How NHL playoff standings could shake out in season's final week: Saturday's 16-game slate is big
The NHL scheduled no games on Friday. And Saturday, there will be a first: All 32 teams are in action.
Games will be going on all day long, with starts ranging from 12:30 p.m. ET in Buffalo until 10:30 p.m. ET in Los Angeles.
And not only that, with the season ending on April 14, many of Saturday's games will have an impact on the division races, wild-card races, milestone chases and also at the bottom of the standings, where teams are hoping for draft lottery luck in order to select generational talent Connor Bedard.
Breaking down Saturday's games (all times p.m. ET):
Which games affect NHL milestone chases?
Edmonton Oilers at San Jose Sharks, 4 p.m. ET: Oilers star Connor McDavid needs two points to reach 150 and Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson needs two points to reach 100. No NHL player has had 150 points since Mario Lemieux in 1995-96 and no defenseman has had 100 points since Brian Leetch in 1991-92. Is it possible for McDavid and Karlsson to reach the milestones in the same game? McDavid has averaged 2.5 points vs. the Sharks this season and Karlsson has two points in two games vs. the Oilers.
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New Jersey Devils at Boston Bruins, 8: The Bruins can tie the NHL record of 62 wins set by the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings and matched by the 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bruins are 32-4-3 at home and 2-0 vs. the Devils this season, but Boston might be missing Charlie McAvoy and David Krejci. If the Bruins win Saturday, they can break the record Sunday at Philadelphia.
Which games affect the Eastern Conference playoff race?
Carolina Hurricanes at Buffalo Sabres, 12:30 p.m. ET
Pittsburgh Penguins at Detroit Red Wings, 1
Florida Panthers at Washington Capitals, 7
Philadelphia Flyers at New York Islanders, 7:30
New Jersey Devils at Boston Bruins, 8
The surging Panthers and the Islanders (89 points each) hold the conference's two wild-card spots and are facing slumping teams. They are trailed by the Penguins (88), who are trying to keep their 16-season playoff streak alive, and Sabres (83), who are trying to prevent their playoff drought from hitting 12 seasons. The Hurricanes need the game against Buffalo because they lead the Devils by one point in the race for the Metropolitan Division title. They are 2-0 against the Sabres this season.
Which games affect the Western Conference playoff race?
Vegas Golden Knights at Dallas Stars, 3:30 p.m. ET
Nashville Predators at Winnipeg Jets, 7
St. Louis Blues at Minnesota Wild, 8
Calgary Flames at Vancouver Canucks, 10
Colorado Avalanche at Los Angeles Kings, 10:30
The Predators-Jets game is huge because Nashville (88 points) can jump past Winnipeg (89) into the West's final wild-card spot with a regulation win. The Flames (89) also need a win to keep pace. The Golden Knights (106) can clinch the Pacific Division title if they beat Dallas and the Oilers lose in regulation. Colorado (100), Dallas (100) and Minnesota (98) are in a tight race for the Central Division title. Minnesota got good news and bad news on Friday. Star Kirill Kaprizov has been cleared to return from a lower-body injury, but Joel Eriksson Ek is now week-to-week with a lower-body injury.
Which games affect the Connor Bedard watch?
Anaheim Ducks at Arizona Coyotes, 5:30 p.m. ET
New York Rangers at Columbus Blue Jackets, 7
Chicago Blackhawks at Seattle Kraken, 10
The Ducks, Blue Jackets and Blackhawks are tied at the bottom of the league with 56 points. Anaheim sits in last place because it has the fewest regulation wins, followed by Columbus and Chicago. The Ducks have lost nine in a row, but their opponent Saturday is in the midst of a nine-game winless streak. Blue Jackets leading scorer Johnny Gaudreau left his last game because of illness. Chicago has lost nine of its last 10 games. Whichever team finishes last has a 25.5% chance of getting the No. 1 overall pick in the May 8 draft lottery.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NHL playoff standings: Games, stats to watch in season's final week