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Don Cherry is taking his commentary and wardrobe south of the border, where he will make regular appearances on ESPN during the NHL's Eastern Conference final.

"I guess they like my jackets," the Hockey Night in Canada personality said yesterday.

Cherry and Hockey Night host Ron MacLean will leave the CBC's Toronto studio for the road to cover the Philadelphia Flyers-Pittsburgh Penguins series, which will start on Friday.

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Cherry will do live hits by remote for ESPN's SportsCentre at the end of each Flyers-Penguins game.

"When I'm finished with the wrap-up on Hockey Night, I'll do the ESPN spot," Cherry said. "Sherali [Najak, the executive producer of Hockey Night ]will help set it up for me."

Cherry has plenty of critics, but ESPN's move to hire the Canadian-based commentator speaks to his popularity and profile among NHL fans on both sides of the border.

"We're thrilled," said Mark Gross, ESPN's senior vice-president of studio production. "He's a great personality and being able to incorporate him into our hockey coverage is a nice addition."

The U.S. sports channel also plans to use Cherry during the Stanley Cup final.

Adding Cherry to beef up ESPN's playoff coverage will restart speculation about ESPN2 returning as a carrier of NHL games next season. Gross said that decision will be made at a management level above his.

In the conference finals, Cherry picks the Penguins over the Flyers and the Detroit Red Wings to defeat the Dallas Stars.NBA hard to find

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If you were an NBA fan without a digital box, you missed important playoff games late last week.

Four games airing on Thursday and Friday, three of which were series deciders, were unavailable on the analogue sports channels TSN, Rogers Sportsnet and The Score.

On Thursday, the Detroit Pistons' elimination of the Philadelphia 76ers was carried on the digital channel Raptors NBA TV.

TSN couldn't fit it in because of a conflict with its Red Wings-Colorado Avalanche telecast. The Score had a New York Red Bulls-Toronto FC soccer game. Rogers Sportsnet aired Toronto Blue Jays-Boston Red Sox.

On Friday, the Cleveland Cavaliers' elimination of the Washington Wizards ended up on TSN's alternate digital feed. TSN aired a NASCAR race on its main channel. The Score had WWE wrestling, and Sportsnet carried the Jays.

The Atlanta Hawks' win over the Boston Celtics was carried on Raptors TV.

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The late-night game, Utah Jazz's ouster of the Houston Rockets, wasn't available on Canadian TV.

Sportsnet aired a major-league baseball game rather than Rockets-Jazz. The Score opted for updates and highlights. TSN had the Dallas Stars-San Jose Sharks NHL playoff game.

An NBA fan could argue TSN should have had the Cavs-Wizards on its main network rather than NASCAR. And that either The Score or Sportsnet should have picked up Rockets-Jazz.

Conference TV

Hockey Night will air the entire NHL Eastern Conference final (Flyers-Penguins) and pick up the second game, as well as the fifth through seventh games, if necessary, of the Western Conference final (Stars-Red Wings).

On the first weekend, Hockey Night will also get three consecutive prime-time games, Flyers-Penguins on Friday and Sunday and Stars-Red Wings for the traditional Saturday night slot.

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Bob Cole and Greg Millen will call the Flyers-Penguins series. Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson will do the play-by-play for Stars-Red Wings.

TSN will carry the first game of the Western Conference final, starting on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (all times EDT), as well as the third and fourth games. Chris Cuthbert and Glenn Healy will provide the play-by-play. James Duthie, Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger and analysts Mike Milbury and Darren Pang will be in the studio. The CBC and TSN telecasts will be available in high-definition television.

Dallas-Detroit is a good Western Conference matchup for both networks because of the early starting times, 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.Another record

RDS's telecast of the fifth game of the Flyers-Montreal Canadiens series last Saturday set a network audience record of 2.164 million viewers. It was the second time in the playoffs the French-language network produced more than two million viewers. It had 2.031 million for the seventh game of the Boston Bruins-Canadiens first-round series. RDS's average for the Flyers-Canadiens series was 1.836 million.

For the second round, TSN averaged 561,000 viewers over 10 games, equal to the network's audience average in 2007. The most-watched telecast was Sunday's San Jose Sharks-Dallas Stars overtime marathon, which drew 801,000 viewers. (All numbers from BBM Canada.) NBC had a 9.5 overnight rating (percentage of potential households tuned in) for Saturday's Kentucky Derby telecast from 5:45 p.m. to 6:45 p.m., down from 9.8 in 2007.

Rating the weekend

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EVENT NETWORK VIEWERS SKINNY
Friday
Hockey, Canada-Slovenia TSN 240,000 Not bad for the afternoon
Auto racing, Lipton Tea 250 TSN 131,000 Second tier NASCAR race
Baseball, Jays-White Sox Sportsnet 320,000 Above season average of 290,000
Hockey, Stars-Sharks TSN 599,000 Good audience for late start
Saturday
Soccer, Reading-Tottenham Sportsnet 65,000 Two mediocre teams
Baseball, Jays-White Sox Sportsnet 257,000 Down from Friday night
Auto racing, Crown Royal 400 TSN 254,000 Prime time telecast against Habs
Hockey, Flyers-Canadiens CBC 2.103 Big number for CBC
Hockey, Flyers-Canadiens RDS 2.164 million An RDS audience record
Sunday
Soccer, Liverpool-Man. City Score 68,000 Good match-up, so-so audience
Hockey, Rangers-Penguins CBC 794,000 Strong afternoon number
Baseball, Jays-White Sox Sportsnet 276,000 Just under season average of 290,000
Hockey, Canada-Latvia TSN 170,000 A blowout
Hockey, Bulls-Rangers Sportsnet 67,000 Competition from Canadian game
Baseball, Cardinals-Cubs Sportsnet 84,000 The usual for Sunday night
Hockey, Sharks-Stars TSN 801,000 TSN's largest of the second round
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