIVE: High stakes in Tampa Bay Lightning at Boston Bruins

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The first contest in NBCSN’s doubleheader is big for the Boston Bruins and enormous for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Bolts trail the Bruins by four points in the race for the East’s final spot, and while other Atlantic teams are in Boston’s zip code, Tampa Bay’s best way of making up ground is simply beating the Bruins in regulation.

Don’t expect the Bruins to make it easy, however, as playoff positioning could change dramatically if they can keep it together this week:

Atlantic at a glance (Montreal clinched division title)

2. Maple Leafs – 93 points in 78 games
3. Senators – 92 points in 78 games

Bruins – 92 points in 79 games
Lightning – 88 points in 78 games

Yep, as you can see, the Bolts’ most realistic route to the postseason is by beating the B’s, especially since Boston will only play two more games after tonight.

Check out this preview of both NBCSN games, which also includes a big contest for the Edmonton Oilers against the Los Angeles Kings. You can also watch this game online and via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream link.

Montreal Canadiens clinch Atlantic Division title

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The Atlantic Division teams took care of business on Monday, so it only makes sense that the division title was locked down. The Montreal Canadiens did just that tonight after beating the Florida Panthers 4-1.

The Canadiens are now at 46-24-9 with 101 points in 79 games after this, their fifth-consecutive win.

Artturi Lehkonen was the difference-maker in that win tonight, scoring consecutive goals as Montreal scored three unanswered tallies to finish off Florida.

Now Claude Julien has an interesting opportunity.

With the Metro title winner virtually assured of the East’s top spot, Montreal doesn’t have much to gain (beyond pride) in winning its final three games. That would, then, be a good opportunity to rest players; perhaps heavy workload-type like Carey Price and Max Pacioretty could use a breather?

Whatever the case may be, the Canadiens bounced back from last season’s letdown in a big way, even after changing coaches. Next step: topping all of these accomplishments in the playoffs.

Senators scratch and claw for significant point in shootout loss to Red Wings

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Things were looking especially dicey for the Ottawa Senators more than once against the Detroit Red Wings on Monday.

Ottawa entered the third period down 2-1. Erik Karlsson scored his second point of the evening to tie it up early in the final frame … but then things got grim as Gustav Nyquist netted back-to-back goals.

The Senators didn’t shrink from the challenge, however, as Kyle Turris provided a goal and an assist to tie it 4-4. After a lengthy shootout, the Red Wings ultimately won 5-4 (SO) … but Ottawa grabbed a crucial point.

With this result, the Senators now lead the Tampa Bay Lightning by four points with four games remaining for each squad. Securing a playoff spot is most important.

At least … it is now that the Sens have dropped five straight games. Carving out a point could be key in seeding, too, as you may notice from the Atlantic standings.

Atlantic update

2. Maple Leafs – 93 points in 78 games
3. Senators – 92 points in 78 games

Bruins – 92 points in 79 games
Lightning – 88 points in 78 games

It wasn’t always pretty, but this was an important point for the Senators. Honestly, you can almost absolve them for viewing this almost as a win.

Maple Leafs take care of business in important win against Sabres

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The Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t clinch anything (aside from rookie records) on Monday. This wasn’t a must-win game against the Buffalo Sabres.

You could categorize it as a really-should-win game, though, and they really took care of business. After rushing out to a 3-0 lead, the Maple Leafs ended up beating the Sabres 4-2 tonight.

With that, Toronto is now at 93 points with four games remaining. And those four games look pretty challenging on paper:

Tuesday: vs. Capitals
Thursday: vs. Lightning
Saturday: vs. Penguins
Sunday: vs. Blue Jackets

No big deal, just three of the best teams in the NHL and a desperate squad that arguably should have been one of the best in the NHL this season. With tomorrow’s game and this coming weekend in mind, Toronto also faces two back-to-back sets.

Woof, that’s tough.

On the bright side, the Maple Leafs get all of those games at home. They also bought themselves some room to breathe with this win.

And, hey, they’ve now won four in a row, seven of eight and have gone¬†10-2-1 since March 7. Instead of hurting the Maple Leafs in the tight Atlantic seeding … perhaps they’ll gain confidence against some of the East’s best and go into the playoffs on fire?

We’ll need to wait and see, but this looks like a key win at the moment.