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Remember, it's a marathon, plan accordingly

by Paul Kukla
Monday night I was lost. No hockey for most of the night, unless I watched replays of the Eastern Conference Playoffs preview on the NHL Network.

I sat, bored, restless and wondering what the next two months will be like. Turned on a music channel on my TV, it was called "New Age" music and I then realized this was going to be the most relaxed I would be for the next eight weeks or so.

Taking advantage of the down time, I played every first round series in my head, trying to figure out which teams will survive and move on to the second round of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Before getting to the predictions I promised you last week, let's remember this important percentage -- 34.

Twenty-seven games, that's 34 percent of 82 games or how many games NHL teams play in the regular season. Two of the current playoff teams can actually play 28 games in the second season. So, they may still have 34 percent of their remaining schedule left to play. So you can see a playoff run is not a dash or sprint, but instead reaches marathon proportions.

Injuries will play a vital part of this playoff run and hopefully your team has the roster depth that will allow players not even in the lineup for the first playoff game to step in without missing a beat.

Travel is also a consideration, especially for the Western Conference teams. Some will travel more than four hours by air to meet their opponents and making that trip over three rounds can take a toll on the human body.

But as the body grows more weary as teams advance in the playoffs, the mind becomes more resilient. Players know what the final reward can be and will go all out just for a chance to raise the Cup over their head.

My advice to all the fans following their favorite team is this, remember, you can't win 16 games in a day, a week or even in a month. You have to take each game as it comes and must forget the last game the morning after it was played. You need to believe your team can rebound, continue with the momentum, face the ghosts of the past or when facing elimination, stare it down and win a game.

On your team's off-days, take that time to recharge your internal battery. Take a walk, enjoy some family time, or just sleep. You can't be "on" all the time for the next two months, you'll burn yourself out, so it is very important to relax whenever possible.

Also, in the back of your mind, know only one team will come out as a winner once the playoffs are completed. You will either be on the highest high or the lowest low. If your team happens to win the Cup, I promise you it will be an experience of a lifetime, one that will remain with you forever.

For the fans of the 15 teams that will lose a playoff series, take a snapshot of what went wrong, hope your team will address those shortcomings, and then look forward to October, when all of what just happened may happen again, except for the losing part.

Now on to the predictions, which I really hate doing and will not be doing again until we have two teams left in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.

Washington vs. Montreal --Capitals in seven. Montreal puts a scare into the Capitals by winning the opening game of the series, but Washington recovers to move on.

New Jersey vs. Philadelphia -- Devils in five. Philadelphia has trouble finding their scoring touch and the New Jersey power play comes to life.

Buffalo vs. Boston -- Sabres in five. Too much Ryan Miller, too little of Bruins offense. Sabres cruise through the first round.

Pittsburgh vs. Ottawa -- Penguins in six. Marc-Andre Fleury finds his game and the Penguins experience leads them to a series win. Ottawa just does not have the overall game to win this series.

San Jose vs. Colorado -- Sharks in five. Sharks fans let out a hug exhale, at least for this round. San Jose has too many offensive weapons for the Avalanche.

Chicago vs. Nashville -- Predators in seven. What? Yes, you read it here first. The Predators finally figure out how to win a road game in the playoffs by actually winning two road games. Game 7 comes down to goaltending, which Nashville wins.

Vancouver vs. Los Angeles -- Canucks in six. Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo starts out shaky, but finds his game quick enough to help the Canucks win this series. The Kings have trouble with the Sedin twins and although the Kings make this a series to remember, it all comes down to the play of Luongo.

Phoenix vs. Detroit -- Red Wings in five. Homer pick, yep but smart pick too. The Wings are motivated to reach the Stanley Cup Final again and the Coyotes need to stay within their game plan in order to have any chance of winning the series. Experience rules in this one.

We have waited for this time of year, survived the regular season and now it is here. Enjoy the greatest game on earth, the talent and skill of the players and yell your lungs out.

Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy, this is what we live for!

Feel free to email me at with any questions or comments you may have or follow all the playoff action at Kukla's Korner.

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