The race for Presidents'
It's always dicey to call an early-March game a potential Stanley Cup final preview, but powerhouses from each conference meet when the Canadiens visit the Ducks at 10 p.m. ET.
Montreal (41-17-5) leads the Eastern Conference with 87 points, while Anaheim (41-17-7) has 89 points to match Western-leading Nashville, which gets the edge for top spot by owning more regulation-time wins. Those three teams top a tight race for the Presidents' Trophy, awarded to the team with the best record at the end of the regular season. St. Louis, the Islanders, the Rangers and Tampa Bay are also within five points of Nashville.
The Canadiens' western road trip started poorly on Monday with a 4-0 loss at San Jose. Deadline-day addition Jeff Petry played 18 minutes and had one shot on goal. Torrey Mitchell and Brian Flynn — acquired in separate deals with Buffalo — could suit up for the first time as Habs tonight.
Revenge for Patches hit?
Anaheim and Montreal met on Dec. 18, and the visiting Ducks won 2-1. Habs scoring leader Max Pacioretty left the game after Ducks defenceman Clayton Stoner blindsided him into the boards in the third period. No penalty was called, and the NHL declined to fine or suspend Stoner, but Montreal may be looking to mete out its own form of supplemental discipline.
Wild card on Jets' radar
The Jets' playoff push continues when they host the Senators at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Winnipeg (32-20-12) is making a strong run at a wild-card berth. It currently holds the first of two such slots in the West with 76 points — one more than Minnesota, the No. 2 wild card, and four more than Los Angeles, San Jose and Calgary. Chicago is five points up on the Jets for the third and final playoff spot in the Central Division, so if NHL playoff hockey is to return to Winnipeg for the first time in 19 years, it'll likely be by way of the wild card.
Craig Anderson is scheduled to start for Ottawa after missing six weeks with a hand injury. With Anderson and backup Robin Lehner (concussion) both hurt, 27-year-old rookie Andrew Hammond kept Ottawa's flickering playoff hopes alive by winning his first five starts while posting a 1.00 goals-against average.
Sens coming on strong
Ottawa (27-23-11) wouldn't be crazy to think it can catch Boston for the final East wild card. Six points is a lot to make up with only 21 games left, but the Senators have a game in hand and a superior goal differential (plus-7 to plus-4). The two teams sitting between them — Florida and Philly — are a combined minus-41 and have each played three more games than the Sens, suggesting Ottawa is the best of the bunch.
The Sens are starting to show it, too. Their Hammond-powered five-game winning streak ended with Tuesday's night's shootout loss at Minnesota, but they still picked up a valuable point.