The Boston Bruins face an interesting decision entering the final weekend of the regular season starting Saturday when they host the Ottawa Senators.
Do they go for the top spot in the Atlantic Division or provide rest for some of their battered and bruised troops against Ottawa and again on Sunday's makeup game against the Florida Panthers?
The Bruins lost Thursday night at Florida and were eliminated from the President's Trophy race. The late loss also allowed the Tampa Bay Lightning to remain tied with Boston for first place in the division and Tampa Bay took a two-point lead with Friday night's home win over the Buffalo Sabres.
So, to finish first, the Bruins would have to sweep the Ottawa Senators and the Florida Panthers at home this weekend, while the Lightning failed to get two points at Carolina on Saturday night.
The interesting angle on all this is wondering how the Bruins are better off. If they win the division, they would get one of three Metropolitan teams -- the Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils or the Philadelphia Flyers. If they finish second, it's the Toronto Maple Leafs in a clash of the only two Original Six teams heading to the playoffs.
The Bruins went 0-2-1 on their road trip that ended the road season.
Bodies are in and out of the lineup and there is a feeling some could use some rest after dropping both games in Florida in regulation.
"Hopefully we learn from (this) and hopefully we realize this is going to be the hockey we're going to play," Boston's Patrice Bergeron said after Thursday night's 3-2 loss. "If we want to play until June that's how it's going to be. We have to realize that and be better."
The Senators, playing out the string like all the Canadian-based teams except the Maple Leafs are 2-3-0 in their last four games but 2-9-0 in their last 11.
The Bruins have won all three of the games between the teams this season, one at TD Garden, where the Sens won all five games counting playoffs last year.
The Senators lost in Pittsburgh Friday night. On Wednesday night, they won at Buffalo as the Sabres clinched the worst record in the league for the coming draft lottery.
"We're out there, we're playing to win, we want to win as many games as we can and prove that we belong in the roles that we play," Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson said after the win in Buffalo. "We want to make sure we play for each other, we play for our fans, we play for the crest on the front. We know that all we can do is go out there and work hard and let the chips fall as they may."
Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin are likely to split the two weekend games for the Bruins, who are still waiting for the return of Rick and Riley Nash and Sean Karaly while others, like Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy continue to shake off rust.
Rask is 11-7-4 with a 2.17 goals against average and .925 save percentage in the regular season against the Senators but lost to them in last year's playoffs. Khudobin is 5-0-1 with a 1.81 GAA and .948 save percentage against Ottawa.
Anderson is 12-12-0 with a GAA of 3.05 and a .905 save percentage against Boston in the regular season and beat the Bruins in last year's postseason.
Mike Condon is 2-4-0 with 2.87 GAA and .907 save percentage against Boston. He defeated the Bruins in the Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro as a rookie.