The Stanley Cup playoffs round of 16 is one Calgary Flames win away from having two confirmed participants from the qualifying round.
The Flames are the only team that can secure passage Thursday, as they carry a 2-1 series lead over the Winnipeg Jets.
Thursday's other two qualifying-round games should provide us with more clarity as to which teams are favored to move on the next round. The Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs have been locked in a defensive stalemate over 120 minutes of hockey, and we could see more of the same in Game 3.
The Vancouver Canucks and Minnesota Wild kick off Thursday's slate in a series that has witnessed one shutout and a high-scoring affair so far.
NHL Postseason Picture
1. Tampa Bay (2-0-0; 4 points)
2. Philadelphia (1-0-0; 2 PTS)
3. Washington (0-0-1; 1 PT)
4. Boston (0-2-0; 0 PTS)
No. 12 Montreal leads No. 5 Pittsburgh 2-1.
No. 6 Carolina defeated No. 11 New York Rangers 3-0.
No. 7 New York Islanders lead No. 10 Florida 2-1.
No. 8 Toronto and No. 9 Columbus are tied 1-1.
1. Colorado (2-0-0; 4 PTS)
2. Vegas (1-0-0; 2 PTS)
3. St. Louis (0-1-0; 0 PTS)
4. Dallas (0-2-0; 0 PTS)
No. 12 Chicago leads No. 5 Edmonton 2-1.
No. 11 Arizona leads No. 6 Nashville 2-1.
No. 7 Vancouver and No. 10 Minnesota are tied 1-1.
No. 8 Calgary leads No. 9 Winnipeg 2-1.
Calgary Looking to Close Out Series
Calgary has a chance to become the first Western Conference team to advance out of the qualifying round, and with the way it has put goals past Connor Hellebuyck, it has to be favored to do so Thursday.
The Flames pushed six tallies past the Winnipeg goalie in Game 3 to take a 2-1 series lead. Hellebuyck, a Vezina Trophy finalist, posted a .922 save percentage and 2.57 goals-against average in the regular season.
The No. 8 seed in the West has opened up the Winnipeg defense with a balanced offensive attack. Mikael Backlund, Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm have two goals each, while six others have scored once.
Flames left winger Matthew Tkachuk believes Game 3 was the team's best performance in the bubble, per NHL.com's Aaron Vickers: "There wasn't one guy tonight who had an off game. I thought everybody played their best game of the series tonight."
If Calgary carries that momentum into Game 4, it should be able to move past a Winnipeg side that has not recovered from losing Patrik Laine and Mark Scheifele. Jets head coach Paul Maurice has not revealed whether both players will miss out on Game 4, per NHL.com's Tracey Myers.
"We didn't skate the bulk of our group today, since the guys played in a back-to-back," Maurice said. "We'll get them on the ice tomorrow morning and have a better idea."
Only four Winnipeg players have scored in the series, and captain Blake Wheeler has been held to a single assist and has the series' worst plus-minus at minus-four.
If Calgary keeps him at bay and the Jets are not able to receive contributions from elsewhere in the lineup, the Flames could join the Carolina Hurricanes from the Eastern Conference as teams to advance from the qualifying round.
Will There Be Another Shutout in Columbus-Toronto Series?
Joonas Korpisalo and Frederik Andersen traded shutouts in the first two games of the Eastern Conference series between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Minnesota-Vancouver series is the only other one to have a shutout
Andersen received more defensive help for his Game 2 clean sheet, with the Maple Leafs conceding just 20 shots on goal and not allowing a single Columbus player to attempt more than three efforts. Toronto could benefit from similar play Thursday to take hold of the series after being behind following Game 1.
Pierre-Luc Dubois, Gustav Nyquist and Zach Werenski, who had the three-highest point totals in the regular season for the Blue Jackets, have been held without a point.
If Toronto holds that trio at bay again and Andersen stays hot in net, the Maple Leafs could move to within one win of the round of 16.