Los Angeles Kings v St. Louis Blues - Game Two

2013 Western Conference first-round matchups are set


Saturday presented a range of emotions for Western Conference fans, who went from crossing their fingers for preferable seeding to pondering all the ways two teams will exploit each others’ weaknesses.

Here are the four quarterfinal matchups in the West in 2013:

1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. 8) Minnesota Wild

The Blackhawks haven’t played against a Minnesota team in the postseason since the North Stars knocked them out 4-2 in 1991. (Click here for a little more on this series.)

2) Anaheim Ducks vs. 7) Detroit Red Wings

As former Ducks blogger Earl Sleek points out, the two teams have had a quirky tendency to meet in odd playoff years. They’ve met in 1997, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2009 and now 2013. In fact, Mike Babcock once coached a lower-seed Anaheim team against a favored Red Wings squad and now finds himself in the opposite situation.

3) Vancouver Canucks vs. 6) San Jose Sharks

The last time these two teams faced off, the Canucks beat the Sharks 4-1 in the 2011 Western Conference finals. You may recall the bizarre Kevin Bieksa goal that ended that series in OT.

4) St. Louis Blues vs. 5) Los Angeles Kings

The Kings might go into this series as the favorites despite the lower seed. They swept the Blues in the two teams’ 2012 playoff series and swept this season’s three games to boot (winning by at least two goals in every contest in 2013).

Ducks name Kesler alternate captain

Ryan Kesler
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For the second time in his career, Ryan Kesler is wearing an “A.”

On Thursday, the Anaheim Ducks announced that Kesler would serve as one of the club’s alternate captains this season, taking over for Francois Beauchemin, who signed in Colorado this summer.

With the move, Kesler joins Anaheim’s existing leadership group of captain Ryan Getzlaf, and alternate Corey Perry.

“It’s an honor,” Kesler said, per the Ducks. “It’s special. I’m going to wear it with pride and lead by example.”

As mentioned earlier, Kesler has some experience as an alternate — he wore an “A” in Vancouver from 2008-13, but had it removed prior to the start of the ’13-14 campaign.

It’s not surprising Anaheim went in this direction. GM Bob Murray made a huge investment in Kesler this summer by inking the 31-year-old to a six-year, $41.25M extension.

Diaz could leave Rangers for Europe

Raphael Diaz, Mike Sislo
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Could Raphael Diaz be on his way back to Switzerland?

We’ll know in a month.

Diaz, who lost out on the Rangers’ final blueline spot in training camp, has reported to the club’s AHL affiliate in Hartford but doesn’t seem pleased with his current situation, per the Post:

The 29-year-old Diaz, who cleared waivers last Saturday after the Blueshirts opted to keep rookie Dylan McIlrath as the club’s seventh on the blue line, is interested in the European option if he is not in the NHL.

The Blueshirts have told Diaz they will revisit the situation at the end of October, but have not promised to release him or assign him to a European team at that point.

If Diaz, a Swiss native who represented Switzerland in the 2014 Olympics, does play in Europe during the season, he would have to go through waivers in order to return to the NHL.

Diaz’s agent, Ritch Winter, told the Post that Diaz signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Rangers “to play with the Rangers.”

And it’s understandable if Diaz — a journeyman offensive defenseman — isn’t happy with this situation.

While some believe McIlrath earned his roster spot on merit, some think it’s because of his contract status. McIlrath, who’s only 23 and a former first-round pick, would’ve needed to clear waivers to go back to Hartford, and it’s believed he would’ve been claimed by another club.