NHL playoffs: Conference quarterfinals

The Blackhawks and Coyotes will meet in the post season for the first time in these NHL playoffs....

The Blackhawks and Coyotes will meet in the post season for the first time in these NHL playoffs. (JIM YOUNG/Reuters file photo)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:17 PM ET

EASTERN CAPSULES

1. New York Rangers vs. 8. Ottawa Senators

New York Rangers

2011-12 season standings
51 wins
24 losses
7 overtime/shootout losses

Ottawa Senators

2011-12 season standings
41 wins
31 losses
10 overtime/shootout losses

Head-to-head this season

Ottawa: 3 wins
Rangers: 1 win

Playoff history

Ottawa Senators

12 playoff appearances
1 final appearance
0 Stanley Cups

New York Rangers

53 playoff appearances
9 final appearances
4 Stanley Cups

Previous playoff meeting

Never met

The skinny

Sens are one of the few teams to have found success against Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, beating him twice in three starts this season and twice in 2010-11 ... Only twice in his career has Lundqvist advanced past the first round ... Having gone 3-1 vs. NYR this season, the Sens are not intimidated in the least by the top-seeded Rangers ... Since the 2004-05 lockout, a No. 8 seed has upset a No. 1 seed three times.

Hurting

Aside from D Steve Eminger (ankle, out indefinitely), the Rangers are relatively healthy heading into this series, a rare feat for any team heading into the playoffs.

The Senators got a scare when veteran catalyst Chris Neil suffered an upper-body injury during practice last week. Neil, fortunately, is expected to play. F Peter Regin (shoulder surgery) is on IR.

Possible playoff heroes

F Brad Richards would love to show the Big Apple that the Rangers were on the mark by giving him a big free-agent contract.

F Jason Spezza has matured into a real team leader and will be looked upon to carry the Sens offence.

2. Boston Bruins vs. 7. Washington Capitals

Boston Bruins

49 wins
29 losses
4 overtime/shootout losses

Washington Capitals

42 wins
32 losses
8 overtime/shootout losses

Head-to-head this season

Washington: 3 wins
Boston: 1 win

Playoff history

Boston Bruins

66 playoff appearances
16 final appearances
6 Stanley Cups

Washington Capitals

22 playoff appearances
1 final appearance
0 Stanley Cups

Previous playoff meeting

Caps defeated Bruins in six games en route to the 1998 final.

The skinny

If Michal Neuvirth (lower body) is unable to go, the Caps goaltending hopes will rest with rookie Braden Holtby ... Caps captain Alex Ovechkin finished the season on a tear, scoring 11 times in the final 13 games ... Bruins led the league with six 20-goal scorers ... No team has repeated as Stanley Cup champion since the Detroit Red Wings completed the double in 1997 and ¹98.

Hurting

Already without F Marc Savard (concussion), Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli said F Nathan Horton (concussion) is ³unlikely² to return for the playoffs. D Adam McQuaid (head/eye) is questionable for Game 1.

The Caps have a pair of banged-up goalies, with Tomas Vokoun (groin) out and Michal Neuvirth (lower body) questionable for Game 1.

Possible playoff heroes

Bruins G Tim Thomas has the stuff to win a series on his own, a trait he showed the entire hockey world en route to winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP a year ago.

If Caps F Nicklas Backstrom can regain the form he showed before concussion issues, which sidelined him for 40 games, he has the ability to be a dominant force.

3. Florida Panthers vs. 6. New Jersey Devils

Florida Panthers

38 wins
26 losses
18 overtime/shootout losses

New Jersey Devils

48 wins
28 losses
6 overtime/shootout losses

Head-to-head this season

Florida: 2 wins
New Jersey: 2 wins

Playoff history

Florida Panthers

3 playoff appearances
1 final Appearance
0 Stanley Cups

New Jersey Devils

21 playoff appearances
4 final appearances
3 Stanley Cups

Previous playoff meeting

Devils had little problem in sweeping the Panthers in four games back in 2000.

The skinny

With Panthers finally reaching the playoffs again, the Toronto Maple Leafs are the only team not to have reached the post-season since the ugly lockout of 2004-05 ... Do not count out the revenge factor for Devils coach Peter DeBoer, who was fired by the Panthers last spring before coach Dale Tallon went on a spending spree ... Last spring snapped New Jersey's run of 13 consecutive post-season appearances.

Hurting

Panthers are relatively healthy, missing just forwards Jack Skille (shoulder) and Matt Bradley (upper body).

While Henrik Tallinder (blood clot, left leg) and Jacob Josefson (broken left wrist) are out, the Devils should have D Anton Volchenkov (flu-like symptoms) and David Clarkson (lower body) back for Game 1.

Potential playoff heroes

Having never won a playoff series in his career, Devils F Ilya Kovalchuk has plenty of motivation to run roughshod over the Panthers.

With a Stanley Cup ring in his drawer from his time with the 2010 Blackhawks, D Brian Campbell hopes his winning attitude is contagious with to his teammates.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 5. Philadelphia Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins

51 wins
25 losses
6 overtime/shootout losses

Philadelphia Flyers

47 wins
26 losses
9 overtime/shootout losses

Head-to-head this season

Philadelphia: 4 wins

Pittsburgh: 2 wins

Playoff history

Pittsburgh Penguins

26 playoff appearances
4 final appearances
3 Stanley Cups

Philadelphia Flyers

35 playoff appearances
8 final appearances
2 Stanley Cups

Previous playoff meeting

Penguins disposed of Flyers in six games en route to capturing the 2009 Stanley Cup.

The skinny

Teams have intense dislike for each other, with Flyers Scott Hartnell predicting "a lot of blood, a lot of goals." ... April 1 meeting ended with Sidney Crosby and Brayden Schenn exchanging blows, four different scraps taking place on the ice, and Pens assistant Tony Granato engaging in a yelling match with Flyers coach Peter Laviolette ... Pens won just one of three outings on home ice versus Flyers this season.

Hurting

Banged-up Pens Steve Sullivan (lower body), James Neal (lower body) and Matt Niskanen (upper body) are expected back for Game 1, which is good news for Pittsburgh.

Already missing Chris Pronger (concussion), James van Riemsdyk (left foot) and Andrej Mezsaros (lower back), the Flyers list F Danny Briere (lower back contusion) as being out indefinitely, although observers would not be surprised if he¹s ready to play.

Potential heroes

Pens superstar Sidney Crosby, having not played a post-season game in two years, is motivated, especially against a Flyers team that is not shy about roughing him up.

Rugged Flyers winger Scott Hartnell is capable of beating up defenders in the corner, then beating opposing goalies for key goals moments later.

WESTERN CAPSULES

1. Vancouver Canucks vs. 8. Los Angeles Kings

Vancouver Canucks

2011-12 season standings
51 wins
22 losses

9 overtime/shootout losses

Los Angeles Kings

2011-12 season standings
40 wins
27 losses
15 overtime/shootout losses

Head-to-head this season

Vancouver 2 wins
Los Angeles 2 wins

Playoff history

Vancouver Canucks

24 playoff appearances
3 final appearances
0 Stanley Cups

Los Angeles Kings

26 playoff appearances
1 final appearances
0 Stanley Cups

Previous playoff meeting

The Canucks took out the Kings in a high-scoring, six-game first-round series in 2010.

The skinny

If pressure was high for the Canucks last year, it's even higher this time around ‹ and that goes double for G Roberto Luongo. Nothing short of another appearance in the final will mean much, and even that might be a disappointment if they don't come home with the Cup after a second consecutive Presidents' Trophy win ... The Kings coughed up a division title in the final week and head coach Darryl Sutter is crusty heading into the post-season ... The Kings scored second-fewest goals per game of any club in regular-season but allowed second-fewest against.

Hurting

Canucks sniper Daniel Sedin (concussion) is expected to rejoin brother Henrik in time for the playoffs. Fellow LW Aaron Volpatti (shoulder) could play if needed.

The Kings were without newcomer Jeff Carter (ankle) late in the season and lost LW Simon Gagner to a concussion just after Christmas.

Possible playoff heroes

Jonathan Quick is going to have to be stellar to keep the high-powered Canucks offence from striking early and often.

The Canucks will lean on the usual suspects but need the Sedin twins to really step up their game this post-season.

2. St. Louis Blues vs. 7. San Jose Sharks

St. Louis Blues

2011-12 season standings
49 wins
22 losses
11 overtime/shootout losses

San Jose Sharks

2011-12 season standings

43 wins
29 losses
10 overtime/shootout losses

Head-to-head this season

St. Louis 4 wins
San Jose 0 wins

Playoff history

St. Louis Blues

36 playoff appearances
3 final appearances
0 Stanley Cups

San Jose Sharks

15 playoff appearances
0 final appearances
0 Stanley Cups

Previous playoff meeting

The Sharks made quick work of the Blues in 2004, claiming the first-round series in five games.

The skinny

Ken Hitchcock¹s style is just what the Blues needed to overcome a rocky start and make a huge push for the Presidents¹ Trophy. Their type of game seems perfectly suited to the playoffs ... Blues goaltenders Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott claimed the Jennings Trophy, combining for a league-low 1.89 GAA ... It used to be the Sharks were playoff underachievers. Maybe they can reverse that trend now that they¹ve spent the regular season being a disappointment. They can certainly play the series without pressure ... Sharks had three 30-goal scorers (Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau). Only the New Jersey Devils could say the same.

Hurting

Minor bumps and bruises only for these two clubs. No player is unavailable because of injury.

Possible playoff heroes

David Perron has been a force since coming back from his post-concussion problems to play the final 57 games of the season, scoring more than 20 goals and 40 points.

The Sharks have come to lean on sophomore sniper Logan Couture.

3. Phoenix Coyotes vs. 6. Chicago Blackhawks

Phoenix Coyotes

2011-12 season standings
42 wins
27 losses
13 overtime/shootout losses

Chicago Blackhawks

2011-12 season standings
45 wins
26 losses
11 overtime/shootout losses

Head-to-head this season

Phoenix 3 wins
Chicago 1 win

Playoff history

Phoenix Coyotes

8 playoff appearances
0 final appearances
0 Stanley Cups

Chicago Blackhawks

57 playoff appearances
11 final appearances
4 Stanley Cups

Previous playoff meeting

These two clubs have never met in the post-season, even when the Coyotes were the Winnipeg Jets.

The skinny

Clinching the Pacific Division title on the last day of the regular-season, the Coyotes snatched home-ice advantage for at least the first round ... They were one of the league¹s hottest teams down the stretch, going 7-1-2 in their last 10 games ... Radim Vrbata netted a dozen game-winning goals to share the league lead with Steven Stamkos ... The Blackhawks boast five 20-goal scorers (Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Viktor Stalberg) and averaged nearly three goals a game. Their biggest question mark is goaltending.

Hurting

The Coyotes are completely healthy.

Blackhawks C Jonathan Toews was cleared for contact late in the regular season but hasn¹t returned to game action. They are without D Steve Montador because of his own concussion symptoms, and lost scrapper Daniel Carcillo for the year with a torn ACL. LW Andrew Brunette (foot) and D Sami Lepisto (leg) are day to day.

Possible playoff heroes

At age 39, Coyotes winger Ray Whitney tied the second-highest point total of his career at 77, including 24 goals. He's been dominant in games this year.

For the Blackhawks, Jonathan (Captain Serious) Toews is the unquestioned on-ice leader.

4. Nashville Predators vs. 5. Detroit Red Wings

Nashville Predators

2011-12 season standings
48 wins
26 losses
8 overtime/shootout losses

Detroit Red Wings

2011-12 season standings
48 wins
28 losses
6 overtime/shootout losses

Head-to-head this season

Nashville 3 wins
Detroit 3 wins

Playoff history

Nashville Predators

7 playoff appearances
0 final appearances
0 Stanley Cups

Detroit Red Wings

60 playoff appearances
24 final appearances
11 Stanley Cups

Previous playoff meeting

The Red Wings came away with a six-game series win in the first round in 2008 after the plucky Predators came back from a two-game deficit to tie the set at 2-2.

The skinny

Showing they're serious about competing by bringing in bodies at the trade deadline, the Predators are as threatening as they've ever been for a post-season tear ... Preds had no one over 60 points but seven over the 40 mark and three more with 30 or more ... Are the Red Wings finally slowing down or have they just playing possum the past seven months? Don't bet against them now that they seem to be back to full strength at just the right time.

Hurting

The Predators are as healthy as they've been all season heading into the playoffs.

Red Wings Patrick Eaves, Darren Helm and Joey MacDonald are expected to miss at least the first round or two if not the entire playoffs, but the big names are all present after trouble staying healthy during the season.

Possible playoff heroes

Mike Fisher showed last spring he can be a potent playoff performer with the Preds after being shipped over by the Ottawa Senators.

The Red Wings will need Pavel Datsyuk to be his dazzling self.


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