Heading into tonight’s tilt against Minnesota, YOUR Carolina Hurricanes have 16 games left in the regular season. Eight of those games come against playoff teams and the other eight against teams who likely won’t make it. The Eastern Conference wild card spots are coming down to four teams: Carolina, New Jersey, Florida, and Columbus. Let’s take a look at the remaining schedule and see who has the hardest slate ahead of them.

Carolina

66 Games Played

69 Points

9 Away Games

7 Home Games

8 Playoff Teams

8 Non-Playoff Teams

Best Remaining Foes: MIN, BOS, WSH, TBL

Worst Remaining Foes: ARI, CHI, EDM, OTT (x2)

Games vs. NJ, FLA, CBJ: 2

Columbus

66 Games Played

71 Points

9 Home Games

7 Away Games

6 Playoff Teams

10 Non-Playoff Teams

Best Remaining Foes: VGK, BOS, PIT

Worst Remaining Foes: MTL, DET (x2), EDM, VAN

Games vs. NJ, FLA, CAR: 1

New Jersey

66 Games Played

74 Points

8 Away Games

8 Home Games

11 Playoff Teams

5 Non-Playoff Teams

Best Remaining Foes: PIT (x2), NSH, VGK, WPG

Worst Remaining Foes: MTL (x2), NYR, NYI

Games vs. CAR, FLA, CBJ: 1

Florida

63 Games Played

70 Points

9 Away Games

10 Home Games

8 Playoff Teams

11 Non-Playoff Teams

Best Remaining Foes: BOS (x4!), NSH, TOR

Worst Remaining Foes: MTL (x2), OTT (x3), EDM, ARI

Games vs. NJ, CAR, CBJ: 1

Looking strictly at who’s left, the Panthers have the easiest road thanks to playing bad teams like Montreal and Ottawa multiple times, plus games against some of the west’s worst in Edmonton and Arizona. Florida also has games against the Rangers and Islanders. With their solid play of late, the most games remaining, and a lot of bad teams lining up against them, I’d wager that there will be playoff hockey in Sunrise this spring.

So if Florida has one spot, who’s getting the other? Based solely on the schedule, I’d say New Jersey has the toughest road ahead of them, but they also have a three point cushion over the second wild card (as of 3/6). The Devils have a six-game road trip where they play Nashville, Vegas, Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose, and Pittsburgh. Those are a lot of tough teams who still have a lot to play for.

Columbus probably has the second easiest remaining schedule by virtue of playing Detroit twice, and the Oilers and Canucks once. Finally, Carolina’s schedule is a mixed bag of quality. If they’re going to make the postseason, they’re going to need to win home games against non-playoff teams, of which they have four (Edmonton, Arizona, NY Rangers, Ottawa).

If I’m handicapping this, I’ll put my money on Florida ending up with the first wild card and Columbus with the second one.