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Bruins to open Stanley Cup defense Thursday

Sunday, 04.08.2012 / 12:56 PM / Stanley Cup Playoffs

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Bruins to open Stanley Cup defense Thursday
The road to the Stanley Cup starts Wednesday, with the puck dropping in Pittsburgh, Nashville and Vancouver. The Bruins open their title defense Thursday

Boston will begin defense of its Stanley Cup championship Thursday when it opens the Stanley Cup Playoffs against Washington at TD Garden. Vancouver will look to start its journey back to the Stanley Cup Final when it opens the playoffs Wednesday against Los Angeles in a Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

For the second straight season the playoff matchups were not determined until the last game was played on the last day of the regular season, but it took the National Hockey League only a half a day longer to have the schedule ironed out and ready to go.

The playoffs begin Wednesday with three games on the schedule -- Philadelphia at Pittsburgh, Los Angeles at Vancouver, and Detroit at Nashville. Four more quarterfinal-round series will open Thursday, with Ottawa playing at the New York Rangers, Washington starting in Boston, San Jose opening in St. Louis, and Phoenix hosting the Chicago Blackhawks.

The last of the eight first-round series will begin Friday when New Jersey plays at Florida.

NHL PLAYOFFS CHANNEL FINDER

FULL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

All games will be broadcast on national television in the U.S. and Canada. NBC, NBC Sports Network and CNBC, as well as the NHL Network, will be carrying games in the United States. CBC and TSN will be airing games in Canada.

Highlighting the opening-night schedule Wednesday is the Keystone State rivalry series between the Flyers and Penguins (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN). They played twice in the final seven days of the regular season and could meet seven more times between Wednesday and April 24.

They will have a two-day break between Games 3 and 4 in Philadelphia. Game 3 will be next Sunday, April 15 (3 p.m. ET, NBC, TSN).

Philadelphia won four of the six meetings against Pittsburgh this season. The Flyers won three times in regulation and once in overtime thanks to Scott Hartnell's winner with 0.9 seconds left in the extra session. Art Ross Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin had nine points in six games against Philadelphia this season, while Claude Giroux, who finished third in the scoring race, had eight points in five games against Pittsburgh.

Ilya Bryzgalov likely will be the Flyers' goalie to start the playoffs. He has never played at Consol Energy Center.

The Canucks, who won the Presidents' Trophy for the second straight season, open Wednesday (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC) against the Los Angeles Kings, a team they beat in the playoffs two seasons ago. Vancouver and L.A. split their season series, but the Canucks won their two games in regulation, including a 1-0 win at Rogers Arena on March 26.

This series includes a two-day break between Games 3 and 4, and the potential for a three-day break between Games 4 and 5, if needed.

The Predators and Red Wings will continue their rivalry in the first round Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, CNBC, CBC) after meeting six times during the regular season. They split the season series, with each team picking up three regulation wins. However, the Predators won the last two, both in March, including one at home and one in Detroit.

Andrei Kostitsyn, who Nashville acquired at the trade deadline from Montreal, had a pair of goals and one assist in those March meetings with the Red Wings. Alexander Radulov had a goal and had an assist in his lone game against Detroit this season.

The only two-day break in the Nashville-Detroit series is between Games 4 and 5, if needed.

The Rangers finished first in the Eastern Conference, but their gift is a quarterfinal-round series against a team that beat them three out of four times in the regular season. The Senators won the last two games against the Rangers by a combined 7-1 score. They also have won five in a row at Madison Square Garden, where the series opens Thursday (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, CBC).

A two-day break is built into the schedule between Games 4 and 5, if needed. There will be another two-day between Games 6 and 7 if the series goes the distance.

Similar to the Rangers, the Bruins earned the second seed in the East but face a Washington team that beat them three out of four times in the regular season, including twice at TD Garden in March.

The Bruins and Capitals open Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC). They will have a two-day break between Games 3 and 4. They also face the prospect of playing on back-to-back days, with travel included, if the series goes to Game 6. But there would be another two-day break before Game 7, if necessary.

St. Louis makes its return to the playoffs as the second seed and opens Thursday against San Jose (7:30 p.m. CNBC, TSN). The Blues dominated San Jose in the regular season, winning all four games in regulation, allowing only three goals along the way. Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott each won two games against the Sharks. Halak did it with a 0.50 goals-against average while Elliott had a 1.00 GAA. They each had a shutout.

The big question for the Blues is which goalie will start Game 1. The answer will come soon.

The Blues and Sharks will have a two-day break between Games 3 and 4.

After two straight seasons of opening the playoffs and losing in the first round to Detroit, the Coyotes get to face a different 100-point team from the Central Division as they open Thursday against Chicago (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN). Phoenix won the last three meetings against Chicago, including 3-0 on Feb. 11. That was the last time the two teams played this season.

Chicago still is hoping captain Jonathan Toews will be ready to open the playoffs. He missed the last 22 games of the season with a concussion, but was getting close to returning last week. Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford was 1-1 with a 4.29 GAA and .830 save percentage against Phoenix this season.

Ray Whitney led the Coyotes with six points against the Blackhawks. Radim Vrbata had three goals and Mike Smith was 3-0-0 with a 1.30 GAA and .959 save percentage.

These teams will have extra time to travel after Game 2 in Phoenix because of a two-day break before Game 3 in Chicago.

The Devils-Panthers series, which opens Friday (7 p.m. ET, NHL Network, TSN), has some of the more interesting storylines of the first round, including Peter DeBoer's return to Florida as New Jersey's coach.

DeBoer spent the previous three seasons coaching the Panthers. Also, Florida center John Madden will be facing his old team in the playoffs for the first time. Madden won the Stanley Cup twice with the Devils, in 2000 and 2003. Plus, this will be Florida's first appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2000, ending what was the longest postseason drought in the NHL.

New Jersey and Florida split the season series, with one of the Devils' wins coming in a shootout. Kris Versteeg scored five goals in four games against the Devils.

The only two-day break in the Devils-Panthers series would be between Games 5 and 6.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

Quote of the Day

Right now I'm just happy to be back and get through this season and make sure I do my job. I've never had an issue with having to prove myself again and I'll try to do it again. We'll see where it takes me.

— Defenseman Torey Krug on signing with the Boston Bruins
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