There's no way to deflect the urgency that the Carolina Hurricanes face with their season hanging in the balance and just a couple of games remaining.
"It's getting tough," coach Rod Brind'Amour said, preferring his team could focus on each game without the distraction of the playoff picture as a whole. "Now everybody is talking about it. It's right in your face. You can't avoid it."
The Hurricanes (44-29-7) hold the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with 95 points. The Montreal Canadiens and Columbus Blue Jackets are a point back. All three teams have two games to play.
Two of them will make the postseason. One will not (unless there's a complete collapse from the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have 97 points).
Carolina's next game is its home finale against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night in Raleigh, N.C.
"The heat is on, but I love it," Brind'Amour said. "... They give you everything you have. We're not the most talented, for sure. But they just come to play."
It's also possible that the Hurricanes could gain the third-place spot in the Metropolitan Division, because they trail Pittsburgh by two points.
Carolina's 95 points mark the third-most in franchise history. It's the most since 97 points 10 years ago, which was also the last time Carolina made the playoffs.
The Hurricanes have won only two of their past five games.
"Things don't always go our way, but you know what kind of effort we're going to get," Brind'Amour said.
Carolina has had some devastating final weeks of seasons in recent years that have left it out of the playoffs by narrow margins. The team is in slightly better shape close the regular season Saturday at Philadelphia, are 1-2-0 against New Jersey this season.
The Devils have been out of the playoff mix for some time. They haven't played since Monday night's home finale, which they won against the New York Rangers.
"We're not where we want to be in the standings, but we were able to see some players who are young guys who can come up and play," Devils coach John Hynes said.
Prior to Monday, New Jersey was in a 2-4-1 stretch.
While the term "offseason" has come up frequently with the Devils of late, there's also the matter of making the most of the last couple of games.
"We have to get better, and we're going through the right process," Hynes said.
While younger players are receiving chances to show what they can do, time could be winding down for veterans such as Devils right winger Drew Stafford. He has scored three of his five goals this season across the past six games.
"What Drew Stafford is doing is making the case of why we had him back here," Hynes said. "He's playing some of his best hockey now. It's good to see him get rewarded for the time and effort he puts in on and off the ice."
The Devils finish their season Saturday at Florida.
--Field Level Media
Playoff pressure mounting for Canes as Devils visit