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Playoff Buzz: Postseason field is set

Ducks clinch Pacific Division, face Flames in first round; Maple Leafs to start against Capitals, Bruins to play Senators

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

Welcome to the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, your daily look at the stories impacting the sprint to the finish line of the 2016-17 Stanley Cup Playoffs. All 16 playoff berths have been decided, and final matchups were determined on Sunday. Here are the brackets for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Here is all the playoff news for Monday:

 

8:10 p.m.

Monday practice reports

 

Montreal Canadiens

The Canadiens expect to have defensemen Shea Weber and Jordie Benn back in the lineup for Game 1 of their Eastern Conference First Round series against the New York Rangers at Bell Centre on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

NHL.com correspondent Sean Farrell reported Monday that Weber is feeling well after rejoining his teammates for practice in Brossard, Quebec.

Weber missed the last four regular-season games because of a lower-body injury. Benn (upper body) missed the last six.

 

Ottawa Senators

Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson and forward Zack Smith will play in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Boston Bruins at Canadian Tire Centre on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET, NHLN, SN, TVA Sports 2, NESN).

There's also a chance defenseman Marc Methot will be available, according to NHL.com correspondent Chris Stevenson, who attended Senators practice on Monday.

Karlsson missed five of the Senators' final seven regular-season games because of two lower-body injuries. Smith missed the last six games with an upper-body injury. Methot (finger) missed nine games.

 

San Jose Sharks

NHL.com correspondent Eric Gilmore reports Sharks centers Logan Couture and Joe Thornton each practiced Monday but remain day-to-day. The Sharks play Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round series against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; USA, SN TVA Sports, NBCS CA).

"We'll see [Tuesday] and we'll keep taking those steps," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "There's no plan here. There's nothing I can tell you guys that you don't see that's right in front of you."

Couture went through an entire practice Monday for the first time since being hit in the mouth by a deflected puck on March 25 against the Nashville Predators. Thornton practiced for the first time since injuring his left knee on March 4 against the Vancouver Canucks. He skated with the extra forwards but left 40 minutes into the 75-minute practice. 

 

Anaheim Ducks

Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said Monday that forward Patrick Eaves, who left in the second period of a 4-3 overtime win against the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday because of an upper-body injury, will likely play in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round series against the Calgary Flames at Honda Center on Thursday (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

NHL.com correspondent Dan Arritt reported Carlyle expects Eaves to be "100 percent by game time."

 

7:45 p.m.

Marchand eager to return to Bruins

Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand will return just in time for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round series against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVA Sports 2, NESN).

NHL.com correspondent Matt Kalman spoke with Marchand after practice at Warrior Ice Arena in Boston on Monday to get his feelings on returning from a two-game suspension for spearing Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Jake Dotchin on April 4. 

He's obviously excited to be back after establishing NHL career highs while leading the Bruins in goals (39) and points (85) this season. He tied for fourth in the League in goals and was fifth in scoring.

"I'm happy to have Brad back," Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said. "He's a big, big part of the team and why we're here. And I'm sure he'll be excited and well rested."

 

3:05 p.m.

Burns for Norris

NHL.com will be publishing its final installment of the Trophy Tracker series this week now that the regular season has concluded.

San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns, expected to play a key role for the Sharks in their Western Conference First Round series against the Edmonton Oilers beginning in Edmonton on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; SN, TVA Sports, USA), is the leading candidate in the race for the Norris Trophy as the best defenseman in the NHL.

Burns had 76 points (29 goals, 47 assists) in 82 games this season. He finished first among defensemen in goals and points, and was ninth among all players in points. NHL.com staff writer David Satriano explains why Burns was a unanimous choice by our staff to win the Norris Trophy.

There are a few awards already in the books. Oilers center Connor McDavid captured his first Art Ross Trophy as the League's scoring champion, with 100 points (30 goals, 70 assists) in 82 games. Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby won his second Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the NHL's goal-scoring leader with 44, and Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals won his first William M. Jennings Trophy as the goaltender who plays at least 25 games for the club allowing the fewest goals. 

 
11:28 a.m.

First Round previews

The first team to 16 victories in the Stanley Cup Playoffs gets the honor of raising the toughest trophy to win in all of sports -- the Stanley Cup.

The playoffs begin Wednesday with five games on the schedule, three from the Eastern Conference and two from the Western Conference.

Here are the playoff previews for all eight series, including the top storylines, players in the spotlight and keys to victory:

 

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers 

The Canadiens, who lost in six games against the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final in 2014, won the Atlantic Division after going 16-7-1 after Claude Julien replaced Michel Therrien as coach on Feb. 14. The Rangers qualified as the first wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. The best-of-7 series begins at Bell Centre on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports) and LNH.com senior managing editor Arpon Basu has the details.

Other features:

Why the Canadiens will win the Stanley Cup 

Why the Rangers will win the Stanley Cup

 

Ottawa Senators vs. Boston Bruins

The Senators return to the postseason under first-year coach Guy Boucher after failing to qualify last season. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, who replaced Julien on Feb. 7, has his team in the playoffs for the first time in three seasons. The series begins at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVA Sports). NHL.com staff writer Amalie Benjamin has the series primer. 

Other features:

Why the Senators will win the Stanley Cup 

Why the Bruins will win the Stanley Cup

 

Washington Capitals vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

The Capitals won the Metropolitan Division and Presidents' Trophy for the second straight season. The Maple Leafs are in the postseason for the first time since 2013, and the second time since 2004. Game 1 of the series is at Verizon Center in Washington on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; USA, CBC, TVA Sports), and NHL.com staff writer Tom Gulitti has the pertinent details. 

Other features:

Why the Capitals will win the Stanley Cup

Why the Maple Leafs will win the Stanley Cup

 

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

The Penguins won the Stanley Cup last season for the fourth time and are making their 11th consecutive appearance in the playoffs, the longest streak in the NHL. This is the third playoff appearance for the Blue Jackets, and first since 2014. The series begins at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; USA, SN 360, TVA Sports). NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen has the series scoop.

Other features:

Why the Penguins will win the Stanley Cup

Why the Blue Jackets will win the Stanley Cup

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators

The Blackhawks had seven rookies combine for 105 points on the way to leading the Western Conference with 109 points, the second-highest point total in their 90 seasons. The Predators have qualified for the playoffs the past three seasons but never have been past the second round in nine previous trips. Game 1 is scheduled at United Center in Chicago on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports). NHL.com director of editorial Shawn Roarke sets up the series. 

Other features:

Why the Blackhawks will win the Stanley Cup 

Why the Predators will win the Stanley Cup 

 

Minnesota Wild vs. St. Louis Blues

The Wild are making their fifth straight appearance in the playoffs but for the first time under coach Bruce Boudreau. The Blues have qualified for the playoffs six seasons in a row, but for the first time under coach Mike Yeo, who previously was the coach of the Wild. Last season the Blues reached the Western Conference Final and last season reached the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2001. The series opens at Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota on Wednesday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports), and NHL.com deputy managing editor Brian Compton has the specifics. 

Other features:

Why the Wild will win the Stanley Cup 

Why the Blues will win the Stanley Cup

 

Anaheim Ducks vs. Calgary Flames

The Flames qualified for the postseason for the second time in three seasons. The Ducks won the Pacific Division for the fifth straight season. The series begins at Honda Center in Anaheim on Thursday (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). NHL.com staff writer Lisa Dillman has all the details. 

Other features:

Why the Ducks will win the Stanley Cup  

Why the Flames will win the Stanley Cup

 

Edmonton Oilers vs. San Jose Sharks

The Sharks will face their former coach, Todd McLellan, who guided the Oilers to a 12-2-0 record in the last 14 games of the regular season. The Sharks and Oilers have played in the postseason once prior, when the eighth-seeded Oilers defeated the fifth-seeded Sharks in six games in the Western Conference Semifinals in 2006. That also was the last time the Oilers qualified for the playoffs. The Sharks return to the postseason after reaching the Stanley Cup Final last season. NHL.com staff writer Tim Campbell sets the stage. 

Other features:

Why the Oilers will win the Stanley Cup 

Why the Sharks will win the Stanley Cup

 

9:15 a.m.

The marathon begins

A lot happened on the final day of the NHL regular season as one division title, four playoff positions and four Stanley Cup Playoff first-round matchups were determined. The NHL announced the dates, starting times and national television coverage for the first round of the playoffs, which begins Wednesday.

Now that all the first-round series have been determined, NHL fans can begin to share their predictions by way of the Stanley Cup Playoffs Bracket Challenge. Register early and prove how great an NHL soothsayer you really are at NHL.com/Bracket.

Here's a look at three of the 10 games Sunday that had an impact on playoff positioning and first-round matchups:

Anaheim Ducks 4, Los Angeles Kings 3 (OT):The Ducks clinched their fifth straight Pacific Division title when defenseman Shea Theodore scored his second goal of the season on a breakaway 53 seconds into overtime. Ducks right wing Patrick Eaves, who scored his 32nd goal of the season in the first period, left in the second because of an upper-body injury, but coach Randy Carlyle said that Eaves looked fine after the game. Eaves has 11 goals in 20 games with the Ducks since being acquired in a trade with the Dallas Stars before the NHL Trade Deadline. The victory means the Ducks will play the Calgary Flames in a Western Conference First Round series.

Edmonton Oilers 5, Vancouver Canucks 2: The Oilers finished second in the Pacific Division and will play the third-place San Jose Sharks in a first-round matchup in the West. Connor McDavid had two assists to reach 100 points on the season. At age 20 years, 86 days, he's the third-youngest player in the NHL's modern era (since 1943-44) to lead the League in points, behind Sidney Crosby (19 years, 244 days in 2006-07) and Wayne Gretzky (20 years, 69 days in 1980-81). McDavid enters the playoffs with 25 points (seven goals, 18 assists) during a 14-game point streak. The Oilers ended the season with a franchise record nine-game home win streak.

Columbus Blue Jackets 3, Toronto Maple Leafs 2: The Maple Leafs had an opportunity with a win or a loss in overtime or the shootout to pass the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division, but instead will play the Washington Capitals as the second wild card in the East. The Bruins clinched third place in the Atlantic and will face the Ottawa Senators in the playoffs for the first time. Maple Leafs defenseman Nikita Zaitsev left the game with an upper-body injury after playing one shift in the second period but coach Mike Babcock said he is not concerned about Zaitsev's status for Game 1 against the Capitals. Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews didn't have a point, but finished with 40 goals and 69 points to lead all rookies this season. The Blue Jackets ended a six-game losing streak (0-5-1) and will play the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round.

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