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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

NHL : Bolts-Bruins in Key Atlantic Division Battle

With about 10 games left in the regular season, the Atlantic Division is down to the wire. At least five teams have a decent shot at grabbing one of the three automatic playoff spots – or maybe even a Wild Card – including the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning, who meet this Thursday at the Garden. Game time is 7 PM ET on NESN.

The Bruins have vaulted back into third place in the Atlantic since firing head coach Claude Julien on February 7 and replacing him on an interim basis with Bruce Cassidy. But the Lightning have also played well during that span, much of that after trading No. 1 goalie Ben Bishop (.911 save percentage) to the Los Angeles Kings and handing the reins to Andrei Vasilevskiy (.916 SV%).

Unfortunately for the Bolts, injuries could prevent them from climbing out of fifth place in the Atlantic. Four of their top centers are on the shelf at press time. Tyler Johnson (19 goals), Vladislav Namestnikov (nine goals) and Cedric Paquette (four goals) are all day-to-day with lower-body injuries, while Steven Stamkos (nine goals in 17 games) might not return from his torn meniscus before the playoffs.

Live odds and lines

NHL Odds: Playoff Ramifications for Bolts, Bruins

Thursday night’s matchup (7 PM ET, NESN) between the Boston Bruins and the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning could wind up deciding if either team makes the playoffs. Boston is third in the Atlantic Division; Tampa Bay is fifth with about 10 games remaining in the regular season.

Both teams have played well over the past month or so, but the Bolts find themselves in a pickle with four centers on the injured list. Steven Stamkos (knee) is still unlikely to return before the playoffs, while Tyler Johnson, Vladislav Namestnikov and Cedric Paquette are all day-to-day with lower-body injuries.

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