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Penguins hold top seeding in East


April 30. 2013 1:27AM
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A look at the first-round series in the NHL playoffs:


EASTERN CONFERENCE

No. 1 Pittsburgh Penguins (36-12-0) vs. No. 8 New York Islanders (24-17-7)

2013 series record: Pittsburgh 4-1. Playoff History: New York 3-0. Last meeting: New York 4-3 in 1993 Patrick Division finals.


PITTSBURGH: The Penguins were 23-4 in their final 27 games but will need to be on their game to avoid a third straight first-round exit. The Penguins are getting healthier all over as Evgeni Malkin returned earlier in the week after he sat out four because of an upper body injury. Sidney Crosby (jaw) is back practicing and could soon receive medical clearance to play in games. Reinforcements acquired at the trade deadline -- Brenden Morrow, Jussi Jokinen and Jarome Iginla -- have helped Pittsburgh offset its injuries.


N.Y. ISLANDERS: The Islanders are in the playoffs for the first time since 2007 and will be looking for their first series win since they reached the conference finals in 1993. John Tavares emerged as a legitimate MVP contender by scoring 28 goals and adding 19 assists in 48 games.


OUTLOOK: Islanders are ready for playoffs, but not quite ready to knock off playoff-tested Pittsburgh. Penguins in 5.


No. 2 Montreal Canadiens (29-14-5) vs. No. 7 Ottawa Senators (25-17-6)

2013 series record: Both teams 2-1-1.


Playoff History: First meeting.


MONTREAL: The Canadiens closed the regular season going 4-6 in their last 10 games. Most alarmingly is Montreal yielded 29 goals in those six losses. Carey Price was in goal for nine of 10 games before the finale vs. Toronto. Price earned 21 wins in his 39 appearances, posting a 2.59 GAA.


OTTAWA: The Senators were 6-3 in their final nine games. ... G Craig Anderson had played seven straight and nine of 10 before resting for the season finale. OUTLOOK: This backyard brawl could go back and forth for quite a while. Ottawa will be still standing at the end. Senators in 7.


No. 3 Washington Capitals (27-18-3) vs. No. 6 New York Rangers (26-18-4)

2013 series record: New York 2-0-1.


Playoff History: Washington 4-3. Last meeting: New York 4-3 in 2012 conference semifinals.


WASHINGTON: Alex Ovechkin fueled the Capitals’ surge to their fifth Southeast Division title in six years by leading the NHL with 32 goals. Ovechkin scored an NHL-record 14 goals in April.


N.Y. RANGERS: Rick Nash broke out of a scoring slump with two goals in the finale to reach 20 for the ninth straight season. Brad Richards enters the playoffs on a six-game point streak, and Henrik Lundqvist has allowed two goals or fewer in 16 of the past 20 games.


OUTLOOK: These teams went seven games last season, with the final two being decided by 2-1 scores. Expect more of the same. Rangers in 7.


No. 4 Boston Bruins (28-14-6) vs. No. 5 Toronto Maple Leafs (26-17-5)

2013 series record: Boston 3-1-0. Playoff History: Boston 8-5. Last meeting: Boston 4-0 in 1974 quarterfinals.


BOSTON: Boston is in the postseason for the sixth straight season. ... David Krejci scored a team-high 23 goals, followed by Patrice Bergeron with 22.


TORONTO: The Maple Leafs lost four of their final six and were outscored 20-15 in that stretch. ... Phil Kessel netted his 20th goal of the season, giving him 10 in 10 games.


OUTLOOK: Boston outlasts Toronto in matchup of skidding clubs. Bruins in 7.


WESTERN CONFERENCE

No. 1 Chicago Blackhawks (36-7-5) vs. No. 8 Minnesota Wild (26-19-3)

2013 series record: Minnesota 2-0-1. Playoff History: First meeting.


CHICAGO: Chicago started the season 21-0-3 and then cruised to a 10-3-2 mark in April. ... The Blackhawks are one of the most balanced teams in the league, with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews tying for the club lead with 23 goals.


MINNESOTA: Much was expected after the team’s big free-agent signings of forward Zach Parise and Ryan Suter last summer. Parise led the club with 18 goals, and his Stanley Cup playoff experience from New Jersey should help his teammates. Suter was fourth on the team with 32 points, including 28 assists.


OUTLOOK: If Chicago is going to be seriously tested on the way to the finals, it won’t be by the Wild. Blackhawks in 5.


No. 2 Anaheim Ducks (30-12-6) vs. No. 7 Detroit Red Wings (24-16-8)

2013 series record: Anaheim 2-1-0.


Playoff History: Detroit 3-2. Last meeting: Detroit 4-3 in 2009 conference semifinals.


ANAHEIM: Top-line forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry tied for the team lead with 15 goals each, and Teemu Selanne and Bobby Ryan combined for only 23 goals.


DETROIT: Jimmy Howard will have to be the ultimate backstop now after having a fine regular season in which he won 21 games and posted a 2.13 GAA.


OUTLOOK: The Red Wings returned to the postseason again, but won’t stick around too long. Ducks in 6.


No. 3 Vancouver Canucks (26-15-7) vs. No. 6 San Jose Sharks (25-16-7)

2013 series record: San Jose 3-0-0. Playoff History: Vancouver 1-0. Last meeting: Vancouver 4-1 in 2011 conference finals.


VANCOUVER: The Canucks mustered just 127 goals this season -- 28 fewer than Central champion Chicago and 13 less than Pacific champion Anaheim. Alex Burrows led the Canucks with 13 goals.


SAN JOSE: The Sharks were 17-2-5 at home but only 8-13-2 on the road, though one of the wins was in Vancouver. Logan Couture led the team with 21 goals.


OUTLOOK: San Jose is used to long playoff runs. Its success over Vancouver continues into the playoffs. Sharks in 6.


No. 4 St. Louis Blues (29-17-2) Vs. No. 5 Los Angeles Kings (27-16-5)

2013 series record: Los Angeles 3-0-0. Playoff History: St. Louis 2-1. Last meeting: Los Angeles 4-0 in 2012 conference semifinals.


ST. LOUIS: The Blues surged in April to an 11-2 mark in the final month. G Brian Elliott led the way down the stretch for St. Louis, giving up 16 goals in the final 13 games.


LOS ANGELES: The Kings won the franchise’s first Stanley Cup title last year, and they did it from the No. 8 seed. G Jonathan Quick earned Conn Smythe Trophy honors last year as the playoff MVP when he went 16-4 with a minuscule 1.41 GAA. Jeff Carter paced the offense with 26 goals, and Anze Kopitar topped the team with 42 points.


OUTLOOK: Los Angeles is ready for another lengthy playoff stay. It starts here. Kings in 7.




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