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NHL Morning Skate for Thursday, April 6, 2017: Capitals are NHL’s top team for the regular season

WEDNESDAY’S RESULTS
Home Team in Caps
BUFFALO 2, Montreal 1
WASHINGTON 2, NY Rangers 0

OVECHKIN, HOLTBY HELP CAPITALS WRAP UP PRESIDENTS’ TROPHY
Alex Ovechkin opened the scoring and Braden Holtby denied all 24 shots he faced to help the Capitals (54-18-8, 116 points) clinch the Metropolitan Division title, Eastern Conference, Presidents’ Trophy and the No. 1 overall seed in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

* The Capitals, who own a 10-1-1 mark in their past 12 games, claimed the Presidents’ Trophy for the second straight season and third time in franchise history (2009-10 and 2015-16). Only two other clubs have won the Presidents’ Trophy at least three times since its inception in 1985-86: the Red Wings (6) and Rangers (3).

* This marks the 10th division title for Washington and the fourth time that the club has secured the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference (2009-10, 2010-11 and 2015-16).

* Ovechkin scored his 96th career game-winning goal (eighth this season) to tie Mats Sundin for 11h place on the NHL’s all-time list. He shares ninth in the League with 34 goals overall this season.

* Holtby registered his ninth shutout of the season (62 GP) to regain the League lead and equal a franchise record originally set by Jim Carey in 1995-96 (71 GP) and tied by Holtby in 2014-15 (73 GP). He also moved into sole possession of the League lead with his 42nd win of 2016-17.

DID YOU KNOW?
The Capitals posted their 12th shutout of the season as they continue their pursuit of the William M. Jennings Trophy, which is awarded “to the goalkeeper(s) having played a minimum of 25 games for the team with the fewest goals scored against it.”

Washington has allowed only 179 goals against this season to lead the League, five fewer than the Blue Jackets (184). The Canadiens (194), Kings (195), Sharks (196) and Ducks (197) are the only other clubs with fewer than 200 goals against in 2016-17.

TWO OF EIGHT MATCHUPS DETERMINED FOR FIRST ROUND
Two matchups for the First Round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs were determined via Wednesday’s results:

* The Rangers are locked into the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference and a First Round series against the Canadiens, the No. 1 seed in the Atlantic Division. This marks their 16th postseason meeting (NYR: 8, MTL: 7) and second in the past four years. In the 2014 Conference Finals, Henrik Lundqvist registered a series-clinching shutout in Game 6 to lead New York past Montreal and into the Stanley Cup Final.

* The Penguins and Blue Jackets are guaranteed to meet in the opening round for the second time – Pittsburgh defeated Columbus in six games in the 2014 First Round, a series that featured two overtime victories by the Blue Jackets. The Penguins currently hold a three-point lead over the Blue Jackets in the race for the No. 2 seed in the Metropolitan Division and home ice in the opening round.

LOOSE PUCKS
The Capitals extended a franchise record with their League-leading 32nd home win of the season . . . The Sabres closed their home schedule with a victory over the Canadiens, the top seed in the Atlantic Division . . . Sabres forward Jack Eichel (0-1—1) established career highs for assists (33) and points (57) in a season, despite playing in only 59 games in 2016-17 . . . Canadiens forward Alexander Radulov extended his point streak to five games (3-3—6) . . . Bruins forward Brad Marchand will have a hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety this morning for spearing Lightning defenseman Jake Dotchin . . . Ilkka Sinisalo, who played in the Stanley Cup Final twice for the Flyers during his 11 NHL seasons, died in his native Finland on Wednesday at age 58.

SNEAK PEEK AT THURSDAY’S ACTION
All Times Eastern
Ottawa @ Boston, 7 p.m., NBCSN, NESN, TSN5, RDS
Pittsburgh @ New Jersey, 7 p.m., SN360, MSG+, ROOT
NY Islanders @ Carolina, 7 p.m., FS-CR, MSG+ 2
Winnipeg @ Columbus, 7 p.m., FS-O, TSN3
Tampa Bay @ Toronto, 7:30 p.m., TVAS, TSN4, FS-F
St. Louis @ Florida, 7:30 p.m., FS-F, FS-MW
Nashville @ Dallas, 8:30 p.m., FS-SW, FS-TN
Minnesota @ Colorado, 9 p.m., ALT, FS-N
Vancouver @ Arizona, 10 p.m., FS-A PLUS, SNP
Chicago @ Anaheim, 10 p.m., NBCSN, CSN-CH
Calgary @ Los Angeles, 10:30 p.m., SN360, FS-W
Edmonton @ San Jose, 10:30 p.m., NBCS CA+, SNW
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FINAL TWO PLAYOFF POSITIONS UP FOR GRABS ON 12-GAME NIGHT
The final two spots in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs could be determined on Thursday as all four teams in the running take the ice:

* The Senators (42-27-10, 94 points), who would clinch a playoff spot by earning a point, head to Boston to take on the Bruins (44-30-6, 94 points), who wrapped up their spot in the postseason on Tuesday. The game will be broadcast in the U.S. on NBCSN as part of a doubleheader – in the second half, the Ducks (44-23-13, 101 points) aim to inch closer to the Pacific Division title when they host the Blackhawks (50-22-8, 108 points), who have already clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

* In Toronto, the Lightning (39-30-10, 88 points) look to keep their playoff hopes alive as they face off against the Maple Leafs (39-25-15, 93 points), who need only one point to wrap up a playoff berth. Elias notes that Toronto’s Auston Matthews (39-28—67) sits one goal shy of becoming just the fourth rookie in NHL history to score 40 goals in a season before celebrating his 20th birthday.

* The Islanders (38-29-12, 88 points), the first team outside the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference, aim to stay in the postseason hunt when they visit the Hurricanes (35-30-14, 84 points). New York has won three straight games overall and five of its past six road contests.

NCAA FROZEN FOUR BEGINS TODAY
The NCAA Frozen Four begins today at United Center in Chicago:

Semifinal 1 – Harvard vs. Minnesota-Duluth (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Semifinal 2 – Denver vs. Notre Dame (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Click here for more information.

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PRESS RELEASE WRITTEN BY NHL PUBLIC RELATIONS; COURTESY NHL MORNING SKATE PUBLICATION