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NHL conference semifinal previews: New York Rangers-Washington Capitals, St. Louis Blues-Los Angeles Kings

Today's semifinals

Eastern Conference

New York Rangers (1) vs. Washington Capitals (7)

When/where: 3; Madison Square Garden, New York

TV: Ch. 8

Season series: 2-2

Watch for: Defense and goaltending are the Rangers' strengths. New York has in goal Henrik Lundqvist, a finalist for league MVP and the Vezina Trophy for top goalie, and a strong shot-blocking group led by defensemen Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi. Scoring was a weak spot in the quarterfinal win over the Senators. Wing Marian Gaborik was invisible for much of the series after scoring 41 goals in the regular season. … Capitals rookie goalie Braden Holtby was thrown into the fire after injuries to Tomas Vokun and Michal Neuvirth, and he responded in the seven-game quarterfinal win over the Bruins by stopping 233 of 248 shots and looking unflappable throughout. The Capitals are getting results under coach Dale Hunter's defense-first plan, though it has meant less ice time for star wing Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin has said he isn't happy about the cut in playing time but winning is all that matters to him.

Western Conference

St. Louis Blues (2) vs. Los Angeles Kings (8)

When/where: 7:30; Scottrade Center, St. Louis

TV: NBC Sports Network

Season series: Kings 3-1

Watch for: The Blues are a big, bruising team with a good measure of finesse. They have two solid scoring lines and a Selke Trophy (best defensive forward) finalist in David Backes, and they had the NHL's lowest team goals-against average in the regular season (1.86) because of standout goalies Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. Halak has a lower-body injury and will miss at least the first two games of the series. … The Kings, who had the second-best goals-against average this season (2.03) behind Vezina finalist Jonathan Quick, upset the top-seeded Canucks in the quarterfinals despite not getting much from top forwards Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, who is coming off a foot injury. Captain Dustin Brown led the team against the Canucks with four goals, 25 shots and 21 hits.

Times wires

NHL conference semifinal previews: New York Rangers-Washington Capitals, St. Louis Blues-Los Angeles Kings 04/27/12 [Last modified: Friday, April 27, 2012 9:18pm]
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