How NHL playoff standings could shake out during regular season's final days
The Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators already have seen the end of their eight-season playoff streaks, which had been the second-long active ones in the NHL.
The Pittsburgh Penguins, who lost to one of the league's worst teams Tuesday, could be eliminated from playoffs on Wednesday night for the first time in 16 years, the longest active streak.
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan, Central and Pacific division titles are still up for grabs, as is the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The NHL's worst record for the best draft lottery odds to land generational talent Connor Bedard still needs to be settled, as do playoff matchups.
What's at stake before Friday's end of the NHL regular season:
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Metropolitan Division race
The Carolina Hurricanes lead the New Jersey Devils by one point after both teams won Tuesday. But the Devils have one more regulation win, the first tiebreaker, so the Hurricanes would have to finish at least one point ahead to claim the title. The New York Rangers are locked into third place and will play whichever team doesn't win the title.
Remaining schedules: The Hurricanes play Thursday at Florida. The Devils play Thursday at Washington.
Central Division race
The defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche (105) lead the Dallas Stars by one point after their overtime loss to Edmonton, and both teams have two games left. The Stars, who have won four in a row, have the most regulation wins at 37. The Minnesota Wild are locked into third place and will play whichever team doesn't win the division title.
Remaining schedules: The Avalanche play at home Thursday (Winnipeg) and on the road Friday (Nashville). The Stars have a home-and-home set with St. Louis on Wednesday and Thursday.
Pacific Division race
The Vegas Golden Knights lead Edmonton by two points after both won Tuesday, but the Oilers lead in regulation wins. Edmonton is on a 13-0-1 run, led by Connor McDavid, the NHL's first 150-point scorer since the 1990s. Vegas can win the title by gaining one point on Thursday. Third place is still up for grabs as the Seattle Kraken can still catch the Los Angeles Kings.
Remaining schedules: The Golden Knights visit Seattle on Thursday. The Oilers host San Jose on Thursday. The Kings visit Anaheim on Thursday. The Kraken host Vegas on Thursday.
Eastern Conference wild-card race
The Florida Panthers (92) clinched a playoff berth Tuesday when the Penguins (90) and Sabres (87) lost. That allowed the New York Islanders (91) to control their fate again after they had lost on Monday. If they pick up at one point in their final regular-season game, they're back in the playoffs after missing them last season. If they win, the Islanders, at least temporarily, will move into the first wild-card spot, which means avoiding the Boston Bruins in the first round. If the Islanders lose in regulation, the Penguins can extend their streak with a victory Thursday.
Buffalo has missed the playoffs for 12 consecutive seasons, which ties the New York Jets for the longest active drought in the four major North American professional leagues.
Remaining schedules: The Islanders play Wednesday vs. Montreal. The Penguins play Thursday at Columbus.
Western Conference wild-card race
The Winnipeg Jets clinched Tuesday night and are locked into the second wild-card spot. They will face the Pacific Division winner in the first round.
The race for Connor Bedard
The Columbus Blue Jackets (57) picked up a point in an overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, but the Blackhawks' win against the Penguins gave them 58 points and moved them from 32nd place to 30th. The Anaheim Ducks (58) fell to 31st after Tuesday's loss to Vancouver because they have fewer regulation wins than Chicago. The last-place team has a 25.5% chance of landing generational talent Bedard after the May 8 draft lottery.
Remaining schedules: The Blackhawks host Philadelphia on Thursday. The Blue Jackets play at home Thursday (Pittsburgh) and Friday (Buffalo). The Ducks play at home Thursday (Los Angeles).
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NHL standings, playoffs: Races, stats, schedule to watch in final days