Super Tuesday: 2 Czech teams could qualify
Two teams from the Czech Republic could qualify for spots in next season's Champions Hockey League on Tuesday, while one Finnish team could draw to within one point of qualification.
Three of the six founding leagues have already qualified their top two regular season teams to the 2017-18 Champions Hockey League season. Red Bull Salzburg and the Vienna Capitals from the Austrian EBEL, SC Bern and ZSC Lions Zurich from the Swiss NLA, and Red Bull Munich and Adler Mannheim from the German DEL will all return for another shot at the European club championship.
With 2016-17 CHL champions Frolunda Gothenburg and Continental Cup champions Nottingham Panthers having previously qualified, one third of next year's participants are already known. Still to come are the top two regular season clubs from the Czech Extraliga, Finnish Liiga, and Swedish Hockey League. In addition, 14 more clubs will come from the playoffs of the six founding leagues, and nine from challenger leagues.
On Tuesday, two teams from the Czech Extraliga – Bili Tygri Liberec and Ocelari Trinec – could be added to the list, while Tappara Tampere could move to the brink.
The Czech Extraliga heads into its penultimate round of games with both of the top two spots still up for grabs. Both spots could be claimed on Tuesday. Liberec have been on the brink of CHL qualification for over a week now, but two straight losses coupled with five straight wins from Sparta Prague have kept them from getting that elusive single point they need. On Tuesday, they need just one point in Litvinov, or hope that Sparta don't get the full three in Karlovy Vary. The White Tigers are also feeling a threat from second-place Ocelari Trinec, who have won three in a row and could potentially move into a first-place tie if they win in Mlada Boleslav on Tuesday. If they do win, and Sparta get less than them, then the Steelers qualify as well. However, if they lose, then Trinec could fall into a tie with the surging Spartans.
Tuesday's key games: Litvinov – Liberec, Mlada Boleslav – Trinec, Karlovy Vary – Sparta.
Tappara Tampere can't qualify for the CHL on Tuesday, but they can move to within a point when they host 10th-place Jukurit Mikkeli. A win in regulation time for Tappara would mean that third-place KalPa Kuopio, who are idle, could do no better that tie the league leaders in points. Also on Tuesday, fourth-place JYP can move to within one point of KalPa and three points of second-place TPS Turku, who are also idle. The soonest anybody from Finland can qualify is Thursday.
Tuesday's key games: Karpat – JYP, Tappara – Jukurit.
Nobody will qualify from Sweden on Tuesday, as the league-leading Vaxjo Lakers are idle. However, several teams are in a fierce battle for second place, with five teams within five points of each other. At the bottom of that pile is Skelleftea AIK, who really have to win over visiting Farjestad Karlstad to keep their hopes of qualifying in the regular season alive. Then are HV71 Jonkoping and Brynas Gavle, who are tied for fifth, but the winner could move up to third place. Finally, Frolunda host Linkoping HC, with the winner occupying second spot, and also within two points of Vaxjo if it's done in regulation time. Then on Wednesday, the Lakers get a chance to put some room between themselves and the pack of challengers when they visit Djurgarden in Stockholm.
Tuesday's key games: Skelleftea – Farjestad, Frolunda – Linkoping, HV71 – Brynas.
Wednesday: Djurgarden – Vaxjo.