There are two games on the NHL schedule on Monday night, and both of them will have a rather large impact on the 2011 playoff picture. Up first, the New York Rangers take on the Boston Bruins at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. The game is on Versus in the United States.
In the late game at 10 p.m. Eastern, also on Versus, San Jose can clinch the Pacific Division with a victory over the Los Angeles Kings. Two points will lift them to 103 on the season, putting them out of reach of both the Kings and the Phoenix Coyotes. A win will also keep the Sharks ahead of the Detroit Red Wings in the race for the 2-seed out West. San Jose holds the edge over Detroit thanks to their one game-in-hand. That game comes tonight.
The Kings need a win this evening if they want that Pacific title. It's still a long shot, but if they earn two points and hold the Sharks off in regulation, they'll pull within three points of them with three games left in the season. Crazier things, etc.
Two points will also help the Kings in the race for home ice advantage in the first round, whether or not they wind up atop the Pacific. They are in control of their destiny at this point and will take a two point lead on No. 5 Phoenix with the win. A loss would put both Phoenix and Nashville in a position to leap them, which could mean a drop all the way to No. 6 for the Kings.