NHL on NBCSN: Big playoff implications for Red Wings, Bruins

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign tonight as the Detroit Red Wings host the Boston Bruins at Joe Louis Arena, starting at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

It probably still feels weird to some fans of each team, but the bottom line is that neither the Detroit Red Wings nor the Boston Bruins can take anything for granted this deep into the season.

Yes, each team is currently located in a playoff position, yet tonight’s game is significant for both teams.

Detroit holds the Atlantic Division’s third spot with 93 standings points and six games remaining, but Boston isn’t that far behind with 91 points and five games left. The Bruins can’t just look up, either, as they must hold off the Ottawa Senators (88 points, six games remaining) and maybe the Florida Panthers (85 points with five more games).

In the bigger picture, both teams have experienced a mixed bag of results. More recently, it seems like Boston is rising to the occasion, though.

The Red Wings have dropped two in a row, four of five and six of seven. You might as well call March one long struggle; since March 6, they’ve gone 4-8-2.

The Bruins can’t get too cocky considering the fact that they’re only a week removed from a six-game skid, yet things have been looking up lately. Boston is on a three-game winning streak with an especially huge win against the Panthers on Tuesday.

Naturally, Boston cannot totally relax, as the Bruins finish the season with four out of five games on the road.

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One other factor that comes up in the Bruins’ favor is their record against the Red Wings so far this season. After losing their first meeting 2-1, the Bruins have taken the last three games against Detroit. If Boston ends up knocking the Red Wings into the wild card, the two teams’ head-to-head matches may just be the determining factor.

Of course, if we’ve learned anything from watching these two flawed-yet-talented teams, it’s that it is dangerous to assume just about anything.

Then again, here’s one fairly safe claim: there’s plenty on the line on NBCSN tonight.

Video: Lucic scores late winner, Bruins deal crushing blow to Panthers playoff hopes

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Milan Lucic has gotten the better of Roberto Luongo before.

On Tuesday, the Boston Bruins power forward did it again, scoring with a wrist shot that beat Luongo with 1:09 remaining in regulation to give his team a 3-2 victory over the visiting Florida Panthers, who desperately needed a win and two points.

The Panthers entered the third period with the lead but gave up two goals in the final 10:13 of play, as David Pastrnak scored to tie the game, before Lucic did the damage with his winner. It’s a crucial win for Boston. It’s a devastating loss for Florida.

The Panthers had the chance, with a regulation win, to move within two points of the Bruins, holders of the final Wild Card spot in the East. Instead, the Bruins now pull six points ahead of the Panthers. Both teams have just five games remaining on their respective schedules.

‘Almost like a game seven tonight’ for Bruins, Panthers

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There’s plenty at stake tonight when the Bruins host the Panthers at TD Garden.

Just ask Claude Julien.

“I don’t think you should be breathing easy and I don’t think anybody in there has been breathing easy,” the B’s head coach said, per CSNNE. “I think it’s just one of those things where we know where we’re at. We know what we have to do here we just have to stay with the task at hand here, and keep focusing on what we need to do.

“Dave [Krejci] said it, and we’re not denying that either: ‘It’s almost like a game seven tonight.’ A lot of stuff can happen one way or another here depending on the outcome.”

A loss tonight would be damaging for Boston, and virtually fatal for Florida. The Panthers head into tonight’s action four points back of the Bruins for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, with just six games remaining in the regular season. But the Panthers also hold the benefit of playing the B’s twice more down the stretch — tonight, and again on Apr. 9.

To make that second chance worth something, though, Florida has to get a result this evening.

“We’re playing well and we’ve got to play well again tonight,” head coach Gerard Gallant said, per the team’s website. “It’s going to be two hungry teams looking for the two points.”

Florida should have confidence heading into this tilt, having secured three of a possible four points from Boston in the first two matchups of the season. That includes a 2-1 shootout victory on Mar. 21, one in which Roberto Luongo stopped 26 of 27 shots and all three shootout attempts.

Luongo will draw back in tonight after sitting out Sunday’s win over Ottawa — veteran Dan Ellis got the victory — and look to continue his solid run of play against the Bruins this year, having posted a 1.40 GAA and .942 save percentage in just under 130 minutes of action.

Bruins sign Miami (Ohio) playmaker Czarnik

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The Boston Bruins have dipped into the college free agent market, agreeing to terms with Miami senior Austin Czarnik on an entry-level deal.

Czarnik, 22, is a former Hobey Baker finalist and the second-leading assist man in RedHawks history. He’s captained the club in each of the last two seasons and should have some immediate chemistry in Boston, as Reilly Smith was Czarnik’s former linemate at Miami during the 2011-12 campaign.

Though undersized — listed at 5-foot-9, 167 pounds — Czarnik is a skilled player that can create for others. He finished tied for third in the country in assists this year, with 36.

Per TSN’s Bob McKenzie, there appeared to be a number of NHL clubs interested in securing Czarnik’s services. It’s interesting to note that Boston won out shortly after it was linked to another skilled, undersized forward — Columbus’ Cam Atkinson — at the March trade deadline.

Hubris or smart business? Bruins to start selling playoff tickets Friday

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Fearing the jinx isn’t a trait of every sports fan, yet it’s present in many minds. You just don’t do things like announcing a championship parade route before the Fat Lady Sings.

The nail-biting subsection of Boston Bruins fans probably aren’t too happy that the team announced that first-round playoff tickets will go on sale on Friday, then.

Putting playoff tickets on sale might just be a matter of good business, yet some will see it as a sign of hubris.

This weekend definitely opened the door for a little overconfidence, after all. Just considering Sunday alone: the Bruins’ playoff odds jumped up almost 20 percent to 72.7 percent while the Ottawa Senators’ chances plummeted by almost 30 to 25.3 percent, according to Sports Club Stats. It’s the kind of swing that would have bolder fans puffing out their chests a bit.

Anxious Bruins fans should at least feel like they have company. TSN’s Steve Lloyd made a reference to Ottawa’s concerns about a Sens Mile celebration jinxing the team when he heard about Boston’s upcoming ticket drive.

(More on that here and here.)

Does any of it really matter, though? Well, it probably depends upon whom you ask.