Western Conference

LANCE HORNBY

, Last Updated: 10:04 AM ET

#1 RED WINGS VS. #8 FLAMES

THE SKINNY: Dominik Hasek returns to the NHL playoffs for the first time since winning the Cup in 2002, with a 2.03 playoff goals-against average. Henrik Zetterberg is healthy for Detroit. Flames lost their final three games, but can match or better Hasek with Miikka Kiprusoff.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Todd Bertuzzi, Detroit. Back with a vengeance?

#2 DUCKS VS. #7 WILD

THE SKINNY: Todd Marchant, Anaheim's answer to the smothering checkers on Anaheim, has a serious groin injury. The Ducks want to show the East what they've been missing this year, but a no-name Wild squad was tough down the stretch.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Wild. Disciplined scorer should give the Ducks fits.

#3 CANUCKS VS. #6 STARS

THE SKINNY: The Stars will not be willing participants in helping Roberto Luongo shine in his hotly anticipated playoff debut. But the Sedin twins closed on fire for the Canucks and the team is relatively healthy. All four meetings this year were 2-1 decisions.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Luongo, whose previous playoff game was in 2000 with Lowell of the AHL.

#4 PREDATORS VS. #5 SHARKS

THE SKINNY: Not catching the Red Wings for first in the conference might haunt the Predators, who draw a strong opening opponent in San Jose, still in search of its first series win. This time they have Tomas Vokoun back in net.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Joe Thornton, Sharks. Huge finish sets the table for post-season points bonanza.


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