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Two more series get started tonight

by Adam Schwartz

Marty Turco, Mattias Norstrom and the Dallas Stars open their Western Conference Semifinal series in San Jose against  Jonathan Cheechoo and the Sharks tonight at the HP Pavilion
Two conference semifinals begin Friday night in series that promises to keep fans on the edge of their seats.

At 7 p.m., the New York Rangers battle the Pittsburgh Penguins, and at 10 p.m., the San Jose Sharks host the Dallas Stars.

Here’s what to keep an eye out for:

* Of the four Rangers who have won the Stanley Cup, three of them – Scott Gomez (two), Jaromir Jagr (two), and Brendan Shanahan (three) – have won it multiple times. The Rangers, who won their second playoff series in 10 seasons by eliminating the New Jersey Devils in five games in the first round, have the second-highest average of goals scored per game in the playoffs.

* Rangers right wing Ryan Callahan, who finished the regular season with 13 points in 52 games, had one goal and one assist in the first round. Callahan, whose favorite player growing up was teammate Brendan Shanahan, averaged just 12:22 of ice time during the regular season, but has averaged 16:06 of ice time in the playoffs.

* Rangers defenseman Fedor Tyutin, who was fifth among the League’s defensemen with 218 hits in the regular season, is ninth on the team with eight hits in the playoffs. Tyutin, who is averaging 19:26 of ice time per game, has a plus-3 rating.

* The Penguins were the only team to sweep in the first round when they defeated the Ottawa Senators to win their first playoff series in five seasons. Pittsburgh, which averaged four goals per game in the first round, allowed the fewest goals in the first round with just five.

* Pittsburgh defenseman Hal Gill, who has been paired with rookie Kris Letang, averaged 19:59 of ice time during the regular season, but is averaging just 16:36 of ice time during the playoffs. Gill, who was acquired on trade-deadline day from the Toronto Maple Leafs, has been to the second round of the playoffs just once before.

* After finishing the season with a 42.2-percent faceoff winning percentage, Pittsburgh center Jordan Staal was successful on 52.9 percent of his faceoffs in the first round. Staal, who will face his brother Marc, a Rangers defenseman, in the second round, played more than 15 minutes in just one game during the first round.

* Dallas center Mike Modano, who is the all-time leading American-born scorer, had five goals and six assists for 11 points and a plus-6 rating in eight games against the Sharks during the regular season. Modano, who is one point shy of 140 career playoff points, has a minus rating in just one of his last 10 playoff seasons; he’s a plus-1 so far this year.

* Stars defenseman Matt Niskanen, who led Dallas defensemen with a plus-22 rating in the regular season, had a minus-2 rating in the first round. Niskanen, who leads Western Conference rookies with an average of 19:32 of ice time per game in the playoffs, was limited to just one assist in the first round.

* Dallas center Mike Ribeiro, who set a career-high with 83 points this season, had two goals and five assists for seven points and a plus-5 rating in seven games against the Sharks this season. Ribeiro, who lists Detroit Red Wings right wing Aaron Downey as the funniest teammate he’s had, registered two goals and six assists in the first round.

* Stars center Brad Richards, who had a minus-27 rating during the regular season, had a plus-2 rating in the first round. Richards, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2004 with the Tampa Bay Lightning, had one goal and four assists for five points in the opening round.

* San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov faced more than 30 shots in just one game against the Calgary Flames in the first round, but only had an .895 save percentage.

* Sharks right wing Devin Setoguchi, who played half the season with the Worcester Sharks of the American Hockey League, had one goal and one assist in four games in the first round while playing no more than 13 minutes in any game. Setoguchi, selected No. 8 overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, had 21 points in 15 playoff games for the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League last season.

* San Jose right wing Jonathan Cheechoo had three goals and two assists for five points in the first round. Cheechoo, who has been to the second round of the playoffs all four years he has been in them, has totaled at least five points in each of his previous playoff seasons.

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