National Hockey League

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                               Tuesday, March 31
                              (All times Eastern)
 ( - The Columbus Blue Jackets know they will soon be
 mathematically eliminated from the Eastern Conference playoff race, but that
 won't stop them from trying to close 2014-15 on a high note.
 The Blue Jackets will try to match their longest winning streak of the season
 on Tuesday when they host the New Jersey Devils.
 Columbus has won six straight, moving the club one win away from a seven-game
 tear from Dec. 1-16.
 The Blue Jackets also have tied a club record for victories in a month with 10
 and can set a new mark tonight in their final tilt of March. They last won 10
 games in a month back in December.
 Despite winning nine of its last 10 games, Columbus will not be returning to
 the playoffs this season after making the franchise's second foray into the
 postseason last spring. At this point, a loss of any kind by the Blue Jackets
 would officially end their postseason chances as would a win by the Boston
 Although the team realizes the playoffs are not in the cards, they are not
 content to simply play out the string.
 "Once we realized we couldn't reach 94 or 95 points, you pretty much cash
 out," Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky told the Columbus Post-Dispatch.
 "But we haven't done that, really. You still have a responsibility as
 professionals to the organization and the fans to work hard and play hard. You
 have to try to build toward something, and we're starting to do that."
 Columbus' sixth straight win came Saturday in St. Louis. The 4-2 decision also
 represented the club's eighth consecutive road victory, extending a club
 Boone Jenner scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period to spur
 Columbus to the win over the Blues. Sergei Bobrovsky made 29 saves for the
 Blue Jackets, who set a club mark for the most road wins in a season with 22.
 The Blue Jackets hope to stay hot at home, as they are set to begin a three-
 game homestand tonight. Columbus, however, is just 14-20-2 at Nationwide Arena
 this season compared to a 22-15-2 mark on the road.
 Columbus' opponent already has been officially knocked out of the playoff
 race. The Devils were eliminated Sunday when the Bruins beat the Carolina
 Hurricanes in overtime.
 New Jersey was in the midst of a fifth straight loss (0-4-1) when Boston
 sealed its fate. The Devils lost a 2-1 home decision Sunday against visiting
 Anaheim, which received the game-winning goal early in the third period when
 Francois Beauchemin was credited with a tally after the puck went in off New
 Jersey defenseman Jon Merrill's skate.
 "They get rewarded for putting pucks to the net and getting guys to the net,
 but just a tough bounce for us," Schneider said.
 The Devils will miss the playoffs for a third straight season.
 New Jersey has won eight of the past 12 meetings against the Blue Jackets and
 has claimed three of the last five encounters in Ohio.
 ( - Alex Ovechkin hopes to add another 50-goal season to his
 resume when his Washington Capitals welcome the Carolina Hurricanes for
 Tuesday's clash at Verizon Center.
 Ovechkin scored twice Sunday in a 5-2 road victory over the New York Rangers,
 bringing his league-leading goal total to 49. Another goal would give the
 winger his sixth season of 50 goals or more.
 The 29-year-old Russian superstar also is closing in on his fifth Rocket
 Richard Trophy. Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos and Rick Nash of the Rangers are
 tied for second with 40 tallies.
 Sunday's win was Washington's fifth in seven outings and helped bolster the
 club's playoff hopes. Jason Chimera also scored twice in the victory, as he
 tallied two straight goals to begin the third period and stake the Caps to a
 4-2 advantage. Marcus Johansson added an empty-netter with 2:23 left to secure
 the victory.
 "We wanted to get some points, some momentum," said Chimera. "We do a good job
 coming into this building and winning."
 With 92 points, Washington holds a three-point edge over Boston for the first
 of two wild card spots in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins host Florida on
 The Caps also sit three points in back of the New York Islanders and
 Pittsburgh Penguins for second place in the Metropolitan Division. Neither the
 Isles or Pens or in action tonight, giving Washington a chance to gain some
 Braden Holtby made 23 saves for the Capitals, as he bounced back from
 Saturday's 4-3 loss in Nashville. Holtby was pulled late in the first period
 on Saturday after giving up three goals on 13 shots.
 Holtby is 6-4-0 with a 2.09 goals against average in 10 career games versus
 the Hurricanes.
 Carolina will miss the playoffs for a sixth straight season, but the club has
 gained at least a point from four its last five contests, going 2-1-2 during
 the stretch.
 However, the 'Canes had a two-game win streak halted Sunday with a 2-1
 overtime loss against Boston in the finale of a five-game homestand.
 Nathan Gerbe scored Carolina's lone goal with 22 seconds left in the second
 period to make it a 1-1 game. The score stayed that way until David Pastrnak
 won it for the Bruins with 37 seconds left in overtime.
 Anton Khudobin finished with 28 stops in the loss.
 "I thought we matched their intensity today, if not exceeded it at times,"
 said Carolina head coach Bill Peters.
 The Hurricanes are beginning a two-game trip tonight and will visit Florida on
 Thursday. Carolina is 17-15-7 as the visiting club this season.
 Washington had won three straight in this series before the Hurricanes notched
 a 3-0 home win on Feb. 27. The Caps, meanwhile, snapped a three-game home skid
 versus Carolina with a 4-3 OT win on Nov. 8.
 FLORIDA PANTHERS (35-26-15) AT BOSTON BRUINS (38-25-13), 7 P.M.
 ( - A six-game losing streak threatened to derail Boston's
 playoff chances, but the Bruins are hoping to have that rough patch in the
 rearview mirror.
 Boston hopes to continue on the right path when it shoots for a third straight
 victory in Tuesday's home clash against the Florida Panthers.
 The Bruins went 0-3-3 from March 15-26, but have since followed with
 consecutive wins over the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes.
 Although the skid allowed Ottawa to briefly take possession of the final wild
 card berth in the Eastern Conference, Boston has regained the spot and enters
 Tuesday with a three-point lead over the Senators. Ottawa still owns a game in
 hand over the Bruins, who have six games left on their schedule, and the Sens
 visit Detroit on Tuesday.
 Florida, meanwhile, is four behind the Bruins with the same amount of games
 left in the regular season.
 Boston won on consecutive days this weekend, beating the visiting Rangers by a
 4-2 count on Saturday before edging the Hurricanes in overtime. David Pastrnak
 scored with 37 seconds left in OT to help the B's claim a 2-1 win on Sunday.
 Carl Soderberg skated the puck in down the right wing and from the corner he
 sent a backhand, no-look pass to the left wing where it found Pastrnak, who
 one-timed a low shot between the pads of Anton Khudobin for the win.
 "I was trying to shoot high because the goalie was coming from the other
 side," said Pastrnak about the goal. "It went low and it was in."
 Ryan Spooner had the other goal and Tuukka Rask made 30 stops for the Bruins.
 Boston is 22-10-7 as the host this season and has won seven straight and nine
 of its last 10 home games against the Panthers. However, Florida did halt a
 nine-game overall skid in this series with a 2-1 shootout win on March 21 at
 BB&T Center.
 Brandon Pirri scored the lone marker of the shootout in Florida's recent home
 win over the Bruins. Roberto Luongo made 26 saves through overtime and stopped
 Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Spooner in the tiebreaker.
 Rask turned aside 24-of-25 shots in the loss, which dropped him to 11-1-1 in
 his career against Florida. Boston's No. 1 netminder owns a stellar 1.05 goals
 against average over 13 lifetime appearances in this matchup.
 Luongo is 13-12-1 with a 2.39 GAA in 30 career outings versus the Bruins. The
 veteran goalie aggravated a shoulder injury in Saturday's OT loss against
 Montreal, but he was able to serve as the backup for Sunday's game against
 Ottawa and could be well enough to start tonight.
 Dan Ellis spelled Luongo on Sunday and stopped 25 shots to help the Panthers
 beat the Senators, 4-2. It was Ellis' first appearance since March 17.
 "He was outstanding. Dan made some great saves tonight," said Florida coach
 Gerard Gallant.
 Jaromir Jagr scored two goals to boost the Panthers' offense in the important
 contest. Jussi Jokinen and Dave Bolland also tallied for Florida.
 Tonight's contest marks the end of a five-game road trip for the Panthers.
 They are 2-1-1 on the swing and 17-15-8 as the guest this season.
 Florida's final five tests of the regular season will come on home ice. The
 five-game homestand begins Thursday against Carolina.
 The Bruins and Panthers will meet one more time in the regular season when
 Florida hosts the season-series finale on April 9.
 OTTAWA SENATORS (37-26-12) AT DETROIT RED WINGS (40-23-12), 7:30 P.M.
 ( - The Ottawa Senators look to get their playoff chances
 back on track and avoid their longest losing streak in four months on Tuesday
 evening when they visit the Detroit Red Wings.
 The Sens have picked a bad time to struggle, following up seven consecutive
 victories with their first three-game slide since Feb. 3-7. That has them
 three points behind the Boston Bruins for the second wild card spot in the
 Eastern Conference and one point ahead of the Florida Panthers in the
 Ottawa does have a game in hand on both clubs and the Bruins host the Panthers
 on Tuesday.
 The Senators gave up some ground to the Panthers on Sunday by losing a 4-2
 decision to Florida. Erik Karlsson and Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored third-period
 tallies, but the Panthers netted a pair of power-play goals in the first and
 capped the game with a short-handed empty-net goal.
 "We kind of took ourselves out of it (with the penalties)," said Ottawa
 forward Clarke MacArthur. "We were rolling the lines good at the end of the
 Craig Anderson made 33 saves in his second start in a row for the Senators,
 who haven't dropped four straight since a five-game slide from Nov. 28-Dec. 6.
 Andrew Hammond was able to shake off a lower-body injury suffered last week
 and back up Anderson on Sunday after not dressing for a game. Hammond, who has
 gone 14-1-1 over his first 16 NHL starts, could draw the start tonight over
 Hammond has faced the Red Wings once before, a relief effort on Feb. 27 of
 last year in which he stopped all 11 shots faced in his NHL debut. Anderson is
 4-6-1 versus Detroit with a 2.84 goals against average and .918 save
 percentage in 14 meetings (11 starts).
 The Red Wings lead the Bruins by three points for third place in the Atlantic
 Division and lost for the ninth time in 13 games with Sunday's 5-4 setback to
 the New York Islanders.
 Detroit got off to a quick start with goals by Tomas Tatar and Drew Miller
 less than two minutes into the contest, but the Islanders recovered and tied
 the game at 3-3 by the end of 20 minutes before eventually earning a 5-4 win.
 "That first period had a lot of funny bounces," Red Wings forward Henrik
 Zetterberg remarked. "It was sloppy for both sides."
 Detroit struggled on special teams, allowing the deciding tally to a short-
 handed Islanders club while letting its opponent score three times on the
 power play.
 Tatar and Pavel Datsyuk finished with a goal and an assist, while Niklas
 Kronwall also scored.
 Petr Mrazek, coming off a 23-save shutout of high-powered Tampa Bay on
 Saturday, was pulled 16 seconds into the second period after permitting four
 goals on 11 shots. Jimmy Howard made 15 saves on 16 shots faced in relief.
 Detroit will play four of its next five at home and Howard could draw back
 into the starting lineup tonight. He is 5-3-0 with a 3.15 GAA and .897 save
 percentage in eight career meetings with the Sens.
 The Red Wings have won four of five and eight of their past 11 versus the
 Senators, taking six of the last nine played in Detroit.
 ( - The Tampa Bay Lightning have secured a playoff spot and
 remain in the hunt for the Atlantic Division title, but getting healthy at
 their blue line may now be the top priority.
 The Lightning look to grab first place in the division on Tuesday night when
 they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs.
 Tampa Bay trails Montreal by one point for first place in the Atlantic, having
 recorded a five-game season series sweep over the rival Canadiens by winning a
 5-3 road decision last night.
 Vladislav Namestnikov had a pair of goals and one assist, while Nikita
 Kucherov, Jonathan Drouin and Anton Stralman also scored to snap Tampa Bay's
 two-game losing streak.
 Ben Bishop made 25 saves and picked up a pair of assists. He matched a club
 record and previous season high with his 37th victory.
 "It was a great team effort with the lineup we had," Tampa Bay forward Steven
 Stamkos said.
 The Lightning also set a new franchise record with their 47th win of the
 season and reached the 100-point mark for a second season in a row. Their 101
 points on the season are one behind the idle Habs with five games left to play
 for both teams.
 Tampa Bay's victory came after it revealed prior to the contest that
 defenseman Jason Garrison will miss 3-to-4 weeks with an upper-body injury and
 fellow blueliner Andrej Sustr is out 1-to-2 weeks with an ailment to his upper
 body. They join defenseman Braydon Coburn (lower body) as injured Lightning
 defenseman and the club also saw blueliner Victor Hedman exit last night's
 game in the third period with an undisclosed injury.
 Hedman is questionable for tonight.
 The Lightning will play the third contest of a five-game road trip tonight and
 may give backup Andrei Vasilevskiy his first career start versus Toronto.
 Tampa Bay has won four of its past five versus the Maple Leafs, but has just
 one victory in its past six trips to Toronto.
 The Leafs are looking to stay on track tonight after halting a seven-game
 losing streak with Saturday's 4-3 overtime decision against the Ottawa
 Senators. Tyler Bozak potted a hat trick, including a game-tying marker with
 1:24 left in regulation, and Eric Brewer tallied the winner with 1:43 to play
 in OT.
 Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk added three assists apiece and James Reimer
 posted 22 saves.
 "Coming through late in the game, that's what you want to see," Toronto coach
 Peter Horachek said.
 The Maple Leafs have not won consecutive games since Feb. 21-26 and after
 wrapping a four-game homestand tonight, they play the first of two straight on
 the road on Wednesday in Buffalo.
 Reimer is expected to start tonight and is 2-6-0 in eight career meetings with
 the Lightning, posting a 3.11 goals against average and .905 save percentage.
 NEW YORK RANGERS (47-21-7) AT WINNIPEG JETS (39-25-12), 8 P.M.
 ( - The Winnipeg Jets seek to rebound from only their second
 loss in eight games on Tuesday night when they take on the Metropolitan
 Division-leading New York Rangers.
 Despite the recent run of success, the Jets' 4-3 setback to the Chicago
 Blackhawks on Sunday did hamper their playoff chances a bit. Winnipeg came out
 of the loss only two points ahead of Los Angeles for the second wild card spot
 in the Western Conference, though it got some help when the Kings lost to the
 Chicago Blackhawks in regulation on Monday night.
 The Jets and Kings both have six games left to play, while the Dallas Stars
 are six points out of the wild card spot with five contests remaining.
 Dustin Byfuglien scored a pair of power-play goals versus the Blackhawks and
 Blake Wheeler netted a short-handed tally for the Jets. Ondrej Pavelec made 20
 saves and saw his personal six-game win streak end.
 "It's a tough loss," said Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice. "You're not taking
 away any of the pain or frustration tonight, so we'll chat with the players
 (Monday). We'll follow our normal routine. We'll deal with it (Monday) and it
 will be done by the time we hit the ice."
 Forward Bryan Little has missed the previous 11 games with an upper-body
 injury, but is nearing a return and could be back by the time the Jets wrap a
 four-game homestand on Saturday versus Vancouver.
 Pavelec, meanwhile, may get the call again tonight and is 6-4-1 versus the
 Rangers with a 2.20 goals against average, .929 save percentage and two
 shutouts in 12 games.
 New York is going through some rare struggles, having lost three of their past
 four games. The Rangers lost back-to-back contests over the weekend, their
 first consecutive setbacks since Feb. 7-8 and the first time they lost two
 straight in regulation since Jan. 27-29.
 The Blueshirts lost to Boston on Saturday in Henrik Lundqvist's return to
 action and were then bested 5-2 by the Washington Capitals on Sunday. Cam
 Talbot took the loss, yielding four goals on 30 shots faced.
 "I don't know if it was the energy level, but obviously our execution level
 was way off," said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault.
 Kevin Hayes and Derick Brassard lit the lamp for the Rangers, who haven't lost
 three straight since Nov. 13-17 and still lead the Pittsburgh Penguins and New
 York Islanders by six points for first place in the division. The Rangers have
 already clinched a playoff spot and trail the Montreal Canadiens by one point
 for the most in the East.
 Lundqvist figures to get the start tonight as the Rangers try to get him back
 into pre-injury form. He sat out 25 straight contests due to a vascular injury
 before returning on Saturday and is 11-7-1 versus the Jets franchise with a
 2.09 GAA, .921 save percentage and three shutouts in 26 games (25 starts).
 The Jets have won four of their past six versus the Blueshirts, but the
 Rangers are 3-1-0 on the in this series since the Jets moved to Winnipeg.
 ( - The Vancouver Canucks look to strengthen their hold on
 second place in the Pacific Division on Tuesday night when they visit the
 Nashville Predators.
 The Canucks snapped a two-game slide with Monday's 4-1 win over the St. Louis
 Blues. That has them two points up on the third-place Calgary Flames with a
 game in hand. Vancouver has six games remaining to Calgary's five.
 Eddie Lack made 23 saves in last night's victory, while Nick Bonino, Alex
 Burrows, Radim Vrbata and Shawn Matthias all scored. Vrbata added an assist to
 his 31st goal of the season and Christopher Tanev had a pair of helpers.
 Vancouver's win was the sixth straight over St. Louis and it began a four-game
 road trip with a fourth consecutive road victory.
 "They're a good team, and for whatever reason, we've have some good fortune
 (against them)," said Vancouver coach Willie Desjardins.
 The Predators got some help from the Canucks last night as they lead the Blues
 by three points for first place in the Central Division with 102. They have
 five games left to the Blues' six and also trail the Anaheim Ducks by three
 points for the most in the NHL.
 Nashville clinched a playoff spot in Saturday with a win over Washington, then
 saw its four-game win streak halted the following day with a 5-2 setback to
 the Calgary Flames.
 Carter Hutton started in place of star goalie Pekka Rinne and allowed four
 goals on 29 shots. Defensemen Roman Josi and Seth Jones had the goals.
 "I don't think we were at our best tonight," said Predators coach Peter
 Laviolette. "It seemed like we were slow to get into the battles, or at least
 getting our second or third man into the battles."
 Nashville was without the services of its captain, Shea Weber, for the second
 straight game due to a lower-body injury. His status for this game is unknown.
 The Predators have won three of their past four versus the Canucks and snapped
 a three-game slide at home in this series with a 5-1 win on Jan. 13.
 03/31 10:55:49 ET

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