Atlantic: Much at stake in tonight’s division match-ups

By Ian Altenbaugh

Photo: New York Rangers forward Marian Gaborik (#10) celebrates his 40th goal with his teammates (courtesy of

Will Schneekloth/Icon SMI)

Every team in the Atlantic Division will play tonight, with the New York Rangers visiting the Philadelphia Flyers, the New York Islanders visiting the New Jersey Devils, and the Pittsburgh Penguins visiting the Boston Bruins.

Out of the three matches, the game between the Rangers and Flyers, will have the most on the line. If the Rangers win, they clinch the number one seed in the Eastern Conference and guarantee home-ice advantage for at least the first three rounds of the playoffs. If the Flyers beat the Rangers tonight they could overtake the Penguins for the fourth seed in the East and possibly home-ice advantage for at least the first round of the playoffs.

The other intra-division game tonight is between the Devils and Islanders. New Jersey will look to build on their win totals tonight when they visit the New York Islanders, who have given up 11 goals in their last two games.

Finally, the Pittsburgh Penguins will visit the Boston Bruins tonight. The Penguins will look to tighten up their defensive game, as they have allowed 29 goals in their past six games and have in general looked poor in their own end, not managing the puck well and giving up a lot of turnovers.

Atlantic Division Notes

New Jersey DevilsThe Devils clinched a playoff berth last Saturday with a 5-0 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. With three games left, the Devils are all but assured to finish as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. When David Clarkson scored his 30th goal over the weekend, he made the New Jersey Devils the only team in the league to have three different 30-goal scorers.

New York Islanders
The Islanders were officially eliminated from the playoffs when they lost 6-3 against the Bruins last Saturday. Tied for the fourth-worst record in the NHL, the Islanders will once again be players in the upcoming NHL Draft Lottery, which will be held on April 10th. If they do indeed finish with their current standing in the league, they will have a 10.7 percent chance of landing the first overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft. Winger Matt Martin set an NHL record this past Sunday against Ottawa when he recorded his 361st hit of the season. Rookie Casey Cizikas is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

New York Rangers
Winger Marian Gaborik has been red-hot lately, managing five goals and three assists in his last five games. Gaborik hit the 40-goal mark for the third time in his career over the past weekend, making him only the third player in Rangers history to manage multiple 40-goal seasons.

Philadelphia Flyers
When the Flyers beat the Penguins Sunday night, it was the 10th time this season the Flyers have come back from two goals or more to earn a point. The victory was also their 25th road win of the season, the most wins on the road by any team in the league. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has started for the Flyers every time they have visited the Penguins in the past two years, posting a 5-0-0 record. Nicklas Grossman remains day-to-day after his collision with the Penguins’ Joe Vitale last Sunday. Head coach Peter Laviolette was fined $10,000 for his outburst in Sunday’s game.

Pittsburgh Penguins
Penguins assistant coach Tony Granato received a $2,500 fine for his part in the altercation with Flyers coach Laviolette. Defenseman Kris Letang returned to the lineup Sunday afternoon after missing the previous three games to a lower-body injury. Letang has missed over 30 games this season to various maladies, including two concussions. Captain Sidney Crosby managed the 600th point of his career last Friday against the Buffalo Sabres. He was the seventh youngest player in NHL history to reach that milestone.