No. 1 Vancouver (54-19-9, 117 pts) vs. No. 5 Nashville (44-27-11, 99 pts)
1. Dan Hamhuis gets to play his old teammates. The reliable blue-liner left Nashville via free agency last summer to sign on with his home province Canucks. Already, Hamhuis has been summoned to coach Alain Vigneault's office. Hamhuis provided his thoughts on each of his former teammates and facing the Predators will provide quite a challenge for him to go up against the stingy Predators.
2. Ditto for Shane O'Brien. The Predators defenceman didn't have kind words for Vigneault and the Canucks coaching staff when he departed for Nashville and you can bet he'll be one motivated hombre against his old team. He also will provide Predators coach Barry Trotz with his own scouting report on Vancouver. "We both have our resources," Vigneault joked.
3. The Predators defence duo of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter get a shot at shutting down Henrik and Daniel Sedin. They Predators pair did an admirable job against Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry in the first round. Suter (27:28) and Weber (26:29) played plenty of minutes and may want to call Chicago's David Bolland for some advice.
Season series - Tied 2-2-0.
Jan. 26 - Canucks 2-1 at Vancouver
Feb. 17 - Predators 3-1 at Nashville
Mar. 03 - Predators 3-0 at Vancouver
Mar. 29 - Canucks 3-1 at Nashville
Prediction - Canucks in six.
No. 2 San Jose (48-25-9, 105 pts) vs. No. 3 Detroit (47-25-10, 104 pts)
1. This is a rematch of the Sharks second-round defeat of the Red Wings a year ago in a series that lasted only five games, but was much closer because each of the Sharks four wins were by a goal. Can Sharks head coach Todd McLellan beat his mentor in Red Wings bench boss Mike Babcock again?
2. The Red Wings, who made life easy on themselves with a first-round sweep of the Phoenix Coyotes, will get Henrik Zetterberg back after he missed the Coyotes series with a knee injury. Babcock had Zetterberg in the middle on a second line between Jiri Hudler and Valterri Filppula as well as on the wing alongside Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom.
3. How will Sharks defenceman Dan Boyle play in the second round? He made several costly turnovers in the first round against the Los Angeles Kings and needs to be at his best against Detroit. "It wasn't very good at all," he said. "I felt real good Game 1 and never after that. It was a poor series. The good news is I get to turn the page on it and hopefully be better."
Season series - San Jose 3-1-0.
Nov. 30 - Detroit 5-3 at San Jose
Dec. 06 - Sharks 5-2 at Detroit
Feb. 22 - Sharks 4-3 at Detroit
Mar. 03 - Sharks 3-1 at San Jose
Prediction - Wings in seven.
No. 1 Washington (48-23-11, 107 pts) vs. No. 5 Tampa Bay (46-25-11, 103 pts)
1. These two teams battled for top spot in the Southeast Division all season long and the rivalry ratcheted up before the last meeting of the regular season when Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau took umbrage with two Lightning players. He said, "If I'm a ref, I would never make a call on [Lightning superpest Steve] Downie. He dives every two seconds. "[Lightning sniper Steven] Stamkos, he dives every two seconds."
2. Boudreau will face his own personal hurdle. He has yet to steer Alex Ovechkin and Co. to a conference final and questions will linger about the Capitals playoff prowess if they can't advance past the Lightning.
3. While injured Capitals defenceman Mike Green is expected to play in the opener, veteran Mike Knuble (hand) will start the series on the sidelines as will defenceman Dennis Wideman. Knuble expects to return mid-series, while there is slim chance Wideman could see action late in the series as he recovers from a leg hematoma.
Season series - Washington 4-1-1.
Nov. 11 - Capitals 6-3 at Washington
Nov. 26 - Capitals 6-0 at Washington
Jan. 04 - Lightning 1-0 (OT) at Washington
Jan. 12 - Lightning 3-0 at Tampa Bay
Feb. 04 - Capitals 5-2 at Tampa Bay
Mar. 07 - Capitals 2-1 (SO) at Tampa Bay
Prediction - Lightning in seven.
No. 2 Philadelphia (47-23-12, 106 pts) vs. No. 3 Boston (46-25-11, 103 pts)
1. Do we need to mention the Bruins epic gag of a year ago, when they not only lost the series after winning the first three games, but allowed a 3-0 first-period lead in the finale slip away for a Flyers win?
2. Will the Flyers goaltending situation stabilize? Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette anointed 21-year-old Sergei Bobrovsky as his playoff goalie during the last week of the regular season. But the rookie struggled, and so did veterans Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton. Boucher will be the man to start the series, but ...
3. Can the Bruins solve their power-play woes? They became the first NHL team to win a seven-game series without a scoring a power-play goal against the Montreal Canadiens, but don't expect that to happen against the Stanley Cup finalist Flyers.
Season series - Boston 3-1-0.
Dec. 01 - Bruins 3-0 at Philadelphia
Dec. 11 - Flyers 2-1 (OT) at Boston
Jan. 13 - Bruins 7-5 at Boston
Mar. 27 - Bruins 2-1 at Philadelphia
Prediction - Flyers in six.
First-round record - 6-2.
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