NHL Playoff Preview 2008

DEREK VAN DIEST AND LANCE HORNBY

, Last Updated: 3:38 PM ET

EASTERN CONFERENCE

(1) MONTREAL CANADIENS (47-25-10)VS. (8) BOSTON BRUINS (41-29-12)

Season Series: Habs were 8-0 against Boston this season, 11-0 going back two years, and led about 75% of the time during the 2007-08 series. This is only second time in NHL history that a team that swept its opponent 8-0 met that same club in playoffs.

Last Playoff Meeting: Habs won in seven in 2004, part of a 23-7 series record against Boston.

The Skinny: Bruins either stay out of the box or contend with the NHL's best power play, led by RW Alex Kovalev's 47 special teams points ... Habs G Carey Price is an NHL playoff neophyte, but had plenty of pressure in recently winning the Canadian junior goaltending title and an AHL championship with Hamilton.

Meanwhile, Boston's Tim Thomas is also untested in April ... Bruins captain Zdeno Chara will be a challenge for the smaller Habs ... Bruins last won a playoff series in 1999 ... Chara on the Bruin injuries this year, 360 man games lost: "We just replaced the skills with lots of hard work and desperation." ... Rookie forward Milan Lukic of the Bruins once scored a hat trick on Price in junior.

Hurting: Canadiens will be without C Saku Koivu for at least Game 1 with a foot fracture, but D Mike Komisarek's hip injury should heal by this week. D Francis Bouillon (ankle) and RW Michael Ryder (leg) are probable for Game 1. Boston has a litany of lame players, with D Bobby Allen and G Manny Fernandez on IR and RW Chuck Kobasew (foot fracture) out for the first round. C Marc Savard (back) will shoot for Game 1, while C Patrice Bergeron (concussion) just received clearance for contact. Possible playoff hero Canadiens' Mark Streit and Andrei Markov were among the top six in scoring among NHL defencemen.

(2) PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (47-27-8)VS. (7) OTTAWA SENATORS (43-31-8)

Season Series: Ottawa won two, lost one in regulation and another in overtime.

Last Playoff Meeting: Quick chance for revenge by the Pens, who were bounced in five games in the first round as Ottawa launched its 2007 run to the Stanley Cup final.

The Skinny:

As if Ottawa didn't have enough trouble -- vulnerable in goal, suffering injuries and trying to corral Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, they must contend with RW Marian Hossa wanting to show up his old team ... LW Gary Roberts recovered from a broken leg just in time to face the Sens for the fifth time in his long playoff career, posting 23 points in 23 games against them ... Ottawa can take solace that a seventh seed has KO'd a second seed every year but one between 1997-2007 ... The team that scored first did not win any games in the season series ... Once given up for dead as a franchise, Pittsburgh will have solid home support on the strength of 54 straight sellouts ... Malkin had the most points by anyone after Jan. 1 (65), while Crosby's 1.36 per-game scoring average was second in the league to Alex Ovechkin's 1.37.

Hurting: Sens RW Daniel Alfredsson (neck, knee) and C Mike Fisher (knee), both likely out for the series. F Chris Kelly (foot) is shelved for the short- term, too. The Pens will start without D Mark Eaton (knee).

Possible playoff hero: Crosby and Malkin combined for nine points in five games in last year's series and should make more hay this time. Ottawa D Anton Volchenkov ranks second among NHL players in blocked shots with 209, while two of his three career playoff goals have been game winners. If G Martin Gerber or Ray Emery takes this series to six games, he'll be sainted in Bytown.

(3) WASHINGTON CAPITALS (43-31-8)VS. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS (42-29-11)

Season Series: Flyers won a tight set 2-1-1, all but one game by a goal, except an empty netter by Philly in a 6-4 win on Jan. 13.

Last Playoff Meeting: Ron Hextall was tending twine back in 1989, upsetting the first-place Caps, then based in Landover, Md., in six games.

The Skinny: NHL ratings darling LW Alex Ovechkin probably will draw a few penalties from sympathetic refs as the Flyers do what they do best ... Flyers C Daniel Briere got hot in the stretch ... Ovechkin is sharing the spotlight with three key deadline pickups, G Cristobal Huet, C Sergei Fedorov and LW Matt Cooke ... A total of 15 Caps and nine Flyers are making playoff debuts, but Flyers loaded with veteran playoff experience ... Flyers were most penalized team, Caps second lowest ... Caps ended on a seven-game winning streak ... Flyers are the only lower seeded team that TSN's Maggie The Monkey picked to upset in first round.

Possible Playoff Hero: In addition to the fired-up Ovechkin, Caps have the best goal scorer among defencemen in Mike Green and second-leading scorer among rookies in Nicklas Backstrom. Playoff newcomer G Martin Biron was 10-4-4 in playing all but two of Philly's final 20 games.

(4) NEW JERSEY DEVILS (46-29-7)VS. (5) NEW YORK RANGERS (42-27-13)

Season Series: Don't get carried away by the Rangers' record of 7-0-1; three of those games went to overtime. But the Devils produced just 10 goals in the series and aren't as dominant in their new rink as they were in the Meadowlands.

Last Playoff Meeting: Rangers are still smarting from getting swept in 2006, but Jaromir Jagr was on the limp.

The Skinny: Lots of familiarity here, but until the Rangers can put enough heat on the Devils defence, they'll struggle at solving Martin Brodeur and pumping up Henrik Lundqvist's playoff confidence ... Both goalies had near identical numbers ... Rumours are circulating that Jagr will play in Russia next season, so he'll want a flashy exit, but veteran Rangers such as Brendan Shanahan must step up, too ... Rangers defence of Michal Rozsival, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and Fedor Tyutin contributed to the first season of fewer than 200 goals against since 1971-72.

Hurting: Devils D Bryce Salvador (foot) and D Karel Rachunek (neck) are questionable for Game 1. Rangers have no significant injuries.

Possible Playoff Heroes: LW Patrik Elias holds Jersey's franchise records for playoff goals (35) and assists (69). C Chris Drury has 19 game-winning goals in playoff and regular season with Buffalo and New York since last season, four in overtime.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

(1) DETROIT RED WINGS (54-21-7) VS (8) NASHVILLE PREDATORS (41-32-9)

Season Series: The Red Wings took the season series, winning five of the eight encounters between the two teams this season. One of those Red Wings' victories came in a shootout and another in overtime.

Last Playoff Meeting: The two teams met in the first round of the 2004 playoffs, the first time in franchise history the Predators qualified for the post-season. The Red Wings won the series 4-2 and would then go on to lose to the Calgary Flames in the next round.

The Skinny: The Red Wings won the Presidents' Trophy as the best team during the regular season for the sixth time in franchise history. However, they have not won the Stanley Cup since 2002. Last season the Red Wings were able to get past the second round of the playoffs for the first time since winning the cup, but eventually lost in the conference final to the Anaheim Ducks. It was the fourth consecutive time the Wings had been knocked out of the playoffs by a Stanley Cup finalist ... The Predators were expected to struggle this season having lost a number of high-profile free agents last summer. However, thanks in part to a late-season collapse by the Vancouver Canucks, the Predators were able clinch the final playoff berth in the conference. The Predators have qualified for the playoffs three times in their 10-year history, but have never made it past the first round. Last season, expectations were high going into the playoffs, but they lost to the San Jose Sharks in five games ... Jason Arnott finished the regular season with 72 points, the second-highest point total in his 14-year career. He had three points in five playoff games with the Predators last season.

Hurting: Red Wings C Kris Draper (groin), RW Kirk Maltby (hamstring) and RW Mikael Samuelsson (groin), D Brad Stuart (finger) are out for the season. are all questionable for the first round. RW Tomas Kopecky (legs).The Predators will be without RW Jed Ortmeyer (knee), RW Steve Sullivan (back), and LW Martin Gelinas (knee) for the series. C David Legwand (foot) is expected to be back in time for the opening game.

Possible Playoff Hero: If the Predators are going to make this into a series, they'll need great goaltending. The Predators are expected to start rookie Dan Ellis who was rested in the regular-season finale along with a number of other key players having already clinched a playoff spot. Ellis led the league in save percentage this season (.924) and recorded a franchise-high six shutouts. His only win in four tries against Detroit was a 3-1 victory in mid March.

(2) SAN JOSE SHARKS (49-23-10) VS (7) CALGARY FLAMES (42-30-10)

Season Series:

The Flames won three of the four regular-season encounters between the teams this season, two in overtime.

Last Playoff Meeting: The two teams met in the 2004 Western Conference final with the Flames winning in six games before falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup final.

The Skinny: The Sharks were the hottest team in the league heading into the post season. Prior to tanking the last two games of the regular season, the Sharks had won 18 of their previous 20, with one loss coming via a shootout and the other in overtime. Their resurgence can be directly correlated to the arrival of defenceman Brian Campbell from the Buffalo Sabres. The Sharks went 16-2-2 with Campbell in the lineup. The 28 year old had three goals and 16 assists in 20 games with San Jose. Joe Thornton hasn't been bad either recording 15 points in his last 12 games and finishing fifth in league scoring with 96 points ... Since making it to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final the Flames have not been able to make it past the first round of the playoffs. They were upset by the Anaheim Ducks in the first round in 2006 and then lost to the Detroit Red Wings last year. In fact, prior to going to the final in 2004 the Flames had not won a playoff series since winning it all in 1989 ...

The Flames scored 229 goals this season, 50 of which were potted by Jarome Iginla. It was the second time Iginla has reached the 50-goal plateau in his career and only Alexander Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk scored more this season ... The Sharks have been picked as Stanley Cup contenders since trading for Thornton midway through the 2005-2006 campaign. However, they were eliminated by the Edmonton Oilers in 2006 and the Detroit Red Wings in the second round last year.

Hurting: Flames C Craig Conroy (torso) is questionable for the first round. He missed the last three games of the regular season. D Craig Rivet (upper body) did not play in the Sharks regular-season finale against the Dallas Stars, but is expected to be back for the first round. RW Jonathan Cheechoo (head) and RW Devin Setoguchi (soreness) did return for the final game of the regular season. Setoguchi had missed four games while Cheechoo missed six.

Possible Playoff Hero: In order for the Flames to knock off the Sharks, they'll need goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff to be outstanding and Iginla to score some timely goals. They'll only go as far as those two take them, which happened to be all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final four years ago.

(3) MINNESOTA WILD (44-28-10) VS (6) COLORADO AVALANCHE (44-31-7)

Season Series: The Wild won five of the eight meetings this season between the two teams. They met in the last game of the regular season with the Avalanche winning in a shootout to set up the first-round matchup.

Last Playoff Meeting: The two teams met for the only time in the playoffs in 2003. The Wild won the first-round series 4-3 coming back from a 3-1 deficit and winning two games on the road. Andrew Brunette -- who now plays for the Avalanche -- scored the overtime winner for the Wild to claim the team's first franchise playoff series. They went on to the conference final where they lost to Anaheim. It was the last time the Avalanche were eliminated in the first round.

The Skinny: The Avalanche are back in the playoffs after missing the post season for the first time last year since relocating to Denver in 1995. They were swept out in the second round in their previous two playoff series. Peter Forsberg had three assists in the final regular season game finishing with a goal and 13 assists in nine games for the Avalanche. He had been hampered by a groin injury soon after signing with Colorado towards the end of the season. Forsberg was a member of the Avalanche Stanley Cup champions in 1996 and 2001 ... The Wild's stint in the 2007 playoffs proved to be short as they were knocked out of the first round in five games by the Anaheim Ducks. This year they go into the post season having won their first division title in franchise history. This is only the second time the Wild go into a playoff series with home-ice advantage. They had the advantage in the Western Conference final against the Ducks in 2003, but lost the first two games at home and were eventually swept out of the playoffs ... Marian Gaborik is the Wild's all-time playoff leader with 12 goals and nine assists in 23 career post-season games.

Hurting: Wild D Curtis Foster (leg) is unavailable after breaking his leg in a race for the puck during an icing play last month. The Avalanche will be without RW Marek Svatos (knee), and D Brett Clark (shoulder), while RW Scott Parker (ankle) is questionable.

Possible Playoff Hero: When healthy, Peter Forsberg has been a force in his short time with the Avalanche this season. If he can stay healthy, he could help push the Avalanche on an extended playoff run this spring. If not, it could be a short stint. Look for Ryan Smyth to step it up for the Avalanche and try a put a disappointing first season in Colorado behind him.

(4) ANAHEIM DUCKS (47-27-8) VS (5) DALLAS STARS (45-30-7)

Season Series: The Stars won five of the eight meetings between the two teams this season, however the Ducks won the last two encounters with a 3-2 shootout win at home on March 30 and a 2-1 victory on the road on March 19.

Last Playoff Meeting: This is the second time the two teams have met in the post season. The first was a second-round encounter in 2003, one which the Ducks won 4-2 on their way to the Stanley Cup final.

The Skinny: The Stars were far from dominant down the stretch essentially limping into the post season, a lot of which is being blamed on the Brad Richards trade. After losing just two of 14 games in February, the Stars won just two of 11 games in March. Richards, acquired by the Stars at the trading deadline from the Tampa Bay Lightning, had five assists in his first game with Dallas, but had just six points in 11 games after that. He missed the Stars last two games with what was officially being called "soreness" ... A bigger concern, however, for the Stars is not having Sergei Zubov for the series. The veteran defenceman has not played since Jan. 19 due to a couple of ailments. Zubov had surgery in Germany early last week in an effort to address a sports hernia problem. Zubov also underwent surgery in February to repair a break in his right foot. The procedure in Munich was in an effort to speed up the healing process, but unless the Stars go deep into the post season, Zubov probably won't return ... The Ducks have injury issues of their own. Starting goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere is being bothered by the dreaded back spasms, and Corey Perry has a bad quad. Defenceman Chris Pronger, however, will be back having served his eight-game suspension for stomping on Vancouver Canucks forward Ryan Kesler.

Hurting: G Jean-Sebastien Giguere (back spasms) is expected to be ready to go once the playoffs start, however, RW Corey Perry (quadricep) and rookie Ryan Carter (wrist) are questionable. D Sergei Zubov (sports hernia) is not expected to be back for the series.

Possible Playoff Hero: The Stars made one of the biggest splashes at the trading deadline by getting Richards and so far he's been disappointing. However, Dallas acquired the $8-million man for a post-season run and he was given a couple of games off in order to recharge for the post season. The league may have done the Ducks a favour by suspending Pronger for eight of the last nine games of the season. The Ducks captain, who was recovering from a broken jaw, will be fully healed for the playoffs.


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