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Five big contests tonight

by Adam Schwartz /

Bruins' center Marc Savard was the hero of Game 3, but Boston will have to come through again tonight in Game 5 against Carey Price and the Canadiens in Montreal if they hope to extend the series and stay in contention for the Cup.
Thursday night will feature five pivotal playoff matchups as the first round of the playoffs continues.

At 7 p.m., the Montreal Canadiens try to finish off the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre, and the Washington Capitals look to even their series with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Later, the Dallas Stars try to extend their 2-1 series lead against the Anaheim Ducks, the Minnesota Wild look to rebound from a 5-1 loss in Game 4 to the Colorado Avalanche at the Xcel Energy Center and a leader will emerge from the Calgary Flames-San Jose Sharks series.

Here’s what to keep an eye out for:

* Boston left wing Marco Sturm, who led the team with 27 goals during the regular season, has no goals in the first four games against the Canadiens. Sturm, who was tied for the lead among Boston forwards with a plus-11 rating during the regular season, has one assist and a minus-2 rating in the series.

* The Bruins, who have yielded just two goals in the last two games, have scored just five goals against the Habs. Boston, which has lost 23 playoff series to Montreal, last lost to the Habs after holding a 3-1 series advantage in the first round of the 2004 playoffs.

* Montreal defenseman Mike Komisarek, who led NHL defensemen with 266 hits in the regular season, has played at least 20 minutes in every game against the Bruins. Komisarek, who is emerging as one the League’s best stay-at-home blueliners, leads the team with 16 blocked shots.

* Habs left wing Steve Begin, who had eight points in 44 games during the regular season, has two assists in four games against the Bruins. Begin, who leads the team with 19 hits in the series, had just one assist in 11 playoff games prior to this season.

* Washington center David Steckel, who led the League’s rookies with a 56.3 faceoff percentage, has just a 43.3 faceoff percentage in the playoffs. Steckel, who is known for his defensive play, has a goal and an assist in his last three games.

* Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom, who led the NHL’s rookies with 55 assists, has just one assist.

* The Flyers, who have scored 12 goals in the first three games against the Capitals, led the Atlantic Division with 248 goals scored. Philadelphia, which had a 21-14-6 home record, looks to stretch their series lead to 3-1 at the Wachovia Center.

* Philadelphia right wing Mike Knuble, who had just nine points in 23 playoff games prior to this season, has a goal and two assists for three points in three games in this series. Knuble, who enjoys the band Bon Jovi, has scored at least 20 goals in five consecutive regular seasons.

* Dallas captain Brenden Morrow, who had five goals and two assists for seven points against Anaheim in the regular season, has three goals and two assists against the Ducks in three playoff games against the Ducks.

* Anaheim, which allowed the fewest goals in the Pacific Division during the regular season with 191, has allowed 11 goals in the first three games against Dallas.

* Colorado defenseman Ruslan Salei, who was acquired during trade deadline day from the Florida Panthers, has one goal and two assists for three points in four games against the Wild.

* Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire, who has won 12 playoff series as a coach, has won just two playoff series since 1997. Lemaire, who coached the New Jersey Devils to their first Stanley Cup in 1995, has been the Wild’s coach since their inception.

* Despite being tied for the League lead among defensemen with four points, Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf has a minus-2 rating in four games against the Sharks. Phaneuf, who has a plus-27 rating in 243 regular season games, has a minus-14 rating in 17 career playoff games.

* Calgary center Daymond Langkow, who was second among Flames with 30 goals, has a goal and two assists for three points in four games against San Jose. Langkow, who has scored more than two goals in a playoff year just once, scored 30 goals for the second consecutive season during the regular season – the only two times in his 12-season career he has accomplished the feat.

* San Jose center Joe Thornton, who had just one assist and a minus-4 rating in four regular season games against Calgary, has one goal and four assists for five points in this series.

* Sharks center Torrey Mitchell, selected No. 126 overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, is fourth in the League with a 58.5 faceoff winning percentage. Mitchell, who is one of coach Ron Wilson’s top penalty killers, averages 2:07 of shorthanded ice time per game.   
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