As the final month of the NHL season nears, the Southeast Division and the Eastern Conference is shaping up to have a battle for a pair of playoff spots within the division. The Washington Capitals, Florida Panthers and the Winnipeg Jets are all separated by two points in the standings. One will get a division title and one of the top three seeds in the conference, another will most likely play the top-seeded New York Rangers and the third team will be packing things up for the summer. Where do these teams stand entering a big weekend of hockey?
Record: 31-23-12, 74 points
Games Remaining: 16
Next Five Games: Friday at Pittsburgh, Sunday vs. Carolina, Mar. 13 vs. Toronto, Mar. 15 vs. Boston and Mar. 17 vs. Buffalo
The Panthers have a game in hand on the two teams trailing them for the division lead, plus they have four of their next five games at home. However, their biggest concern at the moment is the lower body injury to leading scorer Kris Versteeg. It is still unknown when he will return and his injury has caused a decrease in production for the Panthers, who have lost three of their last four.
Record: 33-28-6, 72 points
Games Remaining: 15
Next Five Games: Saturday at Boston, Sunday vs. Toronto, Mar. 13 at New York Islanders, Mar. 16 at Winnipeg and Mar. 18 at Chicago
What was thought to be a sure lock at the beginning of the season has turned into a stressful time for the Capitals as they play six of their next seven games on the road. Not too reassuring when you look at their record away from Verizon Center, which stands at a disappointing 11-18-3. If the Capitals are going to stand a chance of making the run that they need to win a fifth straight Southeast Division title, they're going to have to do the work away from home. Another big question to ask is what the Capitals' goaltending situation will be like with Tomas Vokoun struggling.
Record: 32-28-8, 72 points
Games Remaining: 14
Next Five Games: Friday at Calgary, Mar. 14 vs. Dallas, Mar. 16 vs. Washington, Mar. 18 vs. Carolina and Mar. 20 at Pittsburgh
The upstart Jets have the fewest games between the three teams to make up the ground. Leading the charge for them will be Evander Kane, leading the team with 26 goals, as well as Blake Wheeler, leading the team with 55 points and 39 assists. The Jest will also need good performance from goaltender Ondrej Pavelec who is 25-22-7 with a 2.74 GAA.
In all it will be an interesting race to the finish for all three of these teams to see who rises and who falters.