There is less than a week left in the regular season for the NHL, and the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins have both already clinched playoff births. As the top three teams in the Eastern Conference are pretty much locked (Flyers, Capitals and Bruins), the Bolts and Penguins will be the #4 and #5 seeds, which means they will face each other in the first round of the playoffs.
The Bolts are currently one point behind the Penguins in the standings, but each team has three games remaining and so either team could conceivably end up with the higher seed. Since the higher seed gets home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, the stakes are riding on the remaining games this week. Which team has it easier?
Away vs. Sabers (90 pts.)
Home vs. Panthers (70 pts.)
Away vs. Hurricanes (87 pts.)
Home vs. Devils (77 pts.)
Away vs. Islanders (72 pts.)
Away vs. Thrashers (78 pts.)
The Lightning are going to have their work cut out for them if they want to claim the #4 seed, as they're facing a considerably tougher schedule than the Penguins over these remaining few games. Add in the fact that they're currently one point behind and may be without team captain Vinny Lecavalier for a few of those games, and it's looking like a real long shot for the Bolts to have home ice advantage in the first round.
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