Eastern Conference

LANCE HORNBY

, Last Updated: 10:05 AM ET

#1 SABRES VS. #8 ISLANDERS

THE SKINNY: Near-healthy Sabres won the President's Trophy, which has been a blessing and a curse in recent years. After last year's Game 7 loss in the conference final, don't expect the Sabres to let the legend of Wade Dubielewicz scare them.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Daniel Briere, Sabres. Leading scorer in regular season and in last year's playoffs.

#2 DEVILS VS. #7 LIGHTNING

THE SKINNY: Devils have won just one series in two years and Lou Lamoriello heaped the pressure on by taking the coaching reins with three games to play. Bolts looked ordinary down the stretch and have goaltending question marks.

PLAYER TO WATCH: John Madden, Devils. Going against the Vincent Lecavalier/Martin St. Louis tandem.

#3 THRASHERS VS. #6 RANGERS

THE SKINNY: Thrashers' first playoff series, but they have some battle-tested veterans and home ice in warm tempertures. Rangers have scoring prowess with Jaromir Jagr and a wild card in Sean Avery to use against chippy Thrashers.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers. Ace in the hole gives New York the edge in goal.

#4 SENATORS VS. #5 PENGUINS

THE SKINNY: It's not another Leafs-Senators matchup, but there still is Gary Roberts. If the Senators can withstand Sidney Crosby and Co., they can exploit the Pens' defence and goaltending.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Dany Heatley, Senators. Fifty-goal man and the other Ottawa snipers can match the output of Crosby and his supporting cast.


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