BOSTON (CBS) -- The Bruins may have laid an egg on Wednesday night, but Thursday is a new day.
The Bruins will be in Sunrise, Fla., to take on the Florida Panthers. Two points for the Bruins will go a long way toward increasing their chances of earning a postseason berth, but earning those points won't be easy. The Panthers beat the Bruins in a shootout in that very same building just a few weeks ago, so Boston will need to bring an improved effort if it hopes to pick up a W.
But the Bruins' own game is hardly the only one of significance being played Thursday night. Here's a quick look at what's going on around the Eastern Conference with regard to the playoff race.
Ottawa Senators at New York Rangers, 7 p.m.
There's no team in hockey hotter than the Ottawa Senators, as they seemingly find a way to pull a rabbit out of a hat every time they play. They did that on Tuesday night, when they rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat Pittsburgh in overtime, which gave them their 95th point of the season.
As a result, the Sens are in a virtual tie with the Bruins for the final wild-card spot, though Boston owns the tiebreaker.
This game will be made a bit easier for the Senators because the Rangers are resting a number of starters. New York has already clinched the Presidents' Trophy, thereby making the remainder of their regular season meaningless. As such, Rick Nash, Marc Staal and Mats Zuccarello aren't expected to play for New York in this one.
It presents quite the opportunity for the Senators to keep the pressure on the Bruins.
Ideal result for Bruins: Rangers win in regulation.
Worst-case scenario for Bruins: Senators win in regulation or overtime.
Detroit Red Wings at Montreal Canadiens, 7:30 p.m.
The Red Wings currently sit in third place in the Atlantic Division, two points ahead of the Bruins. The Red Wings have lost more often than they've won over the past month, but they managed to rally to beat the Hurricanes on Tuesday night to push ahead of Boston in the standings.
Sitting atop the division, Montreal still has something to play for. The Habs enter the night with 106 points -- just two more than second-place Tampa Bay. The Canadiens presumably want to win the division in order to earn a first-round meeting with a wild-card team, and they'll need to keep winning to do so.
The Canadiens will continue to be without Max Pacioretty, who suffered an injury after crashing into the boards on Sunday. Pacioretty leads the Habs in goals and points on the season by healthy margins.
Ideal result for Bruins: Canadiens win in regulation.
Worst-case scenario for Bruins: Red Wings win in regulation or overtime.
New Jersey Devils at Tampa Bay Lightning, 7:30 p.m.
This game only affects the Bruins if they actually make the playoffs, as the seeding in the Atlantic Division remains unsettled. The Lightning will be pushing to win in order to catch the Habs in the Atlantic. (Tampa owns the regulation/OT win tiebreaker.)
Ideal result for Bruins: Undetermined.
Boston Bruins at Florida Panthers, 7:30 p.m.
Of course, this is the game that matters most to Boston. They can secure their postseason spot by winning their two remaining games, so long as at least one of them comes in regulation or overtime. (Two Ottawa wins in regulation/OT plus two Bruins shootout wins would shift the tiebreaker in Ottawa's favor.)
A regulation/OT win for Boston combined with a Detroit loss would bump the Bruins past the Red Wings in the standings.
Ideal result for Bruins: Bruins earn regulation or overtime win, combined with an Ottawa or Detroit regulation loss (or both).
Worst-case scenario for Bruins: Bruins lose in regulation.
And depending on the results of all of these meetings, and also depending on the results of Pittsburgh's Friday night meeting with the Islanders, we'll all get to play this game again on Saturday. As it stands right now, the 12:30 p.m. Saturday matinee between the Senators and Flyers figures to be a game which the Bruins will keep an eye on as they prepare for their 7:30 p.m. game in Tampa on Saturday night.
Given all of these variables in these final days, it seems a safe bet that this all may not be decided until the final moments of the season.
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