With 32 days left in the regular season, the playoff races in each conference simply are on fire. Almost every game has added significance, with points at such a premium, as teams jockey for positioning. NHL.com is here to give you a Down the Stretch daily that will highlight what you need to know about the games that directly can impact the playoff races.
Here is the installment for Thursday, March 10:
BUFFALO (32-26-8, 72 points) at BOSTON (38-20-8, 84 points)
Where they stand: Buffalo is eighth in the Eastern Conference; Boston is third in the East
What's at stake: The Sabres can jump the Rangers and move into seventh in the East with a win. The Bruins need a victory to leap Washington and move back into second in the conference.
How it's going: The Sabres are coming off a tough loss in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, but they had won two in a row prior to that to jump to eighth. They're 3-1-1 this month.
Boston's 4-1 loss in Montreal on Tuesday was its first regulation defeat since Feb. 15. The Bruins had their seven-game winning streak snapped in Pittsburgh on Sunday in an overtime loss.
Upcoming: Buffalo goes to Toronto on Saturday for a Hockey Night in Canada game, and then starts a four-game homestand Sunday against Ottawa. Boston starts a four-game road trip Friday on Long Island. The Bruins also will play in Columbus, Nashville and Toronto before returning home March 22 against New Jersey.
PHILADELPHIA (41-19-6, 88 points) at TORONTO (29-28-10, 68 points)
Where they stand: Philadelphia is first in the East; Toronto is 10th in the East
What's at stake: The Flyers' lead in the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division is down to two points, but a win would push both back to four. The Maple Leafs can close within two points of ninth, and depending on what Buffalo does in Boston, potentially eighth win a win.
How it's going: The Flyers beat Edmonton on Tuesday to snap a four-game losing streak, but nobody seemed too thrilled about how it went down. Chris Pronger said the Flyers won despite how they played, so by no means are they out of the woods just yet.
The Maple Leafs picked up a point in an overtime loss to the Islanders on Tuesday. They lost after coming back from three one-goal deficits. They have only two wins in their previous six games.
Upcoming: Philadelphia returns home Saturday to play Atlanta, but heads back on the road for three straight next week at Florida, Atlanta and Dallas. Toronto continues its three-game homestand Saturday against Buffalo and finishes Monday against Tampa Bay before road games at Carolina and Florida.
MONTREAL (37-23-7, 81 points) at ST. LOUIS (30-28-9, 69 points)
Where they stand: Montreal is sixth in the East; St. Louis is 13th in the Western Conference
What's at stake: Montreal can move within a point of Boston for first in the Northeast Division with a win combined with a Bruins regulation loss. The Canadiens will stay in sixth in the East no matter what happens. St. Louis is 10 points out of a playoff spot, so it has to win and hope for a lot of help. Look for ex-Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak to start in net for the Blues.
How it's going: The Canadiens have won five in a row behind goalie Carey Price and an offense that has sprung to life. They have 19 goals during their winning streak, including four games with four goals and one with three. Price has allowed just four goals in the past four games.
The Blues came back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Blue Jackets 4-3 on Wednesday, completing a home-and-home sweep of their divisional rival.
Upcoming: Montreal moves on to play in Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon and then comes home to play Washington and Tampa Bay next week. St. Louis hosts Detroit on Saturday and then starts a four-game trip to the west coast.
MINNESOTA (35-25-7, 77 points) at NASHVILLE (33-24-10, 76 points)
Where they stand: Minnesota is ninth in the West; Nashville is 11th in the West
What's at stake: The Wild need to win and hope Phoenix loses in regulation to Calgary in order to jump back into the top eight. Minnesota has a game in hand on the Coyotes. The Predators are hoping to stay in the race, and a regulation win would lift them past the Wild and Ducks into ninth.
How it's going: Minnesota is coming off a 5-2 win against Colorado on Tuesday and is playing for its first winning streak since it won three straight from Feb. 9-12. The Wild are 5-5-2 since that stretch ended.
The Predators are 2-5-2 in their last nine games and have won just once in four games this month. They're coming off a 3-2 overtime loss in San Jose on Tuesday.
Upcoming: The Wild continue their four-game road trip in Dallas on Friday, and then go to Vancouver and San Jose next week. Nashville is starting a five-game homestand Thursday. The Predators will play 12 of their final 15 games at home; they are 15-7-7 at Bridgestone Arena this season.
CALGARY (36-24-9, 81 points) at PHOENIX (34-23-11, 79 points)
Where they stand: Calgary is fifth in the West; Phoenix is eighth in the West
What's at stake: Calgary can jump Chicago and move into fourth place with a win or an overtime/shootout loss. Phoenix can leap all the way to fifth with a regulation win. The Coyotes can go to sixth with an overtime or shootout win and seventh with a one-point loss.
How it's going: The Coyotes have stayed in the race despite winning just one of their past seven games (1-4-2). They lost to Vancouver in overtime on Tuesday.
The Flames have won three in a row and are 8-2-1 in their last 11 games.
Upcoming: Phoenix hits the road for four straight following Thursday's game. The Coyotes, who are 18-12-5 away from Jobing.com Arena, will play in Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, and then come home to start a well-timed six-game homestand. Calgary goes back home for three in a row starting Saturday against Vancouver.
VANCOUVER (43-16-9, 95 points) at SAN JOSE (39-22-6, 84 points)
Where they stand: Vancouver is first in the West; San Jose is third in the West
What's at stake: The Sharks will stay third no matter what happens Thursday, but they can move within a tiebreaker of the Red Wings for second. Detroit will have a game in hand after Thursday. The Canucks can build on their NHL-best 95 points and move one step closer to winning the Presidents' Trophy.
How it's going: Vancouver continues to pile up the wins, with three straight and four in its past five games.
San Jose beat Nashville in overtime Tuesday to rebound from Saturday's 3-2 loss to Dallas. It was the Sharks' first loss in nine games. They are 18-3-1 since Jan. 15 and goalie Antti Niemi has made every start.
Upcoming: Vancouver finishes its five-game road swing in Calgary on Saturday and comes home to play three next week against Minnesota, Colorado and Phoenix. San Jose closes a six-game homestand Saturday against the Rangers. The Sharks play back-to-back in Chicago and Dallas on Monday and Tuesday then come home again for three in a row.
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