NHL Daily Picks: Bruins, Panthers headline two huge Atlantic matchups

The Panthers and Bruins will go head-to-head as each fight for the last playoff spot in the East. (USATSI)
The Panthers and Bruins will go head-to-head as each fight for the last playoff spot in the East. (USATSI)

Welcome to the NHL Daily Picks, where CBS hockey writers Chris Peters and Adam Gretz share their predictions for select games every day.

Florida Panthers at Boston Bruins, 7 p.m. ET

If you want a playoff-like atmosphere in the regular season, this game between the Bruins and Panthers is almost as close as you can get. The Panthers have managed to hang around longer than anyone could have possibly predicted. They’re four points behind the Bruins (and one behind Ottawa) for the last spot in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Bruins can still potentially catch the Detroit Red Wings for the third spot in the Atlantic Division as they trail by three points with six games to go, not to mention that they still risk falling out of the playoff all together if they lose enough down the stretch. There couldn’t be bigger incentives for each team to come away with two points, especially two points via regulation win to ensure the other team is no closer to locking up a playoff spot. There’s so much that can happen over the last two weeks of the season, but few games are going to impact the race as much as this one. Pick: Bruins 2, Panthers 1

Ottawa Senators at Detroit Red Wings, 7:30 p.m. ET

Another huge game with big stakes for both teams, the Senators are still trying to claw into the playoffs as the Bruins start to pull away. The Red Wings, meanwhile, are suddenly in danger of falling into the wild card slots. With just three wins over their last 10 games, the Wings lead the Bruins by three points for the third slot in the Atlantic Division. The Senators, meanwhile, have three points to make up on the Bruins and need to try to stay ahead of the Florida Panthers in the process. In that Florida-Boston game, the Sens and Red Wings are surely hoping for a Panthers win to weaken the Bruins’ hopes. The Senators are essentially in a must-win situation against the Red Wings. A loss puts them at risk of falling further behind or getting passed by Florida. Joe Louis Arena has been a tough place to nab a win this season, but the Senators have to find a way or risk watching their playoff hopes take a major hit following three straight losses coming into Tuesday. Pick: Senators 3, Red Wings 2

Vancouver Canucks at Nashville Predators, 8 p.m. ET

The Predators emphatically busted out of the lull that hit them in late February. A disappointing 5-2 loss to the Flames Sunday, with a weakened Preds lineup, knocked them off of a four-game winning streak. But that stretch was enough to put some distance between Nashville and their Central Division rivals. They lead the Blues by three points and are four points ahead of the Blackhawks. Additionally, Nashville is still chasing the Anaheim Ducks for the Presidents’ Trophy as regular season champs. They trail by three points with a game in hand. The Canucks, meanwhile, have a lot to play for as well. They hold a two-point advantage over the Flames for second place in the Pacific Division, which would give them home ice in a first-round series between the two clubs. Vancouver picked up a big win over the Blues Monday night after dropping two straight to non-playoff teams. With the way both of these teams are playing and what each has to play for, this should be a spirited matchup. Pick: Predators 3, Canucks 1

New York Rangers at Winnipeg Jets, 8 p.m. ET

The Winnipeg Jets have been playing solid enough hockey lately, but a loss to the Chicago Blackhawks Sunday put their playoff hopes in some peril. As of today, the Jets lead the Los Angeles Kings by just two points in the Western wild card race. The Kings have a better shot at catching the Jets at this point than they do the Calgary Flames, who picked up another big win Monday as well. This is a strange position for the Jets to be in having won six of their last eight games, but that’s just the nature of this particular NHL season. It looks like things could end up coming down to the last day without someone going on a big run, but Winnipeg can help themselves in a big way by notching a win over the Rangers. New York has lost two straight, which is the first time they’ve lost consecutive games in nearly two months. They haven’t lost three in a row since November, so this is a tall order for the Jets to come away with what they need. Getting at least a point here is crucial. Pick: Rangers 3, Jets 2 (OT)

Other games on Tuesday’s schedule

Carolina Hurricanes at Washington Capitals, 7 p.m.
New Jersey Devils at Columbus Blue Jackets, 7 p.m.
Tampa Bay Lighting at Toronto Maple Leafs, 7:30 p.m.

Three Stars

1. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals: It may surprise you to know that of the 49 goals Ovechkin has scored this year, none have come against the Carolina Hurricanes despite three meetings between the two clubs. With Ovechkin having the chance to notch Goal No. 50 on home ice, look for that to change Tuesday.

2. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins: In a game the Bruins need him to be great, Rask should deliver. He has just one regulation loss to the Panthers in his career against 11 wins and one overtime loss. He has a.963 save percentage against the Panthers in 13 career appearances. In a big game for his team, look for Rask to come through.

3. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning have a chance to overtake the Canadiens for the top spot in the Atlantic with a win Tuesday night. Stamkos has torched the Maple Leafs this year with five points in three games. He’s also been a little too quiet lately with just two assists in the five games since scoring his 40th goal of the season.

Article source: http://www.cbssports.com/nhl/eye-on-hockey/25130052/nhl-daily-picks-bruins-panthers-headline-two-huge-atlantic-matchups

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