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Next step on journey to Cup starts here

by Adam Schwartz

A new chapter in an old rivalry begins tonight when Henrik Zetterberg and the Detroit Red Wings host Game 1 of their semifinal series against John-Michael Liles and the Colorado Avalanche.
Thursday night begins the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with two of the four series opening tonight.

At 7 p.m., the Philadelphia Flyers start their series with the Montreal Canadiens, and a half-hour later, the Detroit Red Wings will start an undoubtedly ferocious series when they host the Colorado Avalanche.

Here’s what to keep an eye out for:

* Philadelphia defenseman Braydon Coburn, who led the team with a plus-17 rating during the regular season, has a plus-3 rating while averaging 23:53 of ice time per game in the playoffs, which is second on the team. The Flyers won all three games in the first round in which Coburn recorded an assist.

* Flyers defenseman Randy Jones, who would like to have the superpower of reading minds, is tied for the League lead with a plus-5 rating. Jones played more than 20 minutes in just two games in the opening round.

* Philadelphia, which allowed the most goals per game (2.86) among teams that advanced, scored the most goals in the first round (23). The Flyers have won four playoff series in their last five seasons, including their thrilling seven-game defeat of the Washington Capitals in the first round this season.

* Montreal left wing Chris Higgins, who was third on the team with 27 goals in the regular season, scored in just one game in the first round. But Higgins, who has a minus-12 rating in 225 career regular-season games, had a plus-4 rating in the opening round.

* Canadiens goalie Carey Price, selected No. 5 overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, allowed just three goals in four wins in the first round, but 12 goals in three losses against the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

* Montreal defenseman Patrice Brisebois, who has never had more than four assists in one playoff season, led Canadiens defensemen in scoring in the first round, with five points – one goal and four assists. Brisebois hasn’t totaled more than five points in one playoff season since 1992 and had an even plus-minus rating in the first round after entering the playoffs with a minus-21 rating in his previous 40 playoff games.

* The Avalanche, who defeated the Minnesota Wild in six games in the opening round, allowed 12 goals, tied for second in the League for fewest goals allowed. Colorado, which scored the second-most goals in the Northwest Division during the regular season with 231, scored 13 goals in their four wins in the first round.

* Colorado center Joe Sakic, who holds the NHL playoff record with eight overtime goals, has 19 goals and 37 assists for 56 points in 55 career games against the Red Wings. Sakic, who is tied with Claude Lemieux for third all-time with 19 game-winning goals in the playoffs, didn’t face the Red Wings this season because he was recovering from hernia surgery.

* Avalanche defenseman Ruslan Salei, who idolized Russian defenseman Slava Fetisov growing up, had one goal and two assists in the first round. Salei, who leads the team in the playoffs with 19 hits, never has had more than five points in a playoff season.

* Colorado forward Peter Forsberg, who has been playing left wing as opposed to his natural center position, has the franchise record of 101 postseason assists. Forsberg, who has 171 points in 150 career playoff games, currently is a plus-3; he’s been a plus player in 12 of his 13 playoff seasons.

* Detroit right wing Dan Cleary had no points but a plus-2 rating in three games against the Avalanche this season. Cleary, who averaged 0.67 points per game during the regular season, has just three assists in 12 combined regular season and playoff games since returning from a broken jaw, which sidelined him for 19 games.

* Red Wings center Kris Draper has a minus-8 rating in his last 24 playoff games, including a minus-3 rating in the first round against the Nashville Predators. Draper, part of the Red Wings’ last three Stanley Cup victories, had three points in the first round and but never has totaled more than six points in one playoff season.

* Both the Red Wings and the Avalanche averaged 2.8 goals per game and 2.0 goals-against per game in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. Detroit goalies saw an average of just 24 shots per game, while Colorado goalie Jose Theodore faced an average of 33.3 shots per game. 

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