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Second-round playoff picks by Canadian Press writer Pierre LeBrun

NHL.com @NHL

Eight teams are left in the Stanley Cup chase but only one from Canada and the Montreal Canadiens may have caught a bit of a break by avoiding the dark horse New York Rangers.

The San Jose Sharks, meanwhile, barely get to catch their breath after a seven-game war with Calgary and get ready for what could be the series of the second round against Dallas.

Here's a look at our picks for the second round of the NHL playoffs:

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Montreal vs. No. 6 Philadelphia - The Canadiens swept the season series with the Flyers 4-0-0. Of course, the Habs were also 8-0-0 against Boston in the regular season before surviving a nail-biting, seven-gamer against the pesky Bruins. Lesson learned? This is a different Philadelphia team than when both clubs last met in mid-February, the Canadiens sweeping a home-and-home in the midst of a 10-game winless streak for the Flyers. Philadelphia is healthier now and playing its best hockey of the year. Star centre Daniel Briere, who no doubt will be booed by the Bell Centre crowd again for not signing with the Canadiens last summer, is at the top of his game at the time of year when it matters most. Briere led the NHL with 11 points (6-5) in the first round and looks awfully dangerous on the team's power play. Speaking of the power play, the Canadiens must re-discover their top-ranked, regular-season form. Somehow the Habs beat Boston despite scoring on only three of 33 power-play opportunities. Then, there's the battle in goal. Celebrated Montreal rookie Carey Price recovered from giving up 10 goals in Games 5-6 to shut out the Bruins in dramatic style Monday night in the clinching game. Philadelphia's Martin Biron allowed five more goals than Price in his seven playoff games but also buckled down when it mattered most in Game 7. A slight edge to the Canadiens here. The Habs are in tough, more than many will predict. Home ice could be the difference.

Prediction - Habs in seven.

No. 2 Pittsburgh vs. No. 5 N.Y. Rangers - The Rangers took the season series 5-3-0 although thanks to the NHL's overtime point system the Penguins prefer to say they went 3-3-2 against New York. Either way, Pittsburgh is in tough. The Rangers have lost only three games in regulation in their last 30 - including a five-game series in in the first round over New Jersey where the Devils needed overtime for their only victory. The series pits the Eastern Conference's stingiest team in the regular season, the Rangers, against one of the NHL's most explosive teams in the Penguins. Pittsburgh must quickly shake off the rust and find its rhythm after a 10-day layoff, courtesy of their four-game sweep of the Senators. Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury wasn't truly tested by the fading Senators in the first round. Now he will be. Vezina Trophy finalist Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers outduelled Devils star Martin Brodeur in the first round. The Penguins looked awfully impressive in the first round and yet the Rangers have that dark horse feel to them ...

Prediction - Upset special, Rangers in six.

Western Conference

No. 1 Detroit vs. No. 6 Colorado - A decade ago this matchup would essentially decide the Stanley Cup winner, the Avalanche and Red Wings dominating the NHL while sharing five Stanley Cups between them. But these days, the Avs needed a huge final month to get into the playoffs. The Wings won the President's Trophy but they have that uneasy feeling about them, mostly because of their goaltending. As predicted, 43-year-old Dominik Hasek struggled in the first round against Nashville and was replaced by Chris Osgood. The Wings still beat the Preds and Ozzie was terrific in replacing Hasek. Still, is this ideal? Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote are back together and it's hard to ignore the nostalgic feelings in Denver right now. The old boys want one last kick at the can and they had fire in their eyes as they upset Minnesota in the first round. Jose Theodore is the key. If the former Hart and Vezina Trophy continues his all-star form, watch out.

Prediction - Upset special No. 2, Avalanche in seven.

No. 2 San Jose vs. No. 5 Dallas - This will be a grudge match between two elite Pacific Division foes. The Stars surprised many by knocking off the defending Cup champions in Anaheim. And Dallas was full value for it, outskating and outchancing the Ducks throughout the series. Marty Turco is at the top of his game in the Dallas net and star blue-liner Sergei Zubov may return during this series, which would be huge. The Sharks showed a lot, however, in coming back from an early deficit against the Flames and winning the series, looking positively impressive in Game 7 on Tuesday night in delivering the knockout punch. Since we picked the Sharks to win the Cup before the season, we can't give up on them now!

Prediction - Sharks in seven.

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Pierre LeBrun's record in the first round was 6-2.

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