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Playoff Slapshots: Where's Sykora and more Saturday musings


1. Itch the scratch. Petr Sykora was caught off guard when head coach Dan Bylsma benched the 14-year veteran as a healthy scratch for Game 4. Although there have been rumblings that the winger is wrestling with an injury, if he were to miss a game because of it, the club is obligated to disclose it. Sykora says he is healthy, so will he be back for Game 5? Bylsma is mum on his plans, but unless there's an injury that the team is covering up, there isn't a better option than Sykora available for the Penguins, especially where they need it, on the power play. Despite the winger's relative quiet on the offensive front as of late, he still ranks second on the team with 13 power play goals. And if there's anything this series needs, it's special team scoring. Between them, the Penguins and the Flyers are 7-for-57 in this first round series. So, expect the power play to be the difference in today's game. If the Flyers want to have a shot at a Game 7, they'll need to take advantage of Penguins penalties. And Sykora, if he's in, will be looking to get his touch back with the man advantage?more than half his goals this season came that way.

2. If there is any series where home-ice has meant anything at all, it's been this one, between the Blackhawks and Flames. They return to Chicago, where the Blackhawks took two and are now faced with a best-of-3 series after Calgary posted two wins at home. (By the way, I wonder if fans are denied access into Calgary's Pengrowth Saddledome arena unless they are wearing the exact same Flaming C sweater in red.) Although the Blackhawks have dropped the last two, Chicago isn't quite reeling yet, not until Nikolai Khabibulin gives them a reason to worry at home. He allowed nine goals in two games in Calgary, but expect him to rebound tonight. The Flames, however, have their own worries with injuries (Daymond Langkow, Craig Conroy left game 4 with injuries; Rene Bourque missed the entire game) they'll have to deal with.

3. A good deal. Here, the Ducks' first chance to eliminate the Presidents' Trophy-winning Sharks. A lot of credit should be given to Anaheim. Although San Jose has gotten most of the flack for "choking," the truth is, the Ducks are doing a good job of beating them. While most people were discussing the Sharks' blueline and how it had been an upgrade for the team, little attention was being paid to a midseason acquisition by the Ducks that has paid off big. Former Penguin Ryan Whitney, whom Anaheim got for Chris Kunitz, has been a terrific addition for the team. Since joining the Ducks, Whitney has 14 assists, including one in each of the four playoff games so far. Of all the trade deadline deals, only he and Olli Jokinen have made their mark felt in the postseason, averaging 1 point per game or more.

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