With the Devils closing in on a playoff spot, I thought it would be good to get a look at the nightly action in the league and see how the games impact the Devils. Currently our Magic Number (the points required to clinch a playoff spot) is 8. A win tonight, no matter what Washington and Buffalo do, brings that number down to 6. If the Sabres lose then that number falls to 4 and if the Sabres win and the Capitals lose it will drop to 5. After the Jump I'll have a more detailed look at how each of tonight's games could impact the Devils' quest for a playoff berth with some stats courtesy of Sports Club Stats.Toronto at New Jersey (7:00PM EST)
This game should be pretty obvious to everyone here. As I mentioned above, the Devils need to win four games to lock-up their playoff spot and of our 8 remaining games, this is one of four against teams that are not currently in playoff position. A win tonight also increases the Devils chances of locking up a 6th place finish and avoid slipping to a lower seed.
Buffalo at New York/A (7:00PM EST)
According to Sports Club Stats this game has absolutely no impact on the Devils chances to either make the playoffs or our positioning in the post-season. So go ahead and cheer for the Sabres. A win by Buffalo apparently drops the Rags odds of winning the cup by 12.2% (although it increases Pittsburgh's chances by 16%). I'm not surprised, since I don't see the Rags winning an opening round series against the Flyers. This game though could be a preview of the 1-8 match in the East in a few weeks.
Winnipeg at Washington (7:00PM EST)
The Devils destiny is really in their own hands at this point but a win by the Jets will help further solidify the Devils spot in 6th place. Winnipeg is quickly slipping from the playoffs as they trail Washington by 5 points and Buffalo by 4. Tonight is essentially a playoff game for the Jets if they want to make a run at that 8th seed. Everyone likes an exciting race for a playoff spot, so I'm pulling for Winnipeg tonight.
Carolina at Columbus (7:00PM EST)
Carolina somehow managed to work their way up to 11th place in the Conference but don't expect them to make a push for a playoff spot. They are a point behind the Jets who have a game in hand on the Hurricanes. It's impressive that the 'Canes aren't going to finish in dead last but tonight's game is really just for positioning in the Draft Lottery. I'm gonna root for Columbus because everyone loves an underdog and I hate the Hurricanes.
Ottawa at Montreal (7:30PM EST)
With an 8 point lead on the Capitals, Ottawa is the only team realistically that can usurp the 6th seed from the Devils. They have a 5 point gap to close in 8 games but that isn't an impossible task. What's slightly more probably but still unlikely is the Senators closing the gap on the Bruins to win the Northeast Division outright. The Senators played a strong game against us the other night and they'll be looking to light the lamp frequently in Montreal after getting shut out by the Moose on Tuesday. While I think it would be great for Ottawa to draw home ice advantage by winning their division, it would be less great if they overtook the Devils for the sixth seed in the playoffs. Go Habs Go.
Edmonton at Florida (7:30PM EST)
Florida is in a tight race with Boston for positioning as Division winners for the 2nd and 3rd seeds in the East. The Devils are all but guaranteed to finish 6th in the conference meaning they'll draw the least of the Division winners. I think its a safe assumption that we'd all prefer that be Florida instead of Boston (or even Washington if they end up overtaking Florida). To that end, let's hope the Oilers can make something happen on their cross country trip to Sunrise tonight.
In summary, here's who I'm pulling for to best benefit the Devils:
New Jersey def Toronto
Buffalo def New York/A
Winnipeg def Washington
Columbus def Carolina
Montreal def Ottawa
Edmonton def Florida