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Push for the Playoffs: Predators, Jets play for first in Central

NBC Sports logo NBC Sports 3/23/2019 Adam Gretz
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Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2018-19 NHL season. We’ll highlight the current playoff picture in both conferences, take a look at what the first-round matchups might look like, see who’s leading the race for the best odds in the draft lottery and more.

The top spot in the NHL’s Central Division has been a back-and-forth race between the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators, and on Saturday evening the two teams will be meeting head-to-head for the final time this season in what could be a pivotal game in who ends up taking the top spot.

Winnipeg enters the day holding a two-point lead over the Predators in the standings, while also still owning a game in hand the rest of the way and the first tiebreaker (42 regulation wins for the Jets, to 38 for the Predators). All of that together makes this an absolutely massive game for both teams, but especially for the Predators if they have any hope of winning the division.

Failing to gain a point on Saturday would put them in a four-point hole, and because they don’t own the tiebreaker, would need to gain five points on the Jets to pass them over their remaining six games. That would not be an easy thing to do and would not only require a lot of help in the form of the Jets losing a handful of games down the stretch, but also leave Nashville without almost no margin for error in its remaining games.

So while it remains a huge game for both teams, it takes on even more importance for the Predators because of how much ground they would have to make up with a loss.

Even if the Predators win in regulation on Saturday, the Jets would still technically own the top spot in the Division by having played in one fewer game and also having more regulation and overtime wins.

The Jets have won two of the previous head-to-head games this season.

Elsewhere in the Western Conference, the Calgary Flames can take control of the Pacific Division with a win over the Vancouver Canucks.

Thanks to San Jose’s loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night, the Flames enter Saturday with a four-point lead in the Pacific Division race and can open that up to a six-point lead with a win.

That would not yet clinch the division, but it would be a massive cushion to have this late in the season.

The Flames have only won their division one time (the 2005-06 season) since 1994-95 and can take a big step toward claiming the Pacific on Saturday night.

IF THE PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY

Lightning vs. Canadiens

Capitals vs. Hurricanes

Islanders vs. Penguins

Bruins vs. Maple Leafs

Flames vs. Wild

Jets vs. Stars

Sharks vs. Golden Knights

Predators vs. Blues

TODAY’S GAMES WITH PLAYOFF CONTENDERS

Coyotes vs. Devils (1 p.m. ET)

Islanders vs. Flyers (1 p.m. ET)

Blackhawks vs. Avalanche (3 p.m. ET)

Predators vs. Jets (7 p.m. ET)

Rangers vs. Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET)

Sabres vs. Canadiens (7 p.m. ET)

Bruins vs. Panthers (7 p.m. ET)

Wild vs. Hurricanes (7 p.m. ET)

Lightning vs. Blues (8 p.m. ET)

Penguins vs. Stars (8 p.m. ET)

Red Wings vs. Golden Knights (10 p.m. ET)

Flames vs. Canucks (10 p.m. ET)

EASTERN CONFERENCE

a screenshot of a cell phone © Provided by NBC Sports Group

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)

Lightning — Clinched

Bruins — 100 percent

Capitals — 100 percent

Maple Leafs — 99.9 percent

Penguins — 99.6 percent

Islanders — 99 percent

Hurricanes — 92.1 percent

Canadiens — 56.1 percent

Blue Jackets — 50.2 percent

Flyers — 3 percent

Panthers — 0.1 percent

Sabres — Out

Rangers — Out

Devils — Eliminated

Red Wings — Eliminated

Senators — Eliminated

WESTERN CONFERENCE

a screenshot of a cell phone © Provided by NBC Sports Group

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)

Flames — Clinched

Sharks — Clinched

Jets — 100 percent

Predators — 100 percent

Golden Knights — 100 percent

Blues — 100 percent

Stars — 91.2 percent

Avalanche — 40.1 percent

Coyotes — 35 percent

Wild — 25 percent

Blackhawks — 6.6 percent

Canucks — 1.1 percent

Oilers — 1 percent

Ducks — Out

Kings — Eliminated

JACK OR KAAPO? THE DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE

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Senators — 18.5 percent*

Kings — 13.5 percent

Red Wings — 11.5 percent

Devils — 9.5 percent

Rangers — 8.5 percent

Ducks — 7.5 percent

Sabres — 6.5 percent

Oilers — 6 percent

Canucks — 5 percent

Blackhawks — 3.5 percent

Panthers — 3 percent

Coyotes — 2.5 percent

Avalanche — 2 percent

Flyers — 1.5 percent

Blue Jackets — 1 percent**

(*COL owns OTT’s 2019 first-round pick)

(**OTT owns CBJ’s 2019 first-round pick)

ART ROSS RACE

Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning — 120 points

Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers — 107 points

Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks — 101 points

Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers — 94 points

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins — 93 points

ROCKET RICHARD RACE

Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals — 48 goals

Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers — 43 goals

John Tavares, Toronto Maple Leafs — 41 goals

Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks — 41 goals

Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning — 39 goals

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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