One of them has not been in the playoffs since the Clinton administration and the other has gone down the sinkhole at a stunning rate of speed, but the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning could have an enormous stake in how the playoff picture forms over the next six days.
Depending upon what happens Tuesday, the lowly Florida teams can go a long way towards determining whether or not the plucky Washington Capitals make the playoffs, whether the Carolina Hurricanes miss the post-season for the second straight season and whether the Lightning itself will go into the draft lottery with the best chance of getting Steven Stamkos.
But first thing’s first. Tonight’s game between the Hurricanes and Capitals is nothing short of enormous. A Hurricanes win in regulation will give Carolina the Southeast Division title, the third seed in the Eastern Conference and will all but extinguish the Capitals’ playoff hopes.
But a win by Washington in regulation will put them on even terms with the Hurricanes with two games to go. Coincidentally, both the Hurricanes and Capitals meet the Panthers and the Lightning in their last two games.
But even if the Capitals beat the Hurricanes tonight, Carolina still holds the upper hand. That’s because they’ll still have one more win than the Capitals and would also hold the second tiebreaker because they have already clinched the season series.
That’s why it might be more realistic for the Capitals to set their sights on the Boston Bruins and/or Philadelphia Flyers, two playoff posers who currently sit three points ahead of Washington. The Bruins end the season with games in New Jersey and Ottawa before their last game at home against the Buffalo Sabres.
The Flyers close out the campaign in Pittsburgh with their two final games at home against New Jersey and the Penguins.
TURRIS TO HIT THE BOOKS
Kyle Turris, who signed an entry-level deal with the Phoenix Coyotes Monday , will have a very short stay with the NHL team this season. The plan is to get Turris into the Coyotes’ final three games, then have him return to the University of Wisconsin to finish his first year of studies there.
The Coyotes could have sent Turris to the San Antonio Rampage for the American League playoffs, but have agreed to allow him to return to school after a brief taste of the NHL.
“We’ll see how things go, but the plan right now is not to send him to San Antonio,” said Coyotes GM Don Maloney.
LEAFS CALM FEARS
Fan boycotts for the Toronto Maple Leafs have always been dismal failures, but it appears the mammoth organization is willing to listen and snap to attention when it comes to its sponsors.
Speculation has it that Coca-Cola thought long and hard before recently renewing its sponsorship deal with the Maple Leafs because of the team’s dismal on-ice performance the past couple of seasons. There are also unconfirmed reports Molson’s Breweries, another major sponsor, has told the Leafs that sales have taken a hit because of the team.
Maple Leafs president Richard Peddie, who appeared as glib as ever on a Hockey Night in Canada interview Saturday night, has apparently assured the sponsors the Leafs will get their house in order and begin to right the ship starting next season.
Too bad the paying public doesn’t have that kind of influence over the team.
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