Though their matchup Saturday night is the last time the Toronto Maple Leafs and New Jersey Devils will play until the fall, maybe only one of them truly wants to win it.
While it's clear the Devils' players want to close with a victory - especially with this possibly being Patrik Elias' finale - the Maple Leafs could have a much better chance for the draft's top overall pick if they lose in New Jersey.
"Drafting for our organization is very important," said Mike Babcock, capping a dreadful first season behind Toronto's bench. "We've taken it on the chin all year so we can be set up for it. At the same time, we have to respect one another in the game and play it the right way."
The Maple Leafs (29-41-11) will have a 20 percent chance of winning the draft lottery by finishing with the fewest points in the NHL. They're tied with Edmonton, which closes against Vancouver on Saturday. Toronto's odds for the No. 1 pick - likely to be Swiss center Auston Matthews - dip to 13.5 percent if the Oilers finish with a worse record. If the teams end up tied, Toronto gets the better lottery odds because Edmonton has more regulation wins.
As the Leafs miss the playoffs for the 10th time in 11 seasons and third straight, the Devils (37-36-8) failed to qualify for a fourth consecutive year. They had the sixth-most points in the Eastern Conference through Feb. 14 but have since gone 8-15-1.
New Jersey was still mathematically alive last week but has lost four in a row. Yet, it sounds like the team is intent on closing on a positive note.
"We haven't played our best hockey, you've seen that the past few games," center Travis Zajac said. "... But I think when you look back, we've made some strides. We just gotta make sure we end it the right way."