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St. Louis Blues' goaltender Jaroslav Halak blocks a shot against the Dallas Stars during the third period of their NHL hockey game in Dallas, Texas April 7, 2012. The Blues face the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the NHL playoffs. REUTERS/Mike Stone (Mike Stone/Reuters)
St. Louis Blues' goaltender Jaroslav Halak blocks a shot against the Dallas Stars during the third period of their NHL hockey game in Dallas, Texas April 7, 2012. The Blues face the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the NHL playoffs. REUTERS/Mike Stone (Mike Stone/Reuters)

Western Conference Playoff Preview Add to ...

Vancouver (1) vs. Los Angeles (8)

Season series: 2-2

Injuries: Vancouver – Daniel Sedin (concussion, day-to-day), Zack Kassian (upper body, day-to-day), Keith Ballard (concussion, out indefinitely). LA – Jeff Carter (bruised ankle, day-to-day), Simon Gagné (concussion, out indefinitely).

Breakdown: The Kings made the playoffs on defence and goaltending. Both will be needed to have any chance against the Canucks, especially if Daniel Sedin is able to play in the series opener. The Canucks need production out of 2011 playoff hero Ryan Kesler (no goals in 12 games). But Max Lapierre’s five points in five games boosts the secondary scoring.

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Prediction: Canucks in 5.

St. Louis (2) vs. San Jose (7)

Season series: 4-0 St. Louis.

Injuries: St. Louis – No significant injuries. San Jose – Torrey Mitchell (undisclosed, day-to-day).

Breakdown: The Blues have a huge edge in goaltending with Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. Antti Niemi was better in goal for the Sharks late in the season but he does not inspire confidence. While the Blues didn’t lose to the Sharks in the regular season, they lost four of their last five games while the Sharks won four in a row. Sharks also have the edge in playoff experience.

Prediction: Sharks in 7.

Phoenix (3) vs. Chicago (6)

Season series: 3-1 Phoenix.

Injuries: Phoenix – No significant injuries. Chicago – Jonathan Toews (concussion, expected to play), Dave Bolland (upper body, day-to-day), Daniel Carcillo (knee, out for season), Andrew Brunette (lower body, day-to-day), Steve Montador (concussion symptoms, out indefinitely).

Breakdown: The Coyotes have the higher seed thanks to winning the weak Pacific Division but the Blackhawks are the better team despite a poor record against the Coyotes. Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith will be the key player, as the Blackhawks sport a powerful offence. The Coyotes, as always, have a good defensive game but it probably won’t be enough.

Prediction: Blackhawks in 6.

Nashville (4) vs. Detroit (5)

Season series: 3-3.

Injuries: Nashville – Jacob Josefson (broken wrist, out four-to-six weeks), David Clarkson (lower body, day-to-day), Anton Volchenkov (flu, day-to-day), Henrik Tallinder (blood clot in leg, out indefinitely). Detroit – Dan Cleary (sore knee, day-to-day), Jakub Kindl (undisclosed, status unknown), Darren Helm (knee, expected to play in Game 2), Patrick Eaves (concussion, out for season).

Breakdown: With an ailing power play, Detroit is flying on one wing. The Predators are solid from goalie Pekka Rinne out and Alexander Radulov boosts the offence so this could finally be the year Nashville sees a long playoff run.

Prediction: Predators in 6.

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