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Tampa Bay Lightning at Montreal Canadiens Preview: Can the Bolts still clinch?

Three clinching scenarios for the last few games of the regular season.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Montreal Canadiens Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Lightning (40-30-10) at Montreal Canadiens (46-25-9): Game 81

Time: 7:30 pm Eastern Time

Location: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario

Broadcast/Streaming: TVAS, TSN4, SUN

Opponent SBNation Site: Habs Eyes on the Prize

Playoff Race

The Lightning pulled off a big regulation win against the Toronto Maple Leafs last night. Now the Lightning go into Montreal to take on the Atlantic Division-winning Canadiens. The Canadiens have already locked in their playoff spot and their opponent is already set, the New York Rangers. Other than gearing up for the playoffs, the Habs have nothing to play for in their last two games.

The Lightning on the other hand still have everything to play for. The Ottawa Senators secured their playoff spot with a point last night. That leaves the Maple Leafs, Lightning, and New York Islanders all in the hunt for the last playoff spot with two games each. The Lightning play their last back-to-back today. Meanwhile the Maple Leafs and Islanders have to play a back-to-back to end the season Saturday and Sunday.

The scenarios are still a bit complicated for how the Lightning can secure a playoff spot. One thing we know for sure is that the Lightning have to go 2-0-0 in the last two games. If Toronto goes 0-2-0 and fails to get a point, the only way the Lightning can tie them is by going 1-0-1. If that happens, the Lightning would tie Toronto in points, but be one behind them in Regulation and Overtime Wins (ROW); that’s the first tiebreaker for the standings.

Lightning go 2-0-0, all ROW, clinch if...

Toronto gets 1 point or less
AND
Islanders get 3 points or less OR Islanders get 4 points with one win coming in a shootout.

Lightning go 2-0-0, with 1 SO win and 1 ROW win, clinch if...

Toronto gets 0 points
AND
Islanders get 3 points or less OR Islanders get 4 points with both wins coming in a shootout.

Lightning go 2-0-0 with 2 SO wins, clinch if...

Toronto gets 0 points
AND
Islanders get 3 points or less.

The Lightning need help to get in. The one thing they can control is beating the Canadiens and then the Sabres on Sunday, both in regulation, to give them a chance.

The Maple Leafs play the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday followed by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday. Like the Canadiens, the Penguins and Blue Jackets are already locked into their division positions, second and third respectively. They have nothing to play for in these final two games.

The Islanders on the other hand have an easier path with the non-playoff New Jersey Devils on Saturday followed up with the playoff bound Ottawa Senators. The Senators still have playoff position to play for, though they will be locked into second in the division with a Saturday win and a Bruins loss.

Lots of nail biting.

The Game Tonight

So we’ve established that the Lightning have to win in regulation or overtime and that the Canadiens have nothing to play for. The big question will be whether or not Carey Price is in net tonight. The Habs may choose to sit him and give him some rest with a back-to-back. They’ll finish their regular season tomorrow against the Detroit Red Wings in Detroit. The Canadiens have three goalies on the roster right now and could conceivably not even dress Price, instead choosing to go with Al Montoya and Charlie Lindgren.

Update:

Checking up on Twitter this morning, there is some chatter that Carey Price is indeed starting tonight, but I have yet to see anything official from any media sources or from the team. We’ll update later when we learn more.

For the Lightning, it looks like Joel Vermin will be sent back to the Syracuse Crunch after being scratched last night. Gabriel Dumont returned to the lineup, and Michael Bournival and Cory Conacher drew in after emergency recalls of their own. The Crunch play the Binghamton Senators tonight and are in a playoff race of their own.

Maybe Stamkos returns? Maybe not? Maybe Johnson? We’ll see if anyone else gets healthy enough to return to the lineup tonight, but I have my doubts.

Lines will likely not be updated because there will be no morning skate, but this is as close as we can figure:

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forwards

Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

Adam Erne - Vladislav Namestnikov - Jonathan Drouin

Alex Killorn - Yanni Gourde - Cory Conacher

Gabriel Dumont - Greg McKegg - Michael Bournival

Defense

Victor Hedman - Jake Dotchin

Anton Stralman - Luke Witkowski

Braydon Coburn - Andrej Sustr

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Peter Budaj

Montreal Canadiens

Forwards

Pacioretty - Danault - Radulov

Byron - Plekanec - Gallagher

Galchenyuk - Shaw - Lehkonen

King - McCarron - Martinsen

Defense

Markov - Nesterov

Davidson - Petry

Beaulieu - Lernout

Goaltenders

Price

Montoya