2012 NHL Playoffs: Western Conference Preview

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 16: A general view before Game One of the Western Conference Finals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs between the Chicago Blackhawks and the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion on May 16, 2010 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

The postseason begins tonight, and we've got all the news and notes you need to know to get yourself ready for all eight series. Eastern Conference preview coming later today.

#1 Vancouver Canucks vs. #8 Los Angeles Kings

The Basics:
The Canucks are the President's Trophy winning offensive juggernaut, and the Kings made the dance after a wild season involving coaching changes, major trades, and a drop from 3rd to 8th in the final days. The two teams split their season series 2-2.
SB Nation:
[Nucks Misconduct, Jewels From The Crown]
Mainstream Previews:
[NHL.com, ESPN, Puck Daddy]

What To Watch For:
- When will Daniel Sedin return? He's been injured since March 21 with a concussion. Most likely in the middle of the series, but concussions are fickle mistresses.

- Do the Kings have enough firepower to hang with the Canucks? LA was the second lowest scoring team in the NHL this season, so Jonathan Quick may have to steal some games for them to have a chance.

- How will Zack Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani fare in the postseason? Which will happen first: Kassian gives a check or Gragnani takes a check?

Prediction:
Canucks in 6.

Viewing Info courtesy of NHL.com:

DATE TIME (ET) #1 vs. #8 Networks
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 10:30 p.m. Los Angeles at Vancouver CBC, NBC Sports Network
Friday, April 13, 2012 10 p.m. Los Angeles at Vancouver CBC, NBC Sports Network
Sunday, April 15, 2012 10:30 p.m. Vancouver at Los Angeles NBC Sports Network, CBC
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 10 p.m. Vancouver at Los Angeles NBC Sports Network, CBC
*Sunday, April 22, 2012 TBD Los Angeles at Vancouver TBD
*Tuesday, April 24, 2012 TBD Vancouver at Los Angeles TBD
*Thursday, April 26, 2012 TBD Los Angeles at Vancouver TBD

#2 St. Louis Blues vs. #7 San Jose Sharks

The Basics:
The Blues are a balanced and gritty club, led by the likely Jack Adams award winner in Ken Hitchcock, while the Sharks have plenty of playoff experience and are loaded with offensive talent. The Blues swept the season series 4-0.
SB Nation: [St. Louis Game Time, Fear The Fin]
Mainstream Previews:
[NHL.com, ESPN, Puck Daddy]

What To Watch For:
- Will the Blues be able to contain the big, talented top six of San Jose? It will be tough for St. Louis if they need to outgun the Sharks.

- Who will play in net for St. Louis? Halak and Elliot split the season fairly evenly, with Elliot getting a few more games but Halak having the postseason experience.

- Will the youth of the Blues be fazed by the playoff atmosphere? Or can they keep playing the tight, consistent hockey they've shown all year?

Prediction:
St. Louis in 6.

Viewing Info courtesy of NHL.com:

DATE TIME (ET) #2 vs. #7 Networks
Thursday, April 12, 2012 7:30 p.m. San Jose at St. Louis CNBC, TSN
Saturday, April 14, 2012 7:30 p.m. San Jose at St. Louis CNBC, TSN
Monday, April 16, 2012 10 p.m. St. Louis at San Jose NBC Sports Network, TSN
Thursday, April 19, 2012 10:30 p.m. St. Louis at San Jose NBC Sports Network, TSN
*Saturday, April 21, 2012 7:30 p.m. San Jose at St. Louis CNBC, TSN
*Monday, April 23, 2012 TBD St. Louis at San Jose TBD
*Wednesday, April 25, 2012 TBD San Jose at St. Louis TBD




#3 Phoenix Coyotes vs. #6 Chicago Blackhawks

The Basics:
The Coyotes are the big, stingy team without an owner who won their first ever division title, but the Blackhawks finished with 101 points to Phoenix's 97, and have the offense and experience to pull of the upset. The Coyotes won the season series 3-1.
SB Nation: [Five For Howling, Second City Hockey]
Mainstream Previews:
[NHL.com, ESPN, Puck Daddy]

What To Watch For:
- When will Jonathan Toews return? He's been sidelined with a concussion since Feb 19, so will he be the same dominant player on his return?

- Who will win: the offensive firepower of the Blackhawks, or the stout defense and great goaltending of Phoenix? A classic matchup.

- Will the ownership controversy be another distraction to Phoenix as they admitted it was last postseason?

Prediction:
Chicago in 7.

Viewing Info courtesy of NHL.com:

DATE TIME (ET) #3 vs. #6 Networks
Thursday, April 12, 2012 10 p.m. Chicago at Phoenix NBC Sports Network, TSN
Saturday, April 14, 2012 10 p.m. Chicago at Phoenix NBC Sports Network, TSN
Tuesday, April 17, 2012 9 p.m. Phoenix at Chicago CNBC, TSN
Thursday, April 19, 2012 8 p.m. Phoenix at Chicago CNBC, TSN
*Saturday, April 21, 2012 10 p.m. Chicago at Phoenix NBC Sports Network, TSN
*Monday, April 23, 2012 TBD Phoenix at Chicago TBD
*Wednesday, April 25, 2012 TBD Chicago at Phoenix TBD


#4 Nashville Predators vs. #5 Detroit Red Wings

The Basics:
Nashville are the up-and-comers fighting against the ever-present Red Wings. The Preds could make a big statement by beating the team they've been measuring themselves against for the past few seasons. The two teams split their season series 3-3.
SB Nation: [On The Forecheck, Winging It In Motown]
Mainstream Previews:
[NHL.com, ESPN, Puck Daddy]

What To Watch For:
- There are two good goaltenders having great seasons in net, which will be able to steal a game or two from the other?

- The Red Wings are fantastic at home and pretty bad on the road. Can Nashville steal a game at the Joe and put extra pressure on Detroit?

- How will Paul Gaustad perform in the faceoff circle for Nashville? Will he - heaven forbid - score a goal?

Prediction:
Nashville in 7.

Viewing Info courtesy of NHL.com:

DATE TIME (ET) #4 vs. #5 Networks
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 8 p.m. Detroit at Nashville CNBC, CBC
Friday, April 13, 2012 7:30 p.m. Detroit at Nashville CNBC, CBC
Sunday, April 15, 2012 Noon Nashville at Detroit NBC, CBC
Tuesday, April 17, 2012 7:30 p.m. Nashville at Detroit NBC Sports Network, CBC
*Friday, April 20, 2012 8 p.m. Detroit at Nashville CNBC, CBC
*Sunday, April 22, 2012 TBD Nashville at Detroit TBD
*Tuesday, April 24, 2012 TBD Detroit at Nashville TBD
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