Okay, Islanders/Jets, let’s talk about this heated battle….

No? Okay, no. Let’s try a different game first.

I’ve seen these games broken down a number of different ways, and half the time I end up more confused than I was before reading the break down. So, I’ll try to do this in simple, plain english. Here’s what’s up on tonight’s NHL schedule.

Florida Panthers vs. Washington Capitals

Tonight is Florida’s chance to officially claim the Southeast Division and take hold of the three seed in the Eastern Conference once and for all, but it ain’t gonna be easy.

They’ve been beaten by Washington three of the five times they’ve played them this season, but it’s worse than that – they’re playing in Washington, a place they’ve been twice this year and managed to total zero goals en route to their losses.

Also making tonight a monumentally difficult game for the Panthers is where the Capitals sit, 8th in the Conference, tied with the 9th-place Buffalo Sabres at 88 points. While Florida would like to win, the game is a near must for the Caps.

The whole losing four in a row thing that Florida is trying out hasn’t really worked out so far, and has allowed Washington a glimmer of hope to catch them. They may want to get it in gear tonight, just a suggestion.

The good news for Florida is that even if they lose, they can still clinch a playoff spot if…

Buffalo Sabres at Philly Flyers

The Sabres fail to earn at least a point tonight.

The Sabres have been utterly owned by the Flyers this year (haven’t won a game, lost the last one 7-2), and the Flyers have reason to want to win too – it looks like they’ll be facing Pittsburgh in round one, and there’s still a faint hope that they could catch the Pens and claim home ice advantage (three points back, both teams have two games).

But, a Sabres loss coupled with a Caps win eliminates Buffalo from playoffs, so if you’re looking for the motivational edge, I think that pretty cleanly takes it.

If Philly is going to catch Pittsburgh, they need them to…

New York Rangers at Pittsburgh Penguins

Lose in regulation to the Rangers.

While the Pens once looked like they were going to catch and pass the New York for the first seed in the East, that dream has died. Their motivation at this point is just securing home ice advantage so they can render game 82 meaningless, and rest their best players.

Still, this could legitimately be a preview of the Eastern Conference Final. The Rangers are sitting with 109 points with a couple games to go in the regular season, which puts them in the hunt for the President’s Trophy, and the Pens have looked damn near unbeatable at times since Crosby has returned to the lineup. It should be a beauty game.

In the other conference….

Dallas Stars at Nashville Predators

Two teams with unsettled playoff seeds battle it out.

The Dallas Stars’ season is hanging on by a thread – they’re three points behind the San Jose Sharks with both team having two games left, meaning they need nothing put pure wins, and they need the Sharks to tank (ha!).

Nashville, on the other hand, is in a comparable situation to Philly, only with better odds. They’re nearly locked in to be playing Detroit in the West’s first round 4/5 matchup, but they trail the Wings by a mere point, while both teams have two games remaining.

That’s going to be a tight series where every little thing affects the outcome – getting home ice could be the difference-maker.

And last but very much not least,

Los Angeles Kings at San Jose Sharks

For these two teams, it all comes down to this.

Los Angeles is on top of the Pacific Division and in the 3rd seed right now with 93 points. San Jose is in the 8th and final playoff spot with….92 points. They play each other in a home-and-home series to end the season. High five, schedule-maker.

A win can also guarantee the Sharks a playoff berth and kill the Stars hopes, so they’re going to be doubly hungry.

You can’t lay it out much more clear than that. Win the next two games, win the division. Lose ‘em, and face the Vancouver Canucks on the road in round one. Good luck with that.