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LAK-VAN Storylines

by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
Ryan Smyth, along with Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene helped lead the Oilers to the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals.

How will the several goaltenders, with no NHL postseason experience, perform when they get their first taste of Stanley Cup playoff action? Can Pittsburgh Penguins’ coach Dan Bylsma accomplish what only the legendary Toe Blake has done in Stanley Cup history? How have teams with as many as five rookies in their lineup as the Colorado Avalanche have, performed in the playoffs in recent years? What teams have added the most playoff experience to their lineup this year to gear up for a Stanley Cup run? How have #8 seeds fared against #1 seeds in recent years?

Those are just some of the dozens of League, team and individual storylines for the 16 teams that begin the 60-day quest to win the Stanley Cup on Wednesday, April 14.

Six of the 16 playoff teams will return after at least a year's absence from post-season play. The six newcomers are one more than the five new teams in each of the previous four seasons.

The Los Angeles Kings and the Phoenix Coyotes return after the longest absence -- both last appeared in the playoffs in 2002. The Buffalo Sabres return for the first time since 2007, while the Ottawa Senators, Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche return after a one-year absence.

Adding plenty of intrigue to the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs is the absence of veteran playoff experience in goal.

Just two of the 16 projected playoff starters have captured a Stanley Cup, New Jersey's Martin Brodeur and Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury. Just one more, San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov, has accumulated 30 career playoff wins.

Goaltenders on playoff clubs with no NHL postseason experience include Boston's Tuukka Rask, Chicago's Antti Niemi, Colorado's Craig Anderson, Detroit's Jimmy Howard, Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick, Nashville's Pekka Rinne, Ottawa's Brian Elliott and Pascal Leclaire and Philadelphia’s Michael Leighton.

New Jersey Devils' coach Jacques Lemaire enters the 2010 playoffs with the most experience among active NHL coaches both in terms of games (112) and wins (60). His games coached total ranks 11th all-time, while his win total ranks 10th.

Colorado Avalanche coach Joe Sacco and Ottawa Senators' coach Cory Clouston will make their Stanley Cup playoff coaching debuts.

Los Angeles Kings' coach Terry Murray returns to the post-season after the longest absence - Murray last coached in the playoffs in 1999-2000 with the Florida Panthers. Murray has advanced to the postseason eight times, posting a 46 – 43 mark in 89 games.

Pittsburgh Penguins' coach Dan Bylsma enters the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs looking to become just the second coach in NHL history to win back-to-back Stanley Cups in his first two NHL seasons. Montreal Canadiens' coach Toe Blake won Cups in each of his first five seasons in the League (1956-60).

According to results of opening-round series since the current format was adopted in 1994, a #4 seed is almost as likely to win its series as a #1 seed.

#3 seed vs. #6 seed
The #3 seeds are 19-11 in first-round series since 1994 (.633). Lower-seeded team series wins are detailed.
2009: 1-1 (Carolina over New Jersey)
2008: 0-2 (Philadelphia over Washington, Colorado over Minnesota)
2007: 1-1 (NY Rangers over Atlanta)
2006: 1-1 (Anaheim over Calgary)
2004: 1-1 (Calgary over Vancouver)
2003: 1-1 (Minnesota over Colorado)
2002: 2-0
2001: 1-1 (Pittsburgh over Washington)
2000: 2-0
1999: 1-1 (Boston over Carolina)
1998: 1-1 (Buffalo over Philadelphia)
1997: 2-0
1996: 2-0
1995: 1-1 (Vancouver over St. Louis)
1994: 2-0

LOS ANGELES KINGS (3rd Pacific Division, 6th Western Conference)
Long Time Coming: The Kings will be making their first Stanley Cup Playoff appearance since 2002. There are no players on this year's roster remaining from the 2001-02 squad. The Kings collected 101 points (46-27-9), 22 more than in all of 2008-09 (34-37-11) and the most since a Kings team featuring Wayne Gretzky, Luc Robitaille, Tomas Sandstrom, Dave Taylor, Tony Granato, Steve Duchesne, Larry Robinson and Kelly Hrudey won the Smythe Division with 102 points in 1990-91.

King Kopitar: C Anze Kopitar, 22, posted career-high totals in goals (34), assists (47) and points (81) to lead the Kings in all three categories. Back in 2006-07, Kopitar was the first Kings rookie to reach 60 points in one season since Luc Robitaille 20 years before. In 2008-09, Kopitar's 27 goals made him the first Kings player since Robitaille to notch 20 goals in each of his first three NHL seasons. He also led the Kings in scoring last season and has topped all Kings forwards in average ice time the past two seasons.

No Doughty About It: The second overall pick in the 2008 Entry Draft, 20-year-old D Drew Doughty already has joined the ranks of elite defensemen in his brief NHL career. He earned NHL All-Rookie honors in 2008-09 and made dramatic statistical gains in his sophomore season, ranking third among League defensemen in scoring (16-43--59). He led the Kings in ice time per game (24:58) and ranked second in scoring and plus-minus (+20). At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Doughty became the youngest player to suit up for Canada at elite international tournament since 18-year-old Eric Lindros in 1991. He posted a plus-6 rating in the tournament, including a plus-3 rating in the gold medal game against the United States.

Sophomore Records: Second-year goaltender Jonathan Quick, 24, established a franchise record for victories in a season (39-24-7), eclipsing the old mark of 35 set by Mario Lessard in 1980-81. Quick also set franchise records for most minutes (4,258), passing Rogie Vachon's 4,107 in 1977-78, and most games (72), passing Felix Potvin's 71 in 2001-02.

Mr. Captain: RW Dustin Brown, 25, recorded 50+ points for the third consecutive season, ranking third on the Kings with 24-32--56. The Kings captain perennially is among NHL leaders in hits; he ranked second this season with 287.

Career Highs: D Jack Johnson, 23, recorded career highs in games (80), average ice time (22:36), goals, (eight), assists (28) and points (36). He also enjoyed a strong Olympic tournament for Team USA, ranking third on the club in ice time per game (19:57), including 23:27 in the gold medal game against Canada.

Consecutive Markers: LW Alexander Frolov, 27, has recorded 381 points (168 goals, 213 assists) in 536 games for Los Angeles in seven NHL seasons. The Kings' first-round pick in 2000 has reached the 50-point mark for the fourth consecutive season (19-32--51).

Playoff Experience: While the talented young Kings corps will be making their playoff debut, the club has several players on the roster with Stanley Cup experience. D Sean O'Donnell has appeared in a team-high 87 NHL playoff games over his 15-year NHL career and captured the Stanley Cup in 2007 with the Anaheim Ducks. D Rob Scuderi has appeared in each of the past two Stanley Cup Finals with the Pittsburgh Penguins, winning a ring in 2009. RW Justin Williams tallied 18 points in 25 playoff games with the Carolina Hurricanes en route to their 2006 Stanley Cup championship. The team the Hurricanes edged in the classic seven-game Final, the Edmonton Oilers, featured three current Kings: LW Ryan Smyth, C Jarret Stoll and D Matt Greene.

Coach Murray: Terry Murray is no stranger to NHL playoff competition. As the head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers for three seasons from 1994-95 through 1996-97, Murray captured Atlantic Division titles in 1995 and 1996 and a berth in the Stanley Cup Final in 1997. Murray began his NHL head coaching career by leading the Washington Capitals to their first berth in the Eastern Conference Final in 1989-90.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS (1st Northwest Division, 3rd Western Conference)
Qualification: The Canucks qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second straight season and the seventh time in the last nine seasons. They captured the Northwest Division title for the second year in a row and for the fourth time in the past six seasons. They have eclipsed 100 points for the fifth time in the past seven seasons. And they tied the 40-year-old franchise’s single-season record of 49 wins with a victory over Calgary in Saturday’s season finale.

Pack Your Bags, We’re Going On A Road Trip:
Dispatched on the longest road trip in NHL history because the Winter Olympics took over their home rink, GM Place, for 40 days, the Canucks persevered. They went 8-5-1 on their 14-game stint away from home from Jan. 30 through March 10. Upon returning from the Olympics, the Canucks went 12-6-3 to lock down the Northwest crown and further display their staying power.

Vancouver’s Year?: Could Vancouver become the first city in history to play host to a Winter Olympics and a Stanley Cup Final in the same season? They’ve made two Cinderella runs to the Final, losing to New York teams both times – the Islanders in 1982 and the Rangers in 1994. Despite making the playoffs six of the past eight years, they haven’t advanced past the conference semi-finals since that run to Game 7 of the Cup Final vs. the Rangers in ’94.

No Longer Identical Twins: Henrik Sedin finished with a League-leading, career-high and Canucks franchise-record 112 points (29 goals, 83 assists) to edge Pittsburgh Penguins C Sidney Crosby (51-58--109) and Washington Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin (50-59--109) in capturing his first career Art Ross Trophy as NHL regular-season scoring champion. Sedin is first Canuck in franchise history to capture the award. His 83 assists also led the League. Twin brother Daniel missed 20 games due to injury yet still tallied a career-high 85 points (29 goals, 56 assists).

Looie, Looie: G Roberto Luongo realized a dream -- and defied skeptics -- in February by taking over for Martin Brodeur and then backstopping Canada to Olympic gold. Luongo now gets to prove that he is capable of carrying a team to a Stanley Cup. A workhorse who has been among the NHL’s top-tier regular season goalies for years (33 or more wins the last five seasons), Luongo is only a .500 goalie in 22 career playoff games.

The Second Wave: While Henrik Sedin and Luongo have made most headlines, emerging young stars such as C Ryan Kesler (25 goals, Olympic silver with Team USA), LW Alex Burrows (35 goals) and LW Mason Raymond (25 goals) could prove difference makers for a Vancouver team that recently has lacked depth and therefore been straightforward to check come playoff time.

Been There, Done That:
Free agent RW Mikael Samuelsson brought a career-high 30 goals to the Canucks' lineup this season and will be looked to for his playoff experience that includes 69 games and a Stanley Cup title (2008 with Detroit).
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