2002-03 series record: Tied 1-1-2
The Senators will have had a week off, following their five-game victory over the Islanders, before Game 1 on Friday. Ottawa shook off a poor 3-0 loss to New York in the opener and dominated the rest of the way in winning its first series as the higher-seeded team. As easily as they beat the Islanders, it was nothing compared to last year's first round, when the Senators beat Philadelphia in five and allowed only two goals. Todd White and Marian Hossa each had three goals against the Islanders. Patrick Lalime stopped 129 of 136 shots.
The beat-up Flyers should get a break against the less-physical Senators, but they'll have to chase Ottawa's forwards all over the ice. They, too, will be able to use that to their advantage as speedy forwards Simon Gagne and Sami Kapanen should get plenty of chances to skate with the puck. Philadelphia's resiliency will be tested following a brutal seven-game series against Toronto that featured seven overtime periods and Games 6 and 7 on consecutive nights. Mark Recchi had six goals to lead. Keith Primeau got his first in Game 7. Tony Amonte didn't have any. Some pressure is off as the Flyers are in the second round for just the second time in six years. Top defenseman Eric Desjardins is out two-to-four weeks because of a broken foot.
Outlook: The Flyers will have at least two goals in each of their four victories.
The Associated Press' prediction: Flyers in six games.
2002-03 series record: Tied 1-1-2
The Devils were quick to prove that last season's first-round exit was indeed a fluke as they easily dispatched Joe Thornton and the Boston Bruins. The Devils won the Stanley Cup in 2000 and reached the finals the following season before losing to Carolina last year. They might be preparing for another Cup run, backstopped by goalie Martin Brodeur, who allowed just eight goals to Boston. He left practice early Monday because of an illness, but should be ready for Thursday's opener. Jamie Langenbrunner scored five goals and had seven points against Boston. John Madden is the only other Devils player with more than one goal in the Bruins series, scoring two. RW Sergei Brylin is expected to return for first time since Feb. 5, when he broke his wrist.
The line of Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, and Vaclav Prospal sparked the Lightning after Game 2 against the Capitals. Tampa Bay lost the first two games at home but recovered to win four straight for the first series victory in the team's 11-year history. This series will feature a fantastic goalie matchup, with Nikolai Khabibulin facing Brodeur. Khabibulin doesn't have much playoff experience, so how he handles the big stage will go a long way toward determining how much of a chance Tampa Bay has.
Outlook: St. Louis says meet me in the conference finals.
The Associated Press' prediction: Tampa Bay in six.
2002-03 series record: Dallas 3-1-1
The walking-wounded Stars won three straight after falling behind 2-1 to Edmonton. Pierre Turgeon, who's been out since breaking a bone in his ankle March 7, is expected to return for Thursday's opener. All-Star forward Bill Guerin, out since Feb. 27 with a deep thigh bruise that required surgery, skated his second straight full practice Wednesday and is aiming for a comeback in Game 2. Marty Turco allowed just 11 goals in his first playoff series, which came on the heels of his record-low goals-against average in the regular season.
The Mighty Ducks pulled off the first-round stunner by sweeping defending champion Detroit. The Red Wings looked poised to win the opener, but lost despite dominating in overtime. Then the Ducks rallied late in Game 2 to return home with a 2-0 lead. Solid performances there gave Anaheim its first series win since 1997, and its second overall. The Ducks were 0-8 against Detroit in playoff games before this year. Jean-Sebastien Giguere made it possible for them to return the favor and sweep Detroit. He made 63 saves in the Mighty Ducks' triple-overtime victory in Game 1 and made 165 stops on 171 shots in the four games, posting a 1.24 goals-against average. Stanislav Chistov, Jason Krog, and Paul Kariya each had a team-high two goals in the series. Mike Modano and Sergei Zubov had 10 points each.
Outlook: Giguere finds a way to stay on a roll as the Ducks shock another highly seeded team.
The Associated Press' prediction: Anaheim in seven.
2002-03 series record: Tied 2-2-1
It looked as if the Canucks lost a lot when they were beaten out for the division title by Colorado on the final day of the regular season. But even after falling behind St. Louis 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, the Canucks rallied with three straight wins. Colorado, on the other hand, was knocked out by Minnesota in another thrilling comeback. Markus Naslund had a team-high four goals after scoring 48 in the regular season. Dan Cloutier allowed seven goals in the final three games against St. Louis, but the Canucks had 13 to pull the series out.
The Wild weren't just happy to be in the playoffs. After falling behind to Colorado, a serious Cup contender, Minnesota won three straight to win its first-ever playoff series. The 3-year-old Wild became just the eighth NHL team to turn around a 3-1 deficit by winning two of the final three on the road. Manny Fernandez took over in goal from Dwayne Roloson in the first period of Game 4 and made several spectacular saves in Game 7. Fernandez stopped 108 of 114 shots and kept Minnesota alive long enough to win Games 6 and 7 in overtime on consecutive nights. Marian Gaborik had a team-high four goals, and Andrew Brunette followed with three -- including the series-clinching score against Patrick Roy.
Outlook: The Canucks have the offense to go far, the question is whether Cloutier can keep enough pucks out of the net. He does this round.
The Associated Press' prediction: Vancouver in seven.