No. 2 St. Louis (49-22-11--109 pts) vs. No. 8 Los Angeles (40-27-14--94 pts)
1. About 90 minutes separate Sherwood Park, Alta., the hometown of St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock, and the farm Los Angeles bench boss Darryl Sutter is from in Viking, Alta. But the similarities don't stop there. Hitchcock won a Stanley Cup behind the bench of the 1998-99 Dallas Stars and Sutter almost guided his Calgary Flames to the NHL championship five years later. After sitting on the sidelines for a few years both were mid-season replacements for their respective teams this season, and both were able to turn around their team's fortunes. Now they face each other in the second round.
2. How many shutouts will there be in this series? Kings netminder Jonathan Quick led the NHL with 10 regular-season shutouts. Blues goalie Brian Elliott was next at nine. Quick added another shutout in the first round against the Vancouver Canucks, but the two posted similar statistics in their series victories. Elliott went 3-0-0 with a .949 save percentage and 1.37 goals against average. Quick checked in with a 4-1-0 record, .953 save percentage and 1.59 goals against average.
3. Teammates on the 2006-07 Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks, Andy McDonald and Kent Huskins of the St. Louis Blues will face Kings forward Dustin Penner. The winner plays on the Kings' third line and if Los Angeles has a chance to win this series, Penner, as well as Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, will need to exhibit more consistency against the well-balanced Blues' lineup.
Season series - Kings 3-1-0.
Prediction - Blues in seven.
No. 3 Phoenix (42-27-13--97 pts) vs. No. 4 Nashville (48-26-8--104 pts)
1. The Coyotes and Predators rely heavily on their goaltending. Nashville's Pekka Rinne and Phoenix's Mike Smith both finished in the top 10 in appearances, minutes played, saves, save percentage and shutouts, and both were responsible for their teams advancing to the second round. While Rinne was signed to a lucrative long-term contract last fall and was named a Vezina Trophy finalist, Smith has enjoyed a season to remember after signing with the Coyotes as a free agent last summer. He stopped 229 of 241 shots in the first round against the Chicago Blackhawks, including a 4-0 shutout in the series finale, in which Phoenix was outshot 28-8 through two periods.
2. Mike Fisher and Antoine Vermette are unheralded, solid two-way centres and were teammates with the Ottawa Senators. They also happen to play in the middle of their team's top lines. So they will see plenty of ice time against one another in this series. Nashville's Fisher plays between Sergei Kostitsyn and Martin Erat. Phoenix's Vermette, acquired via a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Feb. 22 and scored four goals in the first round, centres Mikkel Boedker and Shane Doan.
3. Predators head coach Barry Trotz and his Coyotes counterpart, Dave Tippett, go way back. They played against each other in the 1979-80 Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. Tippett was with champions from Prince Albert and Trotz played for Regina. Trotz then won the 1993-94 Calder Cup as coach of the Portland Pirates. Tippett steered the Houston Aeros to the 1998-99 Turner Cup. They also were assistants on Lindy Ruff's Canadian staff at the 2009 world championship. Tippett guided the 2007-08 Dallas Stars to the West final and edged out Trotz for the 2009-10 Jack Adams Trophy. But Trotz hopes to get the Predators to the conference final this time.
Season series - Coyotes won 2-1-1.
Prediction - Predators in seven.
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