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NHL playoff previews

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The Kings, Wild and New York Rangers needed a Game 7 to win their respective first-round series, and Minnesota had to go to overtime.

Will the drama continue in the conference semifinals?

Western Conference

1. DUCKS

(Round 1: defeated Dallas, 4-2)

vs. 3. KINGS

(Round 1; defeated San Jose, 4-3)

Playoff power play: Ducks 26.9% (fourth); Kings 25% (sixth).

Playoff penalty killing: Ducks 89.7% (fourth); Kings 87.5% (sixth).

Leading scorers: Ducks, Ryan Getzlaf 3-4—7; Kings, Anze Kopitar 4-6—10.

Outlook: The Ducks will have to decide whether to start goaltender Frederik Andersen, who was pulled in two games versus Dallas, or Jonas Hiller, who got the series-clinching win in relief. Their power play was effective against Dallas but the Kings' penalty killing is formidable. The Ducks' four-line depth will challenge the Kings, who might be without Willie Mitchell. Jonathan Quick's save percentage against San Jose rose to .914 as the defense tightened.

Pick: Go with the team that has the better goalie. Kings in seven.

Schedule

Game 1: Saturday at Ducks, 5

Game 2: Monday at Ducks, 7

Game 3: Thursday at Kings, 7

Game 4: May 10 at Kings, TBA

Game 5*: May 12 at Ducks, TBA

Game 6*: May 14 at Kings, TBA

Game 7*: May 16 at Ducks, TBA

3. CHICAGO

(Round 1: defeated St. Louis, 4-2)

vs. 4. MINNESOTA

(Round 1: defeated Colorado, 4-3)

Playoff power play: Blackhawks 15% (ninth); Wild 14.3% (10th).

Playoff penalty killing: Blackhawks 93.1% (first); Wild 88% (fifth).

Leading scorers: Blackhawks, Jonathan Toews 3-4—7; Wild, Zach Parise 3-7—10.

Outlook: The defending champion Blackhawks were fortunate to encounter a battered Blues team in first round. In the process, goalie Corey Crawford (1.98, .935) further dispelled his image as the team's weakest link, and the big guns — Toews and Patrick Kane (three goals, six points) — looked good Duncan Keith showed why he's a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman. Minnesota overcame an injury to goalie Darcy Kuemper to get past Colorado, helped by a goal and three points from a reborn Dany Heatley. But can goalie Ilya Bryzgalov win a series if he has to?

Pick: Blackhawks in six.

Schedule

Game 1: Tonight, 6:30

Game 2: Sunday at Chicago, noon

Game 3: Tuesday at Minnesota, 6 p.m.

Game 4: May 9 at Minnesota, TBA

Game 5*: May 11 at Chicago, TBA

Game 6*: May 13 at Minnesota, TBA

Game 7*: May 15 at Chicago, TBA

Eastern Conference

1. PITTSBURGH

(Round 1: defeated Columbus, 4-2)

vs. 2. N.Y. RANGERS

(Round 1: defeated Philadelphia, 4-3)

Playoff power play: Penguins 20.7% (seventh); Rangers 10.3% (14th).

Playoff penalty killing: Penguins 74.1% (12th); Rangers 71.4% (15th).

Leading scorers: Penguins, Matt Niskanen 2-6—8; Rangers, Martin St. Louis 2-4—6.

Outlook: The Penguins eliminated Columbus without a goal from scoring champion Sidney Crosby. Center Brandon Sutter (three goals, five points) stepped up, as did Niskanen. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury fluctuated between superb and shaky. Rangers are gritty but were lowest-scoring team among first-round survivors, at 2.71 per game. Henrik Lundqvist (2.11, .919) is the better goalie in the series.

Pick: Tough call, but look for Alain Vigneault to outcoach Pittsburgh's Dan Bylsma. Rangers in seven.

Schedule

Game 1: Tonight at Pittsburgh, 4

Game 2: Sunday at Pittsburgh, 4:30

Game 3: Monday at New York, 4:30

Game 4: Wednesday at New York, 4:30

Game 5*: May 9 at Pittsburgh, TBA

Game 6*: May 11 at New York, TBA

Game 7*: May 13 at Pittsburgh, TBA

*If necessary; times p.m. and PDT

Elliott correctly picked seven of the eight winners in the first round of the playoffs, including four by the exact number of games.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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