The Carolina Hurricanes are the only team in the Eastern Conference that still has a shot at knocking one of the top eight teams out of the postseason picture, thanks to their Wednesday night win over the Detroit Red Wings. Well, mostly thanks to Cam Ward, but we'll digress.
The big win gave the Hurricanes two big points in the standings, enough to keep them within two of the New York Rangers. Had they lost the game, their tragic number would have fallen to just a single point. Now, it's still firm at three points, and with a Rangers loss on Thursday night against the Atlanta Thrashers, the door could open for the Canes.
Of course, the Buffalo Sabres sit a point ahead of the Rangers in the standings and haven't technically clinched yet, but they're pretty safe at this point. Carolina can at best tie them, and should Buffalo earn just a single point in their final two games, they'll clinch. So, we'll stick with the Rangers vs. Hurricanes scenarios.
Here's the deal: Both teams have two games remaining. The Hurricanes are two points back of the Rangers, and each team has 34 non-shootout wins. Carolina needs to win both of their remaining games (likely in regulation or overtime, too), on the road in Atlanta on Friday night and at home against Tampa Bay on Saturday night.
If the Rangers win both of their remaining games -- Thursday at home against Atlanta and Saturday at home vs. New Jersey -- they're in the postseason. Should they lose one of those games and Carolina win both of theirs, the tiebreaker will come into play. If the teams still wind up tied in non-shootout wins, the Hurricanes win the second tiebreaker thanks to an edge in the season series.
That should give hope to fans in Raleigh, but for the Rangers, it's still pretty simple: win and you're in.