What’s at stake on final full night of NHL schedule

Heading into the final full evening of NHL regular-season play on Friday, just two of the eight playoff matchups are locked up.

While all the spots are clinched, much remains to be determined.

With 15 games on the schedule, things will come into focus over the course of a few hours.

The regular season wraps up on Sunday with a rescheduled Winnipeg Jets-Seattle Kraken game that won’t affect the playoffs. The post-season then gets going on Monday.

Here’s a look at all the possibilities on Friday.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

A grand total of zero playoff matchups are determined heading into a frantic Friday.

The Tampa Bay Lightning missed a chance to wrap up third in the Atlantic Division and lock up a playoff duel with the Toronto Maple Leafs after losing to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday.

So now the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs will give it another shot with a win over the New York Islanders guaranteeing a shot against Toronto.

If the Lightning lose, the door is open for the Boston Bruins to overtake Tampa (they are currently one point back) and face the Leafs in the playoffs. And wouldn’t you know it, the Bruins are in Toronto on Friday.

Just nine years ago, of course, the Bruins pulled off their stunning Game 7 comeback against Toronto in the first round. More recently, the Bruins also dispatched the Maple Leafs in seven games in both 2018 and ’19. That storyline figures to be repeated a fair bit if the Leafs draw Boston in their quest to win a playoff series for the first time since 2004.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Division-winning Carolina Hurricanes draw the loser of the Boston-Tampa race.

The Florida Panthers wrapped up the Presidents’ Trophy on Thursday with their win over the Ottawa Senators and the Colorado Avalanche’s loss to the Nashville Predators.

The Panthers will face whoever loses out in the battle for third in the Metropolitan Division between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. Pittsburgh, with a one-point edge, is in Columbus, while the Capitals are in New York to face the Rangers.

The winner of the Pittsburgh-Washington race will meet the Rangers in the first round.

All the games affecting the Eastern Conference playoff picture start at 7 pm ET.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

We know the Edmonton Oilers will have home-ice advantage for a series against the Los Angeles Kings and that the Minnesota Wild will face the St. Louis Blues.

The Wild, after an overtime win over the Calgary Flames on Thursday, can secure home ice for their series with one point against visiting Colorado or a St. Louis loss at home against the Vegas Golden Knights. Both of those games start at 8 pm ET.

The Avs are the top seed in the West and will draw the loser of a race between the Dallas Stars and Predators.

If Dallas beats the Anaheim Ducks (8:30 pm ET), the Predators will need one point in the final game of the night (10:30 pm ET) against the Arizona Coyotes to take the first wild-card spot and earn a playoff date with the Flames.

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