Well, now things have become rather interesting.
The significance of the Rangers' loss to the Thrashers tonight cannot be overstated. Yes, now the Hurricanes control their own destiny. But beyond that, amazingly, the Canes could conceivably clinch a playoff spot before the opening faceoff against Tampa Bay on Saturday night, since the Devils play the Rangers on Saturday afternoon and the result will be known before the Canes and Lightning face off.
If I told you a week ago that the Canes' game against the Lightning would be meaningless - and not because they were eliminated, but because they had clinched a spot already - I'm not sure I would have even believed myself.
So here are the updated scenarios as of tonight:
Canes go 2-0-0: They are in no matter what happens elsewhere, and would finish 7th if the Sabres lose their last two games.
Canes go 1-0-1: They are in if the Rangers lose in any form on Saturday against the Devils.
Canes go 1-1-0 or 0-0-2: They are in if the Rangers lose in regulation to the Devils on Saturday.
Canes go 0-1-1 or 0-2-0: They are eliminated.
Buckle up...we aren't done yet.