The Washington Capitals can clinch a playoff spot as early as Tuesday evening, but in order to have that chance they first need a victory Monday night over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Should the Caps beat their divisional foe, they'll boost their lead for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference to four points with two games remaining in the regular season.
The Buffalo Sabres, currently on the outside looking in at the No. 9 spot, sit two points back of the Capitals entering Monday's action. Buffalo does not play, which means Tuesday's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs will be a crucial game in hand for them.
If the Capitals grab two points Monday and the Sabres fail to earn a point vs. Toronto, Washington will clinch a playoff spot. If the Capitals do not earn any points Monday, the Sabres would be able to tie Washington with two points over Toronto, but since the Caps hold the tiebreaker, Buffalo would still sit in a perilous position.
Since Buffalo's 5-1 win over Washington last Monday, the teams have gone in opposite directions. The Sabres had control of their own fate following that win, but now they have to hope for help from elsewhere.