NHL Playoffs West Capsules

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:30 AM ET

(1) San Jose Sharks (51-20-11)

(8) COLORADO AVALANCHE (43-30-9)

Season Series ...

The teams split the season series, each winning a pair of games. The Avs opened the season with a surprising 5-2 victory over the Sharks, then won the final encounter of the season in a shootout. The Sharks won both games at home.

Last Playoff Meeting ...

The two teams last met in the 2004 Western Conference semifinals with the Sharks winning the series in six games. This is the fourth time the teams have met in the playoffs and the third time they've gone up against one another in the first round. Colorado won two of the previous three meetings.

The Skinny ...

The Avalanche went the entire season without their roof caving in on them as expected. They're a surprise playoff participant, but will be in tough against the Sharks ... San Jose has been favoured to win the Cup ever since Joe Thornton's arrival, but haven't. Thornton has a tendency to disappear in the post-season and such will be his legacy if he fails to deliver again.

Hurting ...

The Sharks have no injuries, while the Avalanche could be without three important pieces in C Matt Duchene (torso), RW David Jones (knee) and RW Peter Mueller (concussion).

Possible Playoff Hero ...

Dany Heatley wanted a trade to San Jose this summer and will now have to prove his worth in the playoffs. The former Ottawa Senator had 39 goals in the regular season, and if the Sharks are to break their playoff jinx, they need Heatley. Paul Stastny has his chance to shine in the playoffs for Colorado.

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(2) CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (52-22-8)

(7) NASHVILLE PREDATORS (47-29-6)

Season Series ...

The Blackhawks held the upper hand, winning four of the six encounters between the teams during the regular season. They won the first two games of the season series, then claimed the final two. Surprisingly, though, the division rivals have not faced each other since December.

Last Playoff Meeting ...

This is the first post-season meeting between the two teams.

The Skinny ...

The two teams have developed a healthy rivalry playing in the same division. The Blackhawks found playoff success last year, making it into the conference final. How they fare this year will depend heavily on how their goaltending holds up ... If anyone can devise a system to slow down the Blackhawks, it's veteran Predators head coach Barry Trotz.

Hurting ...

Blackhawks D Brian Campbell (ribs) is still not available, suffering from the effects of getting taken out by Alex Ovechkin in mid-March. D Kim Johnsson (concussion) is also out. For the Predators, RW Patric Hornqvist (undisclosed) is out as is D Denis Grebeshkov (groin).

Possible Playoff Hero ...

Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane starred on opposite sides at the Olympics. Now they're expected to lead the Blackhawks deep into the playoffs. When Jason Arnott was given a leadership role with the Predators, he ran with it, until he was injured celebrating a goal in the first round in their last playoff appearance two years ago.

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(3) VANCOUVER CANUCKS (49-28-5)

(6) LOS ANGELES KINGS (46-27-9)

Season Series ...

The Canucks won the first three meetings between the teams this season, before dropping an 8-3 encounter at the beginning of April in Los Angeles. All eight goals in that final game came against Roberto Luongo, who struggled despite facing only 21 shots.

Last Playoff Meeting ...

The two teams haven't faced each other in the playoff since the 1993 Smythe Division final. The Canucks lost that series in six games to the Kings.

The Skinny ...

The Kings haven't been in the playoffs since 2002. This year they have a good mix of youth and veteran leadership that could make them a team to watch. The Canucks will go as far as Luongo and the Sedin twins take them. Luongo had a disappointing end to the playoffs last year in a Game 7 loss to Chicago ... Whether or not Ryan Kesler's regular-season form continues in the post-season will also be an important factor for the Canucks.

Hurting ...

The Kings have no injuries, while the Canucks will be without D Willie Mitchell (concussion), C Alexandre Bolduc (shoulder) and C Ryan Jones (foot).

Possible Playoff Hero ...

Ryan Smyth went to the final four years ago with the Edmonton Oilers. He's healthy and playing his best hockey since going on that run and could be a deciding factor in the series. Henrik Sedin won the scoring title. He'll have to prove he

can get the job done in the playoffs under increased scrutiny.

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(4) PHOENIX COYOTEs (50-25-7)

(5) DETROIT RED WINGS (44-24-14)

Season Series ...

The Coyotes opened and closed the season series with overtime victories against the Red Wings. Sandwiched between those two wins were a pair of Detroit victories within three weeks of each other.

Last Playoff Meeting ...

The last time the two teams met was in the first round of the 1998 playoffs where the Red Wings won the series in six games.

The Skinny ...

The Red Wings were the best team in hockey heading down the stretch and every team in the Western Conference wanted to avoid them in the first round. Unfortunately for the Coyotes, they drew the short straw ... A good playoff run will help the NHL sell the idea of the Coyotes staying in Phoenix. It'll also help the league in the wallet, having taken the hit for the financial losses this season.

Hurting ...

Red Wings LW Kirk Maltby (shoulder) is out, while the Phoenix Coyotes will be without D Kurt Sauer (upper body), C Robert Lang (lower body) and RW Scottie Upshall (knee).

Possible Playoff

Hero ...

If the Coyotes have a chance in this series, they'll need captain Shane Doan to have the series of his life. Doan is not accustomed to playing in the post-season, but you can expect him to make the most of his opportunity ... Pavel Datsyuk couldn't help the Russians at the Olympics, but he will be a big factor for the Wings in the playoffs.


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