Western Conference semifinals Canucks-Predators; Who do you have?

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The Western Conference semifinals will kick off at the end of the week, but thanks to everyone all done and the pairings set, we’ll break down how things look. With the Vancouver Canucks finally figuring out a way to beat the Chicago Blackhawks in the playoffs, now their next mission sits in front of them: Getting out of the second round. To do that they’ll have yet another Central Division team and one that should look eerily familiar to them in the Nashville Predators.

I say that because like Vancouver, Nashville is a tough defensive team with an all-world goalie. Say what you will about Roberto Luongo, and we know there’s plenty, but he was able to overcome an absolute circus of hysteria in the first round to show up huge in Game 7. His opposing goalie this round, Pekka Rinne, is a fellow Vezina Trophy finalist who didn’t quite look like a Vezina finalist in the opening round. With offensive chances figuring to be at a minimum, we could see a goalie battle for the ages in this round.

The interesting part of this match-up  is how each team responds to this round. Nashville’s never been to the second round of the playoffs before in team history, meanwhile the Canucks haven’t been able to get past Chicago the previous two seasons. The Canucks haven’t been able to get past the second round of the playoffs thanks to Chicago the last two years so we’re left to wonder who uses the momentum gained from the first round the right way.

With the likes of Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Ryan Kesler, and Alex Burrows the Canucks certainly have plenty of offense to burn. Nashville doesn’t seem to be as loaded up with Mike Fisher, Patric Hornqvist, and Shea Weber. One person we’re hoping continues to be a force is Jordin Tootoo as his spectacular play against Anaheim helped the Predators to be a much deeper team getting production from their third line.

With Alain Vigneault and Barry Trotz coaching these sides, expect things be a battle of tacticians. Vigneault’s decisions in the first round certainly gave us all pause to wonder just what he was doing while Trotz keeps steering the Predators ship ahead.

How do you see things playing out between these two teams? Which team grabs momentum and sprints ahead to the Western Conference finals? Let us know in our poll.

Video: After blowout loss in Dallas, struggling Sharks off to slow start vs. Predators

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Last night, we asked: What is wrong with the San Jose Sharks?

Well, a day later, with the Sharks looking to avoid a sixth straight loss, the struggle continues.

After a blowout loss last night against the Dallas Stars, the Sharks have fallen behind the Nashville Predators by a score of 2-0 after the opening period.

Colton Sissons opened the scoring for Nashville.

It didn’t get any better for the Sharks.

Roman Josi walked right around Brent Burns, hitting the cross bar with his shot. Cody McLeod was right there for the tap-in to increase Nashville’s lead.

Maple Leafs goalie Andersen suffers upper-body injury vs. Sabres

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Anxious times right now for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Facing the Buffalo Sabres and looking to extend their winning streak, Curtis McElhinney took over in net for Toronto to begin the second period.

Adding to the situation was the fact Frederik Andersen, who started the game, was reportedly not on the bench when the teams came back out following the intermission.

And now we know why. The Leafs have announced Andersen suffered an upper-body injury and will not return.

Andersen faced 16 shots in the opening period, making 14 saves.

The Maple Leafs are third in the Atlantic Division with 85 points.

Video: Ovechkin joins elite company with this goal vs. Coyotes

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Barring a miraculous barrage of goals in the final stretch of games, Alex Ovechkin very likely won’t hit the 50-mark this season.

Now 31 years old, there has been talk that this could be the beginning of the decline for Ovechkin.

But on Saturday, he scored the 30th goal of his season, letting that famous Ovechkin shot rip from his favorite spot on the power play.

For Ovechkin, that’s 12 straight seasons with at least 30 goals scored. He has been consistently prolific since joining the league in 2005-06. He’s an elite player, as everyone has known for years, and he once again joined elite company with this latest goal.

Per the Capitals, Ovechkin joins Mike Gartner and Wayne Gretzky — he was good — as the only three players in NHL history to score at least 30 goals in each of their first 12 seasons in the league.

Sharp to undergo hip surgery, expected recovery is 4-5 months

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Patrick Sharp‘s difficult season is now over.

The Dallas Stars announced on Saturday that the 35-year-old forward will undergo hip surgery on Tuesday. The recovery time, according to the club, is between four and five months.

Sharp is in the final year of a five-year contract with a $5.9 million cap hit, per CapFriendly

“We are going to get the surgery done and let him heal. He’s going to train and let’s take a look at him,” said Stars GM Jim Nill, per NHL.com. “We’ve had conversations. If he comes back, he wants it to be Dallas. He thinks he’s a Dallas Star.”

Not only has Sharp dealt with injuries on the ice, but he is dealing with a personal matter off it.

From the Dallas Morning News:

But in battling through two concussions, hip pain, and his dad’s fight with leukemia, Sharp has shown significant fortitude. The Dallas chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association nominated Sharp Saturday as its candidate for the Bill Masterton Trophy, given each season to a player who displays the attributes of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

“It shows what kind of person he is and what kind of hockey player and leader he is,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “I think that’s why he’s a winner at every level he’s played at. I think that’s why he’s a great leader for this team and a great guy for a lot of these young guys to look up to.”

Sharp was first sidelined with a concussion in October. He was then placed on injured reserve with another concussion in December.

He has been held to just 48 games, with eight goals — his lowest total since the lockout-shortened season — and 18 points.