After clinching their first playoff berth in five years with their victory on Saturday, the Blueshirts have a new goal in mind. The team will look to secure the first Metropolitan Division title since the 2014-15 season, and doing so will require leapfrogging the Carolina Hurricanes in the standings. Each of these teams have played 73 games, but Carolina currently leads the Blueshirts by two points (and two regulation wins for tiebreaking purposes). A regulation win tonight will pull New York into a tie with Carolina, while a regulation loss would increase the deficit to four points with only eight games to follow.
Tonight’s meeting will be one of two at Madison Square Garden down the stretch, as these division rivals will square off again two weeks from today. With the division crown likely hanging in the balance of these two games, tonight’s clash will set the stage for what could be the true division deciding game later on.
Player to Watch: Kaapo Kakko
Kakko returned to the lineup for the first game since mid-January on Saturday and played a very nondescript 13:01 worth of ice time. Between injuries that have made him unavailable for nearly half of the season, and relatively little production in the other half of the games he’s suited up for, the final year of Kakko’s entry level contract hasn’t been much to write home about. Keep an eye on him as he looks to change that narrative starting tonight.
Enjoy the game!