NHL playoffs open Wednesday with five series starting

NHL playoffs open Wednesday with five series starting

A look at the NHL playoffs that begin Wednesday:

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WHO’S PLAYING

EAST: The NHL-leading Washington Capitals face the Toronto Maple Leafs and the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins have home-ice advantage against the rival Columbus Blue Jackets on the Metropolitan Division side. On the Atlantic side, the division champion Montreal Canadiens face the wild-card New York Rangers, and the Ottawa Senators have home ice against the Boston Bruins.

West: The Central Division champion Chicago Blackhawks open against the wild-card Nashville Predators, and the Minnesota Wild have home-ice advantage against former coach Mike Yeo and the St. Louis Blues. On the Pacific side, the division champion Anaheim Ducks face the wild-card Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers have home ice against the defending Western Conference champion San Jose Sharks.

WHAT TO WATCH

— The playoffs start in Ottawa and Montreal on Wednesday with the Canadiens back in the playoffs against the Rangers and the Senators hosting the Bruins. Expect tension for Montreal and New York after the teams met in a contentious 2014 Eastern Conference final.

— Also Wednesday, the Penguins host the Blue Jackets, Wild host the Blues and Oilers host the Sharks.

— The Capitals and Maple Leafs start Thursday in Washington, the Blackhawks host the Predators and Ducks host the Flames.

LOOSE PUCKS

Nine of the 16 playoff teams have a different coach than the one they began last season with: the Canadiens (Claude Julien), Senators (Guy Boucher), Penguins (Mike Sullivan), Blue Jackets (John Tortorella), Bruins (Bruce Cassidy), Wild (Bruce Boudreau), Blues (Mike Yeo), Ducks (Randy Carlyle) and Flames (Glen Gulutzan). Four of the past 11 Cup champions made an in-season coaching change. Montreal, Boston and St. Louis are the three teams this year to do that. … Connor McDavid reached 100 points in the Oilers’ regular-season finale, the 28th 100-point season by a player since 2005-06. … The Capitals and Maple Leafs have never met in a playoff series. … Boston rookie defenceman Brandon Carlo’s status is uncertain after he was injured on a hit by Alex Ovechkin on Saturday.

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More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press

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