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NHL Playoff Capsules

The Washington Capitals, who had an NHL-worst 6-14-1 record on Nov. 22, rally to win their final seven games, capturing the Southeast Division championship and the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Eastern Conference

[1]Montreal vs.[8]Boston

Season series: Canadiens won, 8-0-0.

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Why the Canadiens can win: Skilled forwards Alex Kovalev, Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn are the driving force behind Montreal's top-ranked power play (24.2 percent). It's going to roll over the Bruins -- again.

Why the Bruins can win: Two words: the trap. It might be the Bruins' only hope against a Montreal offense that scored 3.13 goals on average during the regular season, second only to Ottawa's 3.15.

Player to watch: Patrice Bergeron, Boston's high-scoring center, was cleared to return Monday, six months after suffering a concussion that forced him to miss 72 games.

Games 1-4Games 5-7 (If nec.)
Tomorrow at Montreal, 7April 17 at Montreal, 7
Saturday at Montreal, 7April 19 at Boston
Sunday at Boston, 7April 21 at Montreal
Tuesday at Boston, 7

[2]Pittsburgh vs.[7]Ottawa

Season series: Senators won, 3-0-1.

Why the Penguins can win: They've got one of the most potent offenses with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marian Hossa -- and a score to settle. The Senators eliminated Crosby and Co. in five games last season.

Why the Senators can win: That's a tough one. Their goaltending has been a disaster, forwards Mike Fisher and Daniel Alfredsson are injured and they lost seven of their last 10.

Player to watch: Drafted a spot behind Washington's Alex Ovechkin in 2004, Malkin carried the Pens in Crosby's absence, finishing second to Ovechkin in scoring with 106 points.

Games 1-4Games 5-7 (If nec.)
Tonight at Pittsburgh, 7April 19 at Pittsburgh
Friday at Pittsburgh, 7April 20 at Ottawa
Monday at Ottawa, 7April 22 at Pittsburgh
April 16 at Ottawa, 7

[3]Washington vs.[6]Philadelphia

Season series: Tied, 2-2-0.

Why the Capitals can win: They've got the league's leading scorer in Alex Ovechkin, the favorite to win MVP, and its hottest goaltender in Cristobal Huet, who has been stalwart since coming to Washington at the trading deadline.

Why the Flyers can win: Balanced scoring provided by Daniel Brière, Mike Richards and Vaclav Pospal and a strong play from goaltender Martin Biron, who finished the regular season with a pair of shutouts. Defenseman Derian Hatcher might return from a broken leg.

Player to watch: Everyone's wondered how Ovechkin would perform on the NHL's biggest stage. We're about to find out.

Games 1-4Games 5-7 (If nec.)
Friday at Washington, 7April 19 at Washington, 1
Sunday at Washington, 2April 21 at Philadelphia
Tuesday at Philadelphia, 7April 22 at Washington
April 17 at Philadelphia, 7

[4]New Jersey vs.[5]New York Rangers

Season series: Rangers won, 7-0-1.

Why the Devils can win: Martin Brodeur has been the best goalie on the planet for the better part of a decade. And you know what? He still might be.

Why the Rangers can win: Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist keeps games close and forwards Jaromir Jagr, Chris Drury and Scott Gomez are always a threat. Coach Tom Renney is underrated.

Player to watch: Although Brodeur got off to a rough start, the future Hall of Famer returned to form and posted 44 of the Devils' 46 wins, not to mention a 2.17 goals against average.

Games 1-4Games 5-7 (If nec.)
Tonight at New Jersey, 7April 18 at N.J., 7:30
Friday at New Jersey, 7April 20 at N.Y. Rangers
Sunday at N.Y. Rangers, 7April 22 at New Jersey
April 16 at N.Y. Rangers, 7

Western Conference

[1]Detroit vs.[8]Nashville

Season series: Red Wings won, 5-3-0.

Why the Red Wings can win: The Presidents' Trophy winners are talented . . . and experienced . . . and deep . . . and . . . get the picture?

Why the Predators can win: If Dan Ellis, who entered training camp hoping to secure a job as the organization's No. 3 goalie, forgets he's never played a playoff game. He led the league with a .924 save percentage.

Player to watch: Nicklas Lidstrom is poised to claim win his sixth Norris Trophy in the past seven seasons with after leading all NHL defensemen with 70 points and in plus-minus (plus-40).

Games 1-4Games 5-7 (If nec.)
Tomorrow at Detroit, 7April 18 at Detroit, 7:30
Saturday at Detroit, 2April 20 at Nashville, 3
Monday at Nashville, 7:30April 22 at Detroit
April 16 at Nashville, 9

[2]San Jose vs.[7]Calgary

Season series: Flames won, 3-1-0.

Why the Sharks can win: The addition of defenseman Brian Campbell to a lineup that already includes 2006 MVP Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Jonathan Cheechoo helped them close the season with an 18-2-2 run.

Why the Flames can win: They have one of the league's best forwards (50-goal scorer Jarome Iginla), one of its toughest defenseman (Dion Phaneuf) and one of its steadiest goaltenders (Miikka Kiprusoff).

Player to watch: Iginla can score goals, set them up and pick a fight -- all in the same period. He was third in the league with 50 goals.

Games 1-4Games 5-7 (If nec.)
Tonight at San Jose, 10April 17 at San Jose, 10
Tomorrow at San Jose, 10April 20 at Calgary
Sunday at Calgary, 10April 22 at San Jose
Tuesday at Calgary, 10

[3]Minnesota vs.[6]Colorado

Season series: Wild won, 5-2-1.

Why the Wild can win: It has some skill up front in Marian Gaborik (career best 42 goals, 83 points), Brian Rolston (31 goals) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard (50 assists) and the fourth-best penalty kill (85.2 percent).

Why the Avalanche can win: With Joe Sakic, José Theodoré, Milan Hejduk, Peter Forsberg, Adam Foote and Paul Stastny, the Avs have the appearance of a team that could make a surprising run.

Player to watch: The other Niklas Backstrom had a pretty good season, too. The Wild goaltender won 33 games, posted a 2.31 goals against average and .920 save percentage.

Games 1-4Games 5-7 (If nec.)
Tonight at Minnesota, 9April 17 at Minnesota, 9
Friday at Minnesota, 9April 19 at Colorado
Monday at Colorado, 10April 22 at Minnesota
Tuesday at Colorado, 10

[4]Anaheim vs.[5]Dallas

Season series: Stars won, 5-2-1.

Why the Ducks can win: They've got the best blueline in the business with Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer, Mathieu Schneider and François Beauchemin.

Why the Stars can win: They netted the second-most goals in the Western Conference behind Mike Ribeiro (56 assists, 83 points) and Brenden Morrow (32 goals, 74 points). Goalie Marty Turco was tough, posting a 2.31 goals against average.

Player to watch: The Stars broke the bank to acquire center Brad Richards from Tampa Bay. Eventually, he's going to start scoring, right?

Games 1-4Games 5-7 (If nec.)
Tomorrow at Anaheim, 10April 18 at Anaheim, 10:30
Saturday at Anaheim, 10April 20 at Dallas, TBA
Tuesday at Dallas, 8:30April 22 at Anaheim, TBA
April 17 at Dallas, 8


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