Since it’s Friday and everybody’s looking forward to the weekend, we figured we’d dampen the spirits of a few fans today, because we’re kind of mean like that.

Unfortunately, this weekend could all but put an end to the playoff dreams of several franchises.

The NHL is unpredictable, so by no means are we saying that the teams on this list will miss the playoffs.  In fact, a number of them could make it.  However, the wrong combination of losses by these teams and wins by their opposition could send the dream of chasing the Cup away for another year.

The Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs are a lot closer to the playoffs than most people would have expected them to be a few months ago, however this might be as close as they get this year.

Worst Case Scenario for the Maple Leafs:

If the Leafs lose on Saturday night in regulation against the Boston Bruins, it could be bad news.  A Carolina win tonight against the New York Islanders and Buffalo and Atlanta going into overtime on Saturday would be worse, especially if the Sabres get the extra point.  If Buffalo wins again on Sunday, defeating Nashville, the parade planning will likely stop in Toronto.  That combination would leave the Leafs in 11th place with 72 points.  Atlanta would be a point ahead in 10th.  Carolina would have 76 points and be in ninth.  Buffalo would have 80 points and possibly end up in seventh place, depending on how the New York Rangers fare.  A Rangers win or a Devils win would make things even more difficult for Toronto and both teams play twice this weekend.

The New Jersey Devils

Speaking of teams that we counted out of contention months ago, we have the New Jersey Devils.  The fact that we’re even still talking about the Devils’ chances is amazing, but their desperate scramble to get into the playoffs could end this weekend.

Worst Case Scenario for the Devils:

The Devils play twice this weekend: tonight against Washington and Sunday against Columbus.  You’d have to assume that anything short of two wins would spell the end for the Devils.  The fact that Washington could clinch a playoff spot with a win over New Jersey tonight is bad news for the Devils as well.  The Flyers will also clinch if the Devils lose, which means two fewer spots available in the East.

Devils fans will be siding with Leafs fans in hoping that Carolina loses tonight, as a Hurricanes’ win would be deadly for New Jersey’s chances.

The Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes are in a slightly better situation than the Devils and the Leafs, but they could still be in trouble this weekend.

Worst Case Scenario for the Hurricanes:

A loss tonight against the Islanders would make things difficult for Carolina.  If the Rangers win against the Canadiens tonight, things get worse and the Sabres beating Nashville on Sunday could spell disaster.  The Sabres/Thrashers game on Saturday night is also a problem for Carolina, just like it is for all playoff hopefuls in the East.  The Thrashers could tie the Hurricanes in points with a victory over the Sabres and a Carolina loss.  However, a Sabres’ win would widen the gap between the ninth-place Hurricanes and the final playoff spot, so there’s no good outcome there.

Atlanta could also be in trouble this weekend, for the same reasons as the other teams listed.  There is going to be a lot of scoreboard watching in the East over the next three days.

The West is much closer than the East and the difference there between fourth and 10th is only six points.  While Nashville and Anaheim are currently on the outside looking in, they’re close enough that this weekend probably won’t kill their hopes.  Nashville only plays once this weekend and their opponent is the East’s Buffalo Sabres.  Anaheim will have a tougher weekend, as they play Los Angeles on Saturday and Calgary on Sunday.  Losing both of those games could be bad for the Ducks, but they wouldn’t necessarily be out of it yet.  However, their hopes could be hanging by a thread.

The Minnesota Wild

The Wild are already long shots to make the postseason, but this weekend could almost definitely kill their dreams.

Worst Case Scenario for the Wild:

Minnesota plays Columbus tomorrow and Montreal on Sunday.  If the Wild win both those games, they might be able to get back in the hunt.  However, wins by Calgary, Nashville and/or Anaheim would put Minnesota back where they currently sit and 11th place isn’t good enough.  Minnesota has to hope that they win both games while the teams ahead of them all lose.  That’s a tough place to be.

Of course, there’s still time left this season, so even if things look bad for your team after the weekend, that doesn’t mean it’s definitely over.