By CBSBoston.com Staff

BOSTON (CBS) — With six games left in the regular season and an eight-point lead over the fifth-place Rangers, the Bruins making the playoffs this year is merely a formality. But the team can eliminate any and all suspense on Monday night.

If the Bruins earn at least one point in Monday night’s game in New Jersey, they’ll clinch their spot in the postseason. Even if the Bruins don’t earn a point, they can clinch their spot if the Rangers lose to the Capitals.

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After missing the playoffs in consecutive years in 2015 and 2016, this will mark the Bruins’ fifth straight season making the postseason. The format of this season during the COVID-19 pandemic was of course unique, with teams only playing opponents within their division all year.

Clinching the postseason will be step one for the Bruins, and the remainder of their schedule will be spent sorting out their exact finish in the East Division. They enter Monday night’s action trailing the Rangers by just one point for third place. They’re also three points back of Washington for second place, and five points behind first-place Pittsburgh.

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“It’d be a big, obviously a nice accomplishment for our group. It’s something we’ve obviously been working hard toward all year long,” Brad Marchand said of the opportunity of Monday night. “But that’s the expectation of this team, so you know, as nice as it is, that’s what was expected — to make the playoffs and have a run. So hopefully we can accomplish that tonight. It’s a big game for us, and we want to continue to climb. Obviously that’s our goal. It’s not just to make it, but to finish as high as we can. And we want to be playing really good hockey going into the playoffs.”

The Devils sit in seventh place in the East, with a 17-27-7 record. But they have given Boston trouble this year, as the Bruins are just 2-3-1 against the Devils this season. If it doesn’t work out for the Bruins on Monday night, they’ll get another crack at the Devils on Tuesday evening.

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UPDATE: The Bruins won 3-0 and clinched their playoff spot.

CBSBoston.com Staff