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NHL: 5 things to know for Thursday night

03/26/2015 12:59 EDT | Updated 05/26/2015 05:59 EDT
The Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames will attempt to improve their playoff standing in the Western Conference and widen the gap over Los Angeles, which could grab a wild-card playoff spot from idle Winnipeg with a win over Edmonton. Meanwhile, Ottawa looks to inch closer to Boston.

Here are five things to know for tonight's NHL games:

Road warriors

Vancouver will need yet another strong road effort, this time at Chicago, if it wants to maintain its playoff standing. The Canucks have won five straight away from Rogers Arena and boast a 24-12-3 road mark, compared to 21-15-2 on home ice. They have also defeated the Blackhawks twice this season, including a 5-4 decision at Chicago on Feb. 11.

The Blackhawks have won two straight and would clinch a playoff berth with a win over Vancouver. They also secure a spot if they collect a point and Calgary and Los Angeles lose in any fashion or Calgary or L.A. loses in regulation.

Time to pounce

The Calgary Flames are visiting St. Louis at the right time as they cling to third place in the Pacific Division. The Blues are 1-3-2 in their past six starts and won't have the injured Vladimir Tarasenko, their leading goal scorer (36) and point getter (71) this season, in the lineup. Fellow forward Alex Steen, who is second in team scoring (62 points), is also questionable with a knee injury. He scored the winning goal in Calgary on March 17 (see below). Minus those players, St. Louis wouldn't be as imposing as the group that beat Calgary 4-1 and 4-0 earlier this season.

The Blues would clinch a playoff spot if they earn a point versus the Flames or if Los Angeles loses to Edmonton in regulation. Calgary has a three-point lead over the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings, who are home to the Oilers.

Jets' eyes on Byfuglien, playoffs

Word on a possible suspension to Dustin Byfuglien isn't all the Winnipeg Jets will be focused on Thursday. The Los Angeles Kings, who are just two points back of Winnipeg for the second wild-card playoff spot in the Western Conference, will use their game in hand on the Jets when they host Edmonton.

A win would move L.A. into the wild-card spot as it holds the tiebreaker over Winnipeg with 35 combined regulation and overtime wins (ROW) to the Jets' 32.

Beware of Bishop, Bolts

The Ottawa Senators can't afford to peek at the Boston-Detroit matchup on the out-of-town scoreboard as they could have their hands full with visiting Tampa Bay. Three points back of the Bruins with a game in hand, Ottawa faces a Lightning squad led by Steven Stamkos, who has 11 goals and 23 points in 24 games versus the Senators. Then there's goalie Ben Bishop, a former Senator, who has allowed three goals in each of his past four starts but is 6-0-2 with a 2.30 GAA and .924 save percentage against his old team. And he's coming off a two-assist night against Montreal.

The good news for Ottawa fans is their team is 28-13-0 at home against Tampa, but the Senators fell 4-2 in a Jan. 4 meeting at Canadian Tire Centre.

Boston, with three straight wins, faces a Red Wings outfit that has lost two in row. A regulation victory would move the Bruins into a tie with Detroit for third in the Atlantic with 93 points. They would be tied in ROW (37) and wins (40) but the Red Wings would remain third having played one fewer game.

Atlantic up for grabs

Montreal is hosting Washington but will be cheering for an Ottawa victory over Tampa Bay, which sits a point back of the Canadiens in the Eastern Conference. Montreal coach Michel Therrien will be looking for an improved defensive effort from his club, which allowed 45 shots in a 5-3 loss to Tampa on Monday. A repeat performance could prove fatal against the Capitals' Alex Ovechkin, who tops the NHL with 50 goals and is tied for second in points with 77.

The Canadiens lead the season series 2-0 but needed a shootout and overtime to eke out the victories. Defenceman Tom Gilbert probably will return to the Montreal lineup after missing four games with a broken jaw.

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