Caps playoff race update-44

Caps playoff race update-44
April 4, 2011, 6:25 pm
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Monday, April 4, 2011, 2:20 p.m.

By Ben Raby


1. Philadelphia Flyers103 points -3 games remaining (1 home,2 away).
The Flyers have lost 12 of 18 games and seen a 12-point lead on the Capitals disappear in the Eastern Conference standings. The Flyers and Capitals enter the final week of the season tied with 103 points, but the Flyers own the tiebreaker with 43 ROWs (regulation or overtime wins) to the Caps 42.

Philadelphia has also struggled at home of late, having lost 8 of 9 at Well Fargo Center and 11 of 13. The Flyers have not won at home since March 8.

Philadelphia remains without No. 1 defenseman Chris Pronger after he experienced a setback while recovering from a broken hand. GM Paul Holmgren has also said that that Daniel Briere (groin) and Blair Betts (lower body) will not play Tuesday in Ottawa.

Tues: @ Senators
Fri: @ Sabres
Sat: vs. Islanders

2. Washington Capitals - 103 points -3 games remaining (1 home,2 away).

The Capitals have gone 16-3-1 over their last 20 games and can clinch a fourthSoutheast Division titlein as many years as early as Tuesday. The Caps magic number is two points (i.e. any combination of two points gained by the Caps or lost by the Lightning).

Injured defensemen Mike Green and Tom Poti will not accompany the team to Toronto, but Bruce Boudreau is hopeful that they can return to the lineup for at least one game before the end of the week.

Tues: @ Maple Leafs
Wed: vs. Panthers
Sat:@ Panthers

3. Boston Bruins -99 points -4 games remaining (2 home,2 away).

The Bruinshave clinched a second Northeast Division title in three years, and they are guaranteed at least a top three seed in the conference and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Boston enters the final week of the season on a 5-1-1 run with each of its final three games against teams that have already been eliminated from playoff contention.

Tim Thomas leads the NHL with a 1.98 GAA and .939 save percentage as he looks to solidify his second Vezina Trophy in three years. His nine shutouts are second only to Henrik Lundqvist and Thomas could become the first goalie since Marty Turco in 2003-04 to start at least 50 games and finish with a GAA below 2.00.

Mon: @ Rangers
Wed: vs. Islanders
Sat: vs. Senators
Sun: @ Devils

4. Pittsburgh Penguins 100 points -3 games remaining (1 home,2 away).

The Penguinshavewon seven of 10 games to remain within striking distance of the Flyers atop the Atlantic Division. Pittsburgh also has a favorable schedule this week with all three games against teams that have already been eliminated from playoff contention.

Sidney Crosby traveled with the Penguins last week for the first time since being sidelined with a concussion Jan. 5. Crosby continues to practice with his teammates, but he has not yet been cleared for contact. Reports out of Canada suggested that Crosby would return as early as this Tuesday against the Devils, but GM Ray Shero said last week that Crosby is unlikely to return before the playoffs.

Tues:vs. Devils
Fri: @ Islanders
Sat:@ Thrashers

5. Tampa Bay Lightning - 99 points - 3 games remaining (1 home,2 away).

The Lightning have rebounded nicely after losing 10 of 12 games to begin March, with five straight wins since. Tampa Bay is guaranteed at least a No. 5 seed in the conference, their highest finish since 2003-04.

While the Bolts still have an outside chance of passing the Capitals for the Southeast Division lead, they appear destined for a No. 4 vs. No. 5 first round matchup against either the Flyers or Penguins.

Steven Stamkos remains in his late-season scoring slump with just two goals in his past 15 games. Stamkos has 44 goals on the season and is two behind Anaheims Corey Perry for the NHL lead.

Tues: @ Sabres
Fri: vs. Panthers
Sat: @ Hurricanes

6. Montreal Canadiens - 91 points -3 games remaining (1 home,2 away).

The Canadiensneed just two points in their remaining three games to punch a playoff ticket for a fourth straight year. Montreal has struggled of late, however, losing four of six games, while being outscored 19-8 over that stretch.

One year after being relegated to backup duties to Jaroslav Halak, Carey Price has appeared in 70 games this season, tying the Canadiens' single-season record for goalies held by Jacques Plantes (1961-62) and Gerry McNeil (1950-51 and 1951-52).

The Canadiens blue line remains banged up with Andrei Markov and Josh Georges out for the season. Top-four defenseman Jaroslav Spacek, 37, is expected to return this week after missing 23 games with a knee injury.

Tues: vs. Blackhawks
Thurs: @ Senators
Sat:@ Maple Leafs

7. Buffalo Sabres -90 points -3 games remaining (2 home, 1 away).

The Sabres did not just survive three games without No. 1 goalie Ryan Miller last week, but they also beat their two chief competitors for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

With Miller sidelined with an upper-body injury, rookie Jhonas Enroth earned his first career shutout in a 1-0 win over the Rangers last Wednesday and then made 35 saves in a 2-1 overtime win in Carolina on Sunday. In between, the Sabres earned a point in Saturdays 5-4 OT loss in Washington.

Buffalo is 13-4-4 in its past 21 games and could clinch a second straight playoff berth as early as Wednesday. Ryan Miller is day-to-day and could return as early as Tuesday against Tampa Bay.

Tues: vs. Lightning
Fri: vs. Flyers
Sat:@ Blue Jackets
8. New York Rangers - 89 points -3 games remaining (3 home,0 away).

The Rangers salvaged what could have been a disastrous week with a 3-2 shootout win Sunday in Philadelphia. New York had lost its previous two games, 1-0 in Buffalo and 6-2 in Long Island.

With their NHL-best ninth shootout win of the season, the Rangers' magic number to clinch a playoff berth is four points (any combination of the Rangers gaining four points or the Hurricanes losing four points). The Rangers wrap up their season with three straight home games, including the final two against already-eliminated Atlanta and New Jersey.

Henrik Lundqvist has started 23 straight games for the Rangers, has a league-best 11 shutouts on the season and is third in the Eastern Conference with 34 wins (behind Carey Price, 36, and Cam Ward, 35).

Mon: vs. Bruins
Thurs: vs. Thrashers
Sat: vs. Devils

9. Carolina Hurricanes -87 points -3 games remaining (2 home,1 away).

The Hurricanesremain on the outside of a playoff position despite going 3-0-1 last week, and 6-1-1 over their past eight games.

Captain Eric Staal has four goals and nine points over that eight-game stretch while rookie Jeff Skinner has chipped in with five goals and eight points. Skinner leads San Joses Logan Couture by four points for the rookie scoring lead heading into the final week of the season.

As long as the Hurricanes remain in contention, Paul Maurice will continue to ride workhorse Cam Ward. Ward has started an NHL-high 71 games including 37 of the past 38.

Wed: vs. Red Wings
Fri: @ Thrashers
Sat: vs.Lightning
10. Toronto Maple Leafs - 84 points -3 games remaining (2 home, 1 away).

Despite winning three straight games and six of seven overall, anything short of a miracle in the final week of the season will leave the Maple Leafs out of the playoffs for a sixth straight season.

In order to clinch, the Maple Leafs must win their three remaining games in regulation or overtime, and have either the Sabres or Rangers go 0-3-0 in their remaining three games. The Maple Leafs would also need the Hurricanes to keep from going 3-0-0.

Toronto has gone 18-6-5 since the All-Star break, with rookie goalie James Reimer posting a 15-4-4 record over that stretch. Reimer was named the NHLs Rookie of the Month for March, and he recently joined Corey Crawford, Sergei Bobrovsky and Michal Neuvirth as the only rookies with at least 20 wins.

Tues: vs. Capitals
Wed: @ Devils
Sat: vs. Canadiens
Eliminated: Thrashers, Devils, Islanders, Senators, and Panthers.