NHL playoff watch: Devils-Sabres is Friday's key game to monitor


There have been fantastic nights on the NHL schedule recently, some might argue maybe even too much action for hockey fans to track in a given evening.

Friday is not one of those nights.

There is just one game on the schedule, as the New Jersey Devils visit the Buffalo Sabres (7 p.m. ET, NHL Network). This is a game that looked to have considerably more at stake when the schedule came out in the summer, but there are some notable implications for the outcome.

The Devils are five points behind the Washington Capitals for the East’s second wild-card spot, and six points behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the No. 3 seed in the Metro Division. Notably, New Jersey has more regulation wins than both clubs, so pulling even in the standings is all that’s required to get into the playoffs.

Buffalo’s playoff hopes rest on eclipsing a batch of teams and getting the wild card, as the No. 3-seeded Atlantic club, the Toronto Maple Leafs, are 18 points ahead.

Of course, this matchup also impacts the draft lottery standings, with the Sabres currently 10th and the Devils 12th in that register. The NHL’s four worst teams don’t appear to be in range for either club, but getting as high as the No. 5 position (currently held by the Arizona Coyotes) is in play mathematically.

As we traverse the final stretch of the regular season, it’s time to check in on all the playoff races — along with the teams jockeying for position in the 2024 NHL draft lottery.

Note: Playoff chances are via Stathletes.

Jump ahead:
Current playoff matchups
Friday’s schedule
Thursday’s scores
Expanded standings
Race for No. 1 pick

Current playoff matchups

Eastern Conference

A1 Boston Bruins vs. WC1 Tampa Bay Lightning
A2 Florida Panthers vs. A3 Toronto Maple Leafs
M1 New York Rangers vs. WC2 Washington Capitals
M2 Carolina Hurricanes vs. M3 Philadelphia Flyers

Western Conference

C1 Dallas Stars vs. WC2 Los Angeles Kings
C2 Colorado Avalanche vs. C3 Winnipeg Jets
P1 Vancouver Canucks vs. WC1 Nashville Predators
P2 Edmonton Oilers vs. P3 Vegas Golden Knights


Friday’s game

Note: All times ET. All games not on TNT or NHL Network are available via NHL Power Play, which is included in an ESPN+ subscription (local blackout restrictions apply).

New Jersey Devils at Buffalo Sabres, 7 p.m. (NHLN)


Thursday’s scoreboard

Toronto Maple Leafs 5, Washington Capitals 1
Montreal Canadiens 4, Philadelphia Flyers 1
Ottawa Senators 2, Chicago Blackhawks 0
New York Islanders 3, Florida Panthers 2
Pittsburgh Penguins 3, Columbus Blue Jackets 2
Carolina Hurricanes 4, Detroit Red Wings 0
St. Louis Blues 5, Calgary Flames 3
Minnesota Wild 3, San Jose Sharks 1
Vegas Golden Knights 4, Winnipeg Jets 1
New York Rangers 3, Colorado Avalanche 2 (SO)
Edmonton Oilers 4, Los Angeles Kings 1
Dallas Stars 3, Vancouver Canucks 1
Arizona Coyotes 8, Nashville Predators 4
Seattle Kraken 4, Anaheim Ducks 2


Expanded standings

Atlantic Division

bos

Points: 99
Regulation wins: 33
Playoff position: A1
Games left: 8
Points pace: 110
Next game: @ WSH (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 100%
Tragic number: N/A

fla

Points: 97
Regulation wins: 38
Playoff position: A2
Games left: 9
Points pace: 109
Next game: vs. DET (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 100%
Tragic number: N/A

tor

Points: 91
Regulation wins: 29
Playoff position: A3
Games left: 10
Points pace: 104
Next game: @ BUF (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 99.9%
Tragic number: N/A

tb

Points: 87
Regulation wins: 32
Playoff position: WC1
Games left: 10
Points pace: 99
Next game: vs. NYI (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 99.9%
Tragic number: N/A

det

Points: 79
Regulation wins: 25
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 9
Points pace: 89
Next game: @ FLA (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 20.6%
Tragic number: 16

buf

Points: 73
Regulation wins: 28
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 9
Points pace: 82
Next game: vs. NJ (Friday)
Playoff chances: 0.3%
Tragic number: 10

ott

Points: 68
Regulation wins: 23
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 10
Points pace: 77
Next game: @ WPG (Saturday)
Playoff chances: ~0%
Tragic number: 7

mtl

Points: 68
Regulation wins: 18
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 10
Points pace: 77
Next game: vs. CAR (Saturday)
Playoff chances: ~0%
Tragic number: 7


Metropolitan Division

nyr

Points: 102
Regulation wins: 38
Playoff position: M1
Games left: 9
Points pace: 115
Next game: @ ARI (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 100%
Tragic number: N/A

car

Points: 99
Regulation wins: 38
Playoff position: M2
Games left: 8
Points pace: 110
Next game: @ MTL (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 100%
Tragic number: N/A

phi

Points: 82
Regulation wins: 28
Playoff position: M3
Games left: 8
Points pace: 91
Next game: vs. CHI (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 78.2%
Tragic number: N/A

wsh

Points: 81
Regulation wins: 28
Playoff position: WC2
Games left: 10
Points pace: 92
Next game: vs. BOS (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 57.0%
Tragic number: N/A

nyi

Points: 77
Regulation wins: 23
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 10
Points pace: 88
Next game: @ TB (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 24.5%
Tragic number: 16

nj

Points: 76
Regulation wins: 31
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 9
Points pace: 85
Next game: @ BUF (Friday)
Playoff chances: 16.9%
Tragic number: 13

pit

Points: 74
Regulation wins: 27
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 10
Points pace: 84
Next game: @ CBJ (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 2.5%
Tragic number: 13

cbj

Points: 58
Regulation wins: 18
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 9
Points pace: 65
Next game: vs. PIT (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 0%
Tragic number: E


Central Division

dal

Points: 101
Regulation wins: 35
Playoff position: C1
Games left: 8
Points pace: 112
Next game: @ SEA (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 100%
Tragic number: N/A

col

Points: 98
Regulation wins: 38
Playoff position: C2
Games left: 9
Points pace: 110
Next game: vs. NSH (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 99.9%
Tragic number: N/A

wpg

Points: 94
Regulation wins: 39
Playoff position: C3
Games left: 9
Points pace: 106
Next game: vs. OTT (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 99.9%
Tragic number: N/A

nsh

Points: 90
Regulation wins: 35
Playoff position: WC1
Games left: 9
Points pace: 101
Next game: @ COL (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 99.1%
Tragic number: N/A

stl

Points: 82
Regulation wins: 29
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 9
Points pace: 92
Next game: vs. SJ (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 5.1%
Tragic number: 14

min

Points: 79
Regulation wins: 28
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 10
Points pace: 90
Next game: vs. VGK (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 2.0%
Tragic number: 13

ari

Points: 67
Regulation wins: 25
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 9
Points pace: 75
Next game: vs. NYR (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 0%
Tragic number: E

chi

Points: 47
Regulation wins: 15
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 9
Points pace: 53
Next game: @ PHI (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 0%
Tragic number: E


Pacific Division

van

Points: 98
Regulation wins: 39
Playoff position: P1
Games left: 9
Points pace: 110
Next game: vs. ANA (Sunday)
Playoff chances: 99.9%
Tragic number: N/A

edm

Points: 92
Regulation wins: 34
Playoff position: P2
Games left: 11
Points pace: 106
Next game: vs. ANA (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 99.9%
Tragic number: N/A

vgk

Points: 88
Regulation wins: 31
Playoff position: P3
Games left: 9
Points pace: 99
Next game: @ MIN (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 95.8%
Tragic number: N/A

la

Points: 87
Regulation wins: 32
Playoff position: WC2
Games left: 10
Points pace: 99
Next game: @ CGY (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 98.0%
Tragic number: N/A

sea

Points: 73
Regulation wins: 24
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 10
Points pace: 83
Next game: vs. DAL (Saturday)
Playoff chances: ~0%
Tragic number: 7

cgy

Points: 71
Regulation wins: 28
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 10
Points pace: 81
Next game: vs. LA (Saturday)
Playoff chances: ~0%
Tragic number: 7

ana

Points: 52
Regulation wins: 18
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 9
Points pace: 58
Next game: @ EDM (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 0%
Tragic number: E

sj

Points: 40
Regulation wins: 12
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 10
Points pace: 46
Next game: @ STL (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 0%
Tragic number: E

p — clinched Presidents’ Trophy
y — clinched division
x — clinched playoff berth
e — eliminated from playoff contention


Race for the No. 1 pick

The NHL uses a draft lottery to determine the order of the first round, so the team that finishes in last place is not guaranteed the No. 1 selection. As of 2021, a team can move up a maximum of 10 spots if it wins the lottery, so only 11 teams are eligible for the draw for the No. 1 pick. Full details on the process can be found here. Sitting No. 1 on the draft board for this summer is Macklin Celebrini, a freshman at Boston University.

sj

Points: 40
Regulation wins: 12

chi

Points: 47
Regulation wins: 15

ana

Points: 52
Regulation wins: 18

cbj

Points: 58
Regulation wins: 18

ari

Points: 67
Regulation wins: 25

mtl

Points: 68
Regulation wins: 18

ott

Points: 68
Regulation wins: 23

cgy

Points: 71
Regulation wins: 28

sea

Points: 73
Regulation wins: 24

buf

Points: 73
Regulation wins: 28

pit

Points: 74
Regulation wins: 27

nj

Points: 76
Regulation wins: 31

nyi

Points: 77
Regulation wins: 23

det

Points: 79
Regulation wins: 25

min

Points: 79
Regulation wins: 28

stl

Points: 82
Regulation wins: 29

* The Penguins’ first-round pick was traded to the Sharks as part of the Erik Karlsson trade. However, it is top-10 protected.



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