By STEPHEN WHYNO
AP Hockey Writer
MVP front-runner Taylor Hall will sit out the New Jersey Devils' regular-season finale after the team clinched a playoff spot despite seeding being at stake.
New Jersey is resting Hall, fellow forwards Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac, and defenseman Sami Vatanen in Game 82 at Washington, and it isn't alone in taking precautions. The Columbus Blue Jackets won't play stars Artemi Panarin, Seth Jones, Zach Werenski and two-time Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky in their final regular-season game at Nashville.
Columbus coach John Tortorella told reporters he was "absolutely not" trying to avoid facing the two-time defending Stanley Cup-champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round. New Jersey coach John Hynes similarly answered that giving Hall a break is more important after a grueling push to clinch that franchise's first playoff berth since 2012.
With a chance to clinch first place in the Atlantic Division and avoid facing the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, the Tampa Bay Lightning are expected to start backup Louis Domingue in net at Carolina instead of Andrei Vasilevskiy, who leads the NHL in wins. The Boston Bruins, who could catch the Lightning, are going with backup Anton Khudobin against Ottawa, but they also play Sunday night against Florida in a game that was rescheduled because of snow.
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