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Defending Cup champs open road to repeat

by Adam Schwartz /

Jean-Sebastian Giguere and the Anaheim Ducks take the first step to defending their Stanley Cup title tonight when they host Jere Lehtinen and the Dallas Stars in Game 1.
Three first-round playoff series start Thursday, plus Game 2 between the Calgary Flames and San Jose Sharks.

A pair of 7 p.m. starts features the Montreal Canadiens battling the Boston Bruins and the Detroit Red Wings hosting the Nashville Predators. At 10 p.m. the Dallas Stars visit the Stanley Cup-defending Anaheim Ducks, plus the Flames at the Sharks.

Here’s what to keep an eye out for:

* Boston has a 7-23 all-time playoff-series record against the Canadiens. The Bruins, who yielded 10 more goals than they scored in the regular season, failed to beat the Habs in eight regular-season games.

* Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, whose average ice time of 26:50 was third in the League, has a plus-10 rating in 48 career games against Montreal, but he has a minus-6 rating in eight games this season.

* The Canadiens, who scored the most goals in the League with 262, had the best power play in the NHL with a 24.1-percent success rate. The Habs were ranked No. 13 in average shots per game.

* Montreal left wing Sergei Kostitsyn, who played with Sam Gagner and Patrick Kane on a line for the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League last season, led Northeast Division rookies that played at least 20 games with a plus-9 rating. Kostitsyn, who averages just 14:21 of ice time per game, had 27 points in just 52 games.

* Nashville right wing Martin Erat, who was selected No. 191 overall in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, totaled four goals and four assists for eight points and a plus-4 rating in eight games against the Red Wings this season.

* Predators right wing Alexander Radulov, who was third on the team with 58 points, has three goals in four career playoff games. Radulov, who has a career plus-26 rating, had a minus-5 rating in his last four regular-season games.

* Detroit goalie Dominik Hasek, who backstopped the Red Wings to the 2002 Stanley Cup, has won nine of 15 career games against the Predators, including three of four this season. Hasek, who is the only goalie in NHL history to win back-to-back Hart trophies as the League’s most valuable player, has 26 wins in his last two playoff seasons.

* Red Wings right wing Dan Cleary, who scored 20 goals for the second consecutive season, set a career-high with 42 points despite missing 19 games with a broken jaw.

* Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf, who scored just two goals in 13 career playoff games prior to Wednesday night, scored a power-play goal Wednesday in Calgary’s 3-2 victory in Game 1 against the Sharks. Phaneuf, who led Northwest Division defensemen with 194 hits in the regular season, was tied for the League lead among defensemen with 10 power-play goals.

* Sharks defenseman Brian Campbell, who had 19 points in 20 regular-season games with San Jose, snapped an eight-game playoff pointless streak when he assisted Ryane Clowe’s goal with less than a minute left Wednesday in San Jose’s 3-2 loss to Calgary in Game 1. Campbell, who was just one of two players to play 83 regular-season games in 2007-08, had the third-most power-play assists among NHL defensemen, with 28.

* The Flames, who yielded 39 shots Wednesday in Game 1 against San Jose, allowed the second-fewest shots against per game in the Northwest Division during the regular season at 28.5.

* San Jose, which had the best power play in the Pacific Division with an 18.8 percent success rate, was tied for the fewest road goals allowed in the League, with 88. The Sharks won their third division title with a franchise record of 108 points.

* The Stars, who have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs the last three seasons, scored the most goals in the Pacific Division with 242. Dallas, which had the second-best road power play in the Western Conference with a 20 percent success rate, had the second-best penalty kill in the League with an 85.5 percent success rate.

* Stars captain Brenden Morrow, whose parents own a sporting goods store in Carlyle, Saskatchewan, had five goals and four assists for nine points in his last eight regular-season games.

* Anaheim right wing Teemu Selanne, who returned to the Ducks in February after contemplating retirement, has a minus-9 rating in 86 career playoff games. Selanne, who set a rookie record by scoring 76 goals in the 1992-93 season with the Winnipeg Jets, has a plus-92 rating in 1,067 regular season games.

* Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who backstopped Anaheim to the 2007 Stanley Cup, lost just one game in regulation in his last 12 regular-season appearances, and gave up more than two goals just once during that span.

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