RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Penguins can clinch the Atlantic Division championship with a victory tonight over Carolina at PNC Arena.
The Penguins hold a 16-point lead over the New York Rangers and New York Islanders, who are tied for second place. The three teams have nine regular-season games remaining.
However improbable it might be, the Rangers and/or Islanders still could match the Penguins' point total even if the Penguins win tonight, assuming the Penguins would lose their final eight games in regulation and a team trying to catch them would win the rest of its games.
The Penguins, however, are assured of winning the first tiebreaker, which is victories earned in regulation and overtime. They have 26, the Islanders and Rangers 16 each.
Carolina has lost five in a row overall and seven consecutive games at home, the latter tying a franchise record.
The Penguins, meanwhile, will be without injured regulars Sidney Crosby, James Neal and Paul Martin, and possibly defenseman Kris Letang.
The Penguins were beaten, 4-1 on Feb. 28 in their only previous visit to Raleigh this season.
Dave Molinari: email@example.com and Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published April 9, 2013 12:30 PM