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No playoff nerves for Hiller

by John Kreiser
Jonas Hiller took Anaheim's No. 1 goaltender job away from Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who led the Ducks to the Stanley Cup two years ago. He's now two wins away from taking away the top-seeded San Jose Sharks' hopes of winning the Cup.

Hiller is the main reason -- perhaps the only reason -- that the eighth-seeded Ducks are headed back to Orange County with a 2-0 lead in their Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Presidents' Trophy winners. The 26-year-old Swiss goalie was flawless in his Stanley Cup debut, stopping 35 shots as Anaheim beat San Jose 2-0. But that was just a warm-up act for Sunday night. The desperate Sharks came in waves, finishing with 44 shots -- but Hiller stopped 42 of them as the Ducks escaped with a 3-2 victory.

In two games, he's stopped 77 of 79 shots, outplaying 40-game winner Evgeni Nabokov and putting the Ducks in line to pull the upset of the first round.

Five up -- Five players who had a good first week in the postseason:

Henrik Lundqvist -- "King Henrik" has lived up to his nickname in the New York Rangers' series with Washington. The Rangers have been outshot and outplayed in both games -- but not outscored, because Lundqvist has been superb, including a 35-save, 1-0 win in Game 2 that has the Rangers halfway to an upset victory.

Evgeni Malkin -- The Art Ross Trophy winner is off to a fast start in the postseason, too. Malkin has 4 goals and 3 assists in the first three games of Pittsburgh's series against Philadelphia. He's tops in both categories.

Chris Osgood -- If the first two games of Detroit's series against Columbus are any indication, Osgood's regular-season miseries have melted away like ice on a spring day. He's allowed just one goal in the two games, leading the defending Cup champs to a quick lead.

Marc Savard -- Savard has become the hub of Boston's offense -- an attack that's threatening to blow away the archrival Montreal Canadiens. He had 2 goals and 2 assists in Game 2, becoming the first Bruin to have a four-point night in the playoffs since Adam Oates did it in 1996.

Roberto Luongo -- Luongo has been the difference for the Vancouver Canucks in their series against Vancouver. He's allowed just three goals in three games (all victories) and posted the first playoff shutout of his career.

Five down -- Five players who've got to step it up in the postseason:

Kristian Huselius -- Huselius scored twice in his first three Stanley Cup Playoff games. Since then ... nothing. He has gone 19 playoff games without getting a goal, including the first two games of Columbus' series against Detroit.

Jose Theodore -- Theodore had a good regular season for Washington, but he struggled badly in the series opener against the Rangers, allowing four goals on just 21 shots. That earned him a seat on the bench for Game 2.

Petr Sykora -- While Malkin and Sidney Crosby have been putting up points, Sykora is off to a slow start. He's pointless and minus-1 in three games after a 25-goal regular season.

Patrick Marleau -- San Jose's big gun isn't firing. After a 38-goal, 71-point regular season, he's pointless in the Sharks' first two playoff games. He's got plenty of company, though -- San Jose has just two goals in two games.

Carey Price -- Montreal's second-year goaltender struggled for most of the second half of the season, and he's having a tough time in the Canadiens' first-round series against Boston. Price has allowed eight goals in five periods while losing both games and was yanked after being beaten five times in 40 minutes on Saturday.

Injuries, news and notes -- Two keys to Boston University's NCAA championship are turning pro. Nashville signed center Colin Wilson, its first pick in last year's Entry Draft, while the New York Rangers inked Hobey Baker Award winner Kevin Gilroy, a 24-year-old defenseman who was a free agent after going undrafted.

Out -- Boston defenseman Matt Hunwick is gone for the first round and probably the playoffs after having surgery on Saturday for a ruptured spleen. He was injured by a check in game 1 against Montreal. ... New Jersey captain Jamie Langenbrunner left Friday's game against Carolina with an apparent leg injury. He didn't play in Game 3 on Sunday and isn't likely to play Game 4. ... Detroit center Kris Draper missed the first two games of the playoffs with an upper body injury. ... Vancouver center Mats Sundin was a late scratch for Game 3 against St. Louis with a lower-body injury. ...  Montreal defenseman Francois Bouillon returned to action Saturday night against Boston but had to leave the game after playing only 1:46. He apparently wasn't ready after missing two months with a torn abdominal/groin muscle tear.

Returning -- Checking forward P.J. Axelsson returned to Boston's lineup for Game 1 after missing the last four games of the regular season with an undisclosed injury. ... Chicago forward Patrick Sharp also returned for the Hawks' playoff opener after sitting out their last five games with a knee problem. ... Calgary forward Rene Bourque returned for the playoffs after being sidelined since Feb. 19 with a high-ankle sprain. ... Rangers captain Chris Drury was back in the lineup Saturday after missing Game 1 against Washington with an undisclosed injury.

Still out -- Columbus center Derick Brassard, out since December with a shoulder injury that required surgery, hopes to get clearance to play this week. He might make it back into the lineup by the end of the Blue Jackets' first-round series. ... Boston defenseman Andrew Ference still hasn't played since going down with an undisclosed injury on April 4.

Non-playoff teams -- Will Joe Sakic play next season? Colorado's captain isn't saying anything, other than that he wants to see how his surgically repaired back recovers this summer. Injuries limited him to just 15 games this season. ... Minnesota forward Derek Boogaard will have shoulder surgery this week but is expected to be ready to go for training camp. Another Wild forward, Andrew Brunette, had reconstructive surgery on his right knee and is also expected to be ready to go in September.  Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom may need hip surgery to alleviate groin problems that bothered him this season. ... Dallas defenseman Trevor Daley underwent arthroscopic surgery after missing the end of the Stars' season with a knee injury. ... Tampa Bay goaltender Mike Smith isn't 100-percent sure he'll be ready in time for the Lightning's training camp in the fall. He missed the last 10 weeks of the season with post-concussion syndrome.

The week ahead -- The playoff field may start to thin out, with six of the eight series entering the week up by at least two games.

Games to watch:

Washington at New York Rangers (April 20) -- Madison Square Garden figures to be bedlam as the Rangers come home for Game 3 against the Caps after winning the first two games in Washington.

Detroit at Columbus (April 21) -- Nationwide Arena will be rocking when the Columbus Blue Jackets host a playoff game for the first time in franchise history, Unfortunately, they're down 0-2 to the Detroit Red Wings.

San Jose at Anaheim (April 21) -- The pressure is on the Presidents' Trophy winners -- they trail the eighth-seeded Ducks 2-0 and play the next two games in Anaheim, where the Honda Center is sure to be raucous.

Vancouver at St. Louis (April 21) -- The Canucks have the chance to be the first team into the second round of the playoffs if they can beat the Blues for a second-straight time at Scottrade Center.

Philadelphia at Pittsburgh (April 23) -- The Penguins hope the home-ice magic they had against the Flyers in the first two games will carry over to Game 5.

Tough/Easy week ahead:

None of the eight series has back-to-back games, and only the Philadelphia-Pittsburgh and Rangers-Washington series this week have just one day between each game. It's a far cry from a not-so-long-ago era, when the opening round began with teams playing four games in five nights.

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