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Stanley Cup Playoffs set to open Tuesday

by Dan Rosen

The 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs will open Tuesday in Chicago with a matchup between the Presidents' Trophy-winning Chicago Blackhawks and the Minnesota Wild, who were the last team to clinch a playoff berth.

The NHL released the playoff schedule Sunday night and it includes three Game 1s on Tuesday, another three on Wednesday and two more on Thursday.

In addition to the Chicago-Minnesota series, Tuesday will also feature both Southern California teams. The Los Angeles Kings will begin defense of their 2012 Stanley Cup championship against the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center and the Detroit Red Wings will open their 22nd straight postseason against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center.

The Blackhawks and Wild have two days between Games 1 and 2, as the series resumes Friday. Game 2 will be played in both St. Louis and Anaheim on Thursday.

Wednesday will mark the first time the Toronto Maple Leafs will play a game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since May 4, 2004. The Leafs open against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Game 2 will be Saturday.

Sidney Crosby could return Wednesday, when the Pittsburgh Penguins open their postseason against the New York Islanders at Consol Energy Center. The Islanders haven't been in the playoffs since 2007. It was 20 years ago when the Islanders ruined the Penguins' chance at a three-peat by shocking them in seven games in the Patrick Division Finals.

Crosby missed the last 12 games of the season after breaking his jaw in a game at Consol Energy Center against, you guessed it, the Islanders. He also made his initial return from his concussion symptoms on Nov. 21, 2011 at Consol Energy Center against the Islanders -- and he had four points in a 5-0 win.

Game 2 between the Penguins and Islanders is Friday and Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum will host its first playoff match in six years in Game 3 on Sunday at noon ET.

One of either Cory Schneider or Roberto Luongo will be in net for the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday when they open the playoffs at Rogers Arena against the San Jose Sharks. Schneider is currently day-to-day with an undisclosed injury, leaving the possibility that Luongo could start the postseason for the Canucks.

Alex Ovechkin and the surging Washington Capitals, who went 15-2-2 down the stretch to win the Southeast Division, will have to wait until Thursday to get going against the New York Rangers at Verizon Center. This is the fourth series between the Rangers and Capitals in the past five years. Ovechkin had 20 goals and 32 points in the last 19 games of the regular season.

The Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators also open Thursday at Bell Centre. The Habs and Senators will play a back-to-back in Montreal before the series shifts to Ottawa for Game 3 on Sunday and Game 4 on Tuesday.

The first potential series-clinching games will be May 6, when a pair of Game 4s will be played -- Red Wings vs. Ducks and Kings vs. Blues. The following night will feature four Game 4s: Canadiens vs. Senators, Penguins vs. Islanders, Blackhawks vs. Wild and Canucks vs. Sharks. Game 4 between the Capitals and Rangers as well as the Bruins and Maple Leafs will be May 8.


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