The Montreal Canadiens enter tonight's contest with a three-game losing streak, and got a bit of tanking help from teams below them in last night's action.
The Ottawa Senators came away with regulation-time win against the Carolina Hurricanes, and leapt over Montreal into 22nd overall as a result.
Morgan Rielly was inspired by Montreal's creative way of recording a regulation loss versus the Colorado Avalanche. His turnover in the final minutes of a tie game led to a New York Rangers goal, and kept the Toronto Maple Leafs in last place in the NHL with just 49 points through 56 games.
The Winnipeg Jets mounted an exciting comeback after going down 3-0 in the first period to the Tampa Bay Lightning, scoring four goals in the third period to take the game to extra time. They were unable to finish the deal in the shootout, but made it a three-point game versus what had been a non-playoff team, and crept a point closer to Montreal, now sitting just four points back.
Connor McDavid and Nail Yakupov scored to counter the two power-play goals the rising Minnesota Wild scored in the first period, but the Edmonton Oilers couldn't hang with their opponent in the final two periods, and fell 5-2.
The Vancouver Canucks became the latest mark in the Anaheim's Ducks current hot streak, surrendering four straight goals to the Ducks before the five-minute mark of the second period, and failed to move up in the standings.
With Ottawa's win, Montreal dropped down to 23rd. They can't fall any farther tonight, but several teams below them can work themselves up a bit closer.
This series will focus on any team currently sitting more than one spot outside of a playoff position. Here are today's games featuring the teams meeting that criterion:
7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
Visitors: San Jose Sharks
Position: 10th in Eastern Conference; 19th overall
Ideal result: Win for CAR
How to watch: GameCentre Live/NHL.tv
The Hurricanes return home to take on the San Jose Sharks, and will need to snap the team's three-game win streak to come away with the victory.
Buffalo Sabres @ Columbus Blue Jackets
Records: BUF: 23-28-7 / CBJ: 23-28-7
Positions: BUF: 14th in East; 27th overall / CBJ: 15th in East; 28th overall
Ideal result: Overtime win for CBJ
How to watch: BellTV
Columbus puts its eight-game point streak on the line versus the Buffalo Sabres. The Jackets can jump three spots in the overall standings with a win of any kind and anything less than that result from Calgary.
7:30 PM EST / 4:30 PM PST
Philadelphia Flyers @ Montreal Canadiens
Records: PHI: 25-21-10 / MTL: 27-27-4
Positions: PHI: 11th in East; 20th overall / MTL: 13th in East; 23rd overall
Ideal result: Regulation win for PHI
How to watch: RDS, Sportsnet East (Canadiens region)
Be sure to check out our game preview of tonight's Canadiens-Flyers game, and follow along in our game thread.
9:00 PM EST / 6:00 PM PST
Vancouver Canucks @ Calgary Flames
Records: VAN: 22-23-12 / CGY: 25-28-3
Positions: VAN: 11th in Western Conference; 24th overall / CGY: 13th in West; 26th overall
Ideal result: Overtime win for CGY
How to watch: Sportsnet West (Flames region), Sportsnet Pacific (Canucks region)
The third and final all-lottery matchup of Friday night features two teams doing their best to improve their odds, each riding a three-game losing streak. At least one of them will break their point-scoring drought tonight. A win by Vancouver can pull them into a tie with the Habs, with 58 points.