It started six months ago. And after a grueling, arduous season of regular season hockey, several playoff hopefuls are running out of time.
Some are fighting to make the playoffs, while others already locked into the second season seek more advantageous seeding opportunities.
Here is a night-by-night list of the most critical matchups any NHL fan should be glued to this week.
(all times Eastern)
Tuesday, April 3
- Toronto Maple Leafs at Buffalo Sabres: 7 p.m., HSBC Arena
- New York Rangers at Philadelphia Flyers: 7 p.m., Wells Fargo Center
- Pittsburgh Penguins at Boston Bruins: 7:30 p.m., TD Bank North Garden
- San Jose Sharks at Dallas Stars: 8:30 p.m., American Airlines Center
- Columbus Blue Jackets at Phoenix Coyotes: 10 p.m., Jobing.com Arena
Wednesday, April 4
Thursday, April 5
- Buffalo Sabres at Philadelphia Flyers: 7 p.m., Wells Fargo Center
- New York Rangers at Pittsburgh Penguins: 7 p.m., Consol Energy Center
- Florida Panthers at Washington Capitals: 7 p.m., Verizon Center
- New Jersey Devils at Detroit Red Wings: 7:30 p.m., Joe Louis Arena
- Dallas Stars at Nashville Predators: 8 p.m., Bridgestone Arena
- Columbus Blue Jackets at Colorado Avalanche: 9 p.m., Pepsi Center
- San Jose Sharks at Los Angeles Kings: 10:30 p.m., Staples Center
Friday, April 6
- Phoenix Coyotes at St. Louis Blues: 7:30 p.m., Scottrade Center
Saturday, April 7
- Buffalo Sabres at Boston Bruins: 4 p.m., TD Bank North Garden
- Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins: 4 p.m., Consol Energy Center
- Washington Capitals at New York Rangers: 6:30 p.m., Madison Square Garden
- Phoenix Coyotes at Minnesota Wild: 8 p.m., XCel Energy Center
- St. Louis Blues at Dallas Stars: 8 p.m., American Airlines Center
- Nashville Predators at Colorado Avalanche: 9 p.m., Pepsi Center
- Los Angeles Kings at San Jose Sharks: 10:30 p.m., HP Pavilion
Ryan O'Leary is a writer and researcher for Bleacher Report's Video Production Department with seven years experience in the sports industry.