Breaking down the Western second-round matchup
1st in Central
The Skinny: Will Dom Hasek's benching for the start of this series serve as a distraction for the top-seeded Wings? Can Jose Theodore continue his solid play in the Avs' net? When will Colorado's young guns step up? Those are three of the many questions heading into this collision of long-time archrivals. Detroit dominated Colorado in the regular season, but the Avs are proving to be a gritty club in these playoffs and have the veteran leadership to pull off the upset. But it won't be an easy task. Detroit boasts impressive depth -- nine players had at least three points each in the first round. One thing working in Colorado's favor: the hottest postseason goalie (Theodore).
The Spotlight Is On: Chris Osgood. Coach Mike Babcock may have given Ozzie the second-round nod, but the slightest slip could mean a quick return to Hasek, who was anything but a Dominator in the first round. The 35-year-old Osgood looked solid most of the time against the Preds, but he'll have to be sharper against Joe Sakic & Co.
X-Factor for Red Wings: Niklas Kronwall. You know all about their top-tier blueliners Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski, but Kronwall (left) was just as important in the first round. In addition to pocketing five points, the 27-year-old played a big role in disrupting Nashville's flow in the neutral and offensive zones.
X-Factor for Avalanche: Andrew Brunette. When discussing the Avs' offense, Brunette (right) rarely gets mentioned. But he'll definitely get his fair share of attention from Detroit's backend group. He should, after notching three goals and five points in the first round. Though held scoreless against Detroit in the regular season, the veteran winger has a knack of coming up with huge goals when it counts.
The Pick: Red Wings in six.
2nd in N'west
1/17: Stars 4-2 3/27: Sharks 3-2 4/6: Stars 4-2
1st in Pacific
The Skinny: The Stars are a scary team with a lot of confidence after advancing past the first round for the first time since 2003. And to think Dallas ousted the defending Stanley Cup champion Ducks without all-world defenseman Sergei Zubov, who could miss the majority of the second round. But Zubov's absence has given Dallas' young blueliners (Mark Fistric, Matt Niskanen, Nicklas Grossman) time to prove themselves and show some poise beyond their years. The Sharks, meanwhile, head into this Pacific clash with a struggling power play and a somewhat lost Brian Campbell. San Jose has more depth and talent up front, but don't discount Dallas' confidence and impressive depth down the middle.
The Spotlight Is On: Brad Richards. The deadline acquisition had a solid first-round series (goal, five points), but the Stars will need him to perform at his Conn Smythe level of '04 if they plan on reaching the conference final. The 27-year-old pivot, a streaky player who can sometimes drift in and out of games, better be ready for crunching checks from the likes of Craig Rivet and Kyle McLaren.
X-Factor for Sharks: Ryane Clowe. Talk about coming out of nowhere. The winger (left) led the team with eight points in the first round after missing 67 games during the regular season with a knee injury. The Stars' young blueliners must make sure they know where Clowe is at all times, as he provides San Jose with an invaluable scoring touch from the second line.
X-Factor for Stars: Stephane Robidas. There wasn't a better defenseman for Dallas in the first round. In addition to piling up six points, the pint-size blueliner (right) was usually pitted against Anaheim's top line. He had only one point in eight games against the Sharks this season, but he and Trevor Daley will likely see time against Joe Thornton's top line.
The Pick: Stars in seven.
3rd in Pacific