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Playoff Buzz: Second round gets underway

Predators visit Blues, Ducks host Oilers in Western Conference series openers

NHL.com @NHL

Welcome to the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoff Buzz, your daily look at the stories impacting the 2016-17 postseason. The playoffs resume today with two games. NHL.com writers covering the playoffs will be checking in throughout the day to give you latest news. Here is the playoff news for Wednesday:

 

6:10 p.m.
Second round set to begin

The second round of Stanley Cup Playoffs begins with two Western Conference games on Wednesday. Teams that win the first game in a best-of-7 playoff series have an all-time series record of 453-207 (68.6 percent), according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Here's a look at the top storylines for Wednesday:

Nashville Predators at St. Louis Blues (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports) -- Predators left wing Colin Wilson (lower-body injury) might return to the lineup after missing the first-round sweep against the Chicago Blackhawks. Correspondent Louie Korac addresses that and more in his 5 keys for Game 1. Nashville (0.75 goals-against average) and St. Louis (1.60) are the top two defensive teams in the postseason. LNH Senior Managing Editor Arpon Basu explains how the Predators and Blues, each in their own way, are fighting for underdog status

Edmonton Oilers at Anaheim Ducks (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports) -- Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom (illness) is expected to play. Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler (knee), out since April 4, was paired with rookie Brandon Montour at practice on Tuesday. Center Ryan Getzlaf had five points (three goals, two assists), tied for the Ducks lead, in Anaheim's first-round sweep against the Calgary Flames. Center Connor McDavid led the Oilers with four points (two goals, two assists) in Edmonton's first-round series win against the San Jose Sharks. Correspondent Dan Arritt writes that the matchup between them is one of the 5 keys for Game 1. 
 

5:00 p.m.
Ducks, Oilers prioritize faceoffs

Faceoffs and matchups will be items to keep an eye on for Game 1 of the Western Conference Second Round between the Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday at Honda Center (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports).

Correspondent Dan Arritt writes in his 5 keys to Game 1 that the Ducks led the League in faceoff win percentage (54.7) in the regular season and the Oilers were 30th (47.0).

How each team chooses to defend and match up against the top centers in the series, Ryan Getzlaf of the Ducks and Connor McDavid of the Oilers, could determine the outcome.

Staff writer Tim Campbell writes on reactions from centers Antoine Vermette of the Ducks and David Desharnais of the Oilers as they prepare to go head-to-head in the best-of-7 series.

 

4:40 p.m.
Capitals ready for redemption

The Washington Capitals were all business Wednesday when they went through their final practice before beginning the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Verizon Center on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports).
 
All players who didn't take part in practice or left early on Tuesday participated. Forward Alex Ovechkin, who left after breaking a skate on Tuesday, went through the full practice along with center Lars Eller, who took a maintenance day on Tuesday, and forward Tom Wilson, who took a shot off his foot Tuesday. But NHL.com staff writer Tom Gulitti reports that top-pair defenseman Karl Alzner, who is working his way back from an upper-body injury, is still not sure he'll be ready for Game 1.

Correspondent Katie Brown looks at right wing T.J. Oshie , who has excelled against the Penguins in his two seasons as a Capital and is looking to have another big series.

The memory of losing to the Penguins in the second round last year remains fresh for the Capitals. Gulitti reports about the lingering disappointment from the loss and how it has driven them to get back to this point for a shot at redemption.

 

2:30 p.m.
Battle of the underdogs

The Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues took very similar paths to the Western Conference Second Round. The Predators swept the Chicago Blackhawks and the Blues eliminated the Minnesota Wild in five games, each pulling off an upset predicted by very few people.

There is something to be said for embracing the underdog role as a rallying point for a team, but, in this case, each used that to achieve great success. Now, the Blues and Predators each were doing their best to claim that role prior to Game 1 on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Regardless of who is the underdog, mind games will only go so far in determining who will win the first-ever Stanley Cup Playoff series between the Central Division teams. That will happen on the ice. Correspondent Louie Korac breaks down the 5 keys for Game 1.

 

10:30 a.m.
Wild West Wednesday

The second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs gets under way Wednesday with two Western Conference games. The two series in the Eastern Conference begin Thursday.

Here's a quick look at the matchups:

Nashville Predators at St. Louis Blues (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports) -- Nashville won the season series against the Blues, 3-2-0. Goalie Pekka Rinne helped the Predators to a first-round sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks with a goals-against average of 0.70, a .976 save percentage and two shutouts. In addition to Rinne, the Predators will be counting on their mobile defensemen to push the pace against the Blues, according to NHL.com correspondent Robby Stanley. At the opposite end, Blues goalie Jake Allen went 4-1 with a 1.47 GAA and .956 save percentage against the Minnesota Wild in the first round. Correspondent Louie Korac reports that defensive changes made by coach Mike Yeo have played a big role in the Blues' success.

Edmonton Oilers at Anaheim Ducks (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports) -- The Oilers and Ducks will play in the postseason for the first time since Edmonton won 4-1 in the 2006 Western Conference Final. That was the last series victory for the Oilers until they defeated the San Jose Sharks 4-2 in the first round this year. There's a chance Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler (knee), who missed the last two games of the regular season and all of the first-round sweep of the Calgary Flames, could return to the lineup, according to NHL.com staff writer Lisa Dillman. The Oilers went 3-2-0, including two wins in overtime, against the Ducks during the regular season. While much attention will be focused on captain Connor McDavid, correspondent Derek Van Diest reports that center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the first player taken in the 2011 NHL Draft, is evolving into a solid two-way performer.

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