Now it gets tense.   The Eastern Conference contenders have between twelve and fourteen games remaining on their schedule.  Going in to Monday’s schedule five points separate third and sixth place. 

The Canadiens face another of  those four-game weeks, their last of the season.  It’s actually four games in six nights starting with home games against red-hot Washington and Tampa Tuesday and Thursday and then at the Rangers on Friday and Minnesota on Sunday.   Over twelve nights the Canadiens will burn off seven of their remaining thirteen games on the schedule.

The Eastern Conference standings after games of Sunday, March 13: .

                                       GP         Pts.              The Week Ahead

1st – Philadelphia    68           91  **            Tues @ Florida; Thurs @Atlanta

2nd – Washington    70           90  **          Tues. @ Montreal; Wed. @Detroit

3rd – Boston           68           85  **               Tues. @Columbus; Thurs@Nashville

4th –   Pittsburgh      70           88                  Tues@Otttawa; Sunday host Rangers

5th –   Tampa Bay    69           85                   Mon @Toronto; Thurs,@Montreal

6th –   Canadiens     69           83  –                Tues host Washington; Thurs host Tampa

7th –   Buffalo           69           76  –                Tues. host Carolina; Sat. host Atlanta

8th –   NY Rangers   70          76   –             Tues-host Islanders; Friday.host Canadiens

9th –   Carolina         69          72   –               Tues@Buffalo; Friday host Islanders

10th–  Toronto          69          70                  Mon-hostTBay/Wed@Carolina/Thurs@Fla

11th–  Atlanta           69          70                    Tues@NJersey; Thurs.host Washington

12th–  New Jersey   68           68        Tues-host Atlanta; Thurs.@Ottawa

                         ** = Division leaders

Based on their last ten games, the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference include Washington with eight wins in a row (9-1-0), New Jersey (8-2-0); Montreal (7-3-0) Boston and Buffalo (6-2-2) and Toronto (5-2-3). 

The Devils were 27 points out of a playoff berth on January 8th.  Since they they’re 23-3-2 and have won 14 of their last 16 games.  They’re now eight points from 8th place and a playoff berth.