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Neutral Zone Wrap: Get ready for the finals

by | Rotowire.com
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Assuming no one saw this coming. A six seed taking on an eight seed, but it's not as if either finalist finished way behind heading in to the postseason. Let's just call this the usual wackiness that happens this time of the year. For those who don't normally follow hockey, these playoffs have been as easy to predict as guaranteeing which team Rick Nash will end up with this summer. (Spoiler alert: It won't be Columbus).

Congrats to both the Devils and the Kings for reaching hockey's pinnacle. And to that one guy's dog who filled out the only correct playoff bracket on the planet. But enough about fictitious Fantasy glory. Let's see what these two have to do to get a clue. Or win it all. Whatever comes first.

Stanley Cup Finals Preview

New Jersey (No. 6 seed in the East) vs. Los Angeles (No. 8 seed in theWest)

Season series: New Jersey 2-0

Guess Ilya Kovalchuk (now on top in postseason scoring with 18 points) is really worth all that $100 million ... After heating up the first two series, Travis Zajac (10 in 11) fell back to Earth (two in seven)... Paging Patrik Elias (only six, with a lone goal in the Rangers series). Would someone please find out to where he has disappeared? ... Not bad when your fourth line (Stephen Gionta, Ryan Carter, and Steve Bernier combining for 19 points) becomes a regular contributor ... Marek Zidlicky (eight, including four on the power-play) may be the blueliner everyone expects to produce but Bryce Salvador not only leads Jersey defensemen in points (11) but can claim the best plus-minus (plus-10) of any Devil...Is there anything Dustin Brown (leads or is tied for first with plus-13, 24 penalty minutes, 49 shots on goal, 67 hits, two short-handed goals) can't do? ... After their adventures in Philly, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter (totaling 20, including four power-play goals) have been able to chip in very nicely ... Never really heard much from Trevor Lewis (13 in 72) during the regular season, but way to step it up lately -- especially against Phoenix (four in five) ... Another surprise up front has been rookie Dwight King (four in five), who posted solid numbers in two different leagues (14 in 27 in the NHL and 29 in 50 in the AHL) ... There is life beyond Drew Doughty (10) on defense, although neither Slava Voynov (three) nor Willie Mitchell (two) has regularly found the scoresheet.

Prediction: Both head-to-head meetings (2-1 and 3-0) were way back in October, so you can't really take much from them...The Devils' roster may contain more playoff experience, but there's no discounting how well the Kings have worked as a unit. The two sides have increased momentum as the rounds have progressed, so no advantage there. The city of Los Angeles has been waiting for a local winner since the franchise began 45 years ago (sorry, Anaheim doesn't count), although many residents still think the Kings play out of Sacramento. So, yeah, I'll stick to the boring pick of ... Kings in six.

The Conn Smythe candidates become increasingly obvious at this stage. You could almost swap any of these players at any spot in the following Top 5: 1. Dustin Brown; 2. Jonathan Quick; 3. Martin Brodeur; 4. Ilya Kovalchuk; 5. Adam Henrique. (Henrique may not possess the eye-popping stats (11), but you can't argue with two overtime game-series winning goals.)

Well, it's been an exciting season. But, as you well know, hockey never sleeps. There's the draft next month, but the real excitement begins July 1 when free agent season opens for business. So after the on-ice activity has concluded, sit tight and dream about the players your team will acquire (or jettison). I will return soon. Promise.

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Player News
Emerson Etem
Ducks' Etem Will Play In Game 4
Emerson Etem, RW, ANA
10:48 AM
News: Emerson Etem will be in the lineup Wednesday against the Stars, Mark Stepneski of the team's official site reports.
Analysis: Emerson Etem will draw into the lineup with the news that Teemu Selanne will be a healthy scratch. Etem recorded seven goals and four assists in 29 games with the Ducks this season.

Daniel Paille
Bruins' Paille Not Cleared Yet
Daniel Paille, LW, BOS
10:42 AM
News: Though Daniel Paille (undisclosed injury) is skating, he hasn't been cleared to play yet, NHL.com's Dan Rosen reports.
Analysis: Daniel Paille -- who last suited up on April 12 -- thus remains in the day-to-day category as Thursday's Game 4 against the Red Wings approaches.

David Backes
Blues' Backes Not At Morning Skate
David Backes, C, STL
10:42 AM
News: Backs (head) did not participate in the team's morning skate Wednesday, Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune reports.
Analysis: There were rumors that David Backes could return for Wednesday's Game 4 on Chicago, but his absence from the morning skate makes that unlikely. It's probably safest not to start him in fantasy leagues unless we hear differently closer to game time.

Matt Bartkowski
Bruins' Bartkowski Returns To Action
Matt Bartkowski, D, BOS
10:26 AM
News: Matt Bartkowski (illness) returned to action in Tuesday's Game 3 win over the Red Wings, seeing 18:34 worth of ice time.
Analysis: Matt Bartkowski, who saw 2:01 worth of shorthanded ice time in the process, now appears past the illness that sidelined him for the first two games of the Bruins' series against the Red Wings. The blueliner finished the 2013-14 campaign with 18 assists in 64 games.

Teemu Selanne
Ducks' Selanne Won't Play Wednesday
Teemu Selanne, RW, ANA
10:22 AM
News: Teemu Selanne will sit out Wednesday's Game 4 against the Stars, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: Teemu Selanne learned Wednesday morning he will be scratched in a playoff game for only the second time in his career. At age 43, the winger is probably just in need of a day off, so expect him to be back in the lineup for Game 5 on Friday.

Stephane Robidas
Ducks' Robidas Probably Won't Need Surgery
Stephane Robidas, D, ANA
10:08 AM
News: Stephane Robidas is not expected to need surgery to repair his broken right leg, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports.
Analysis: Stephane Robidas broke his right leg right above the metal rod that was inserted when he broke it earlier this season, but his recovery time should be much shorter this time around. He'll still miss the rest of the playoffs, but it's good to hear that he won't have to go through as much rehab this time around.

Brenden Dillon
Stars' Dillon May Return Friday
Brenden Dillon, D, DAL
10:07 AM
News: Coach Lindy Ruff said on Wednesday that Brenden Dillon may return to the lineup on Friday.
Analysis: Brenden Dillon has been practicing and his presence on the blueline would mean a lot to the Stars. Dillon has the ability to activate into the offense, but his presence means less for fantasy than it does for the actual team.

Frederik Andersen
Ducks' Andersen Will Start Game 4
Frederik Andersen, G, ANA
10:01 AM
News: Frederik Andersen will start between the pipes Wednesday in Game 4 against the Stars, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: Frederik Andersen wasn't as strong in Game 3 as he was in the first two games of the series, but it looks like coach Bruce Boudreau will give the rookie another shot in Game 4. If his play starts to slip, though, Jonas Hiller could retake the starting position.

Henrik Zetterberg
Wings' Zetterberg Could Return Thursday
Henrik Zetterberg, LW, DET
9:54 AM
News: Henrik Zetterberg (back) could play in Thursday's Game 4.
Analysis: Henrik Zetterberg hasn't suited up since February 8 due to the back injury, but took part in drills at Wednesday's practice, and could be in the lineup Thursday if his appointment with team doctors goes well. The star center would provide a much needed boost to the Red Wings offense, which has only managed two total goals in the first three games against the Bruins.

Brian Gibbons
Pens' Gibbons Likely Out Wednesday
Brian Gibbons, C, PIT
9:44 AM
News: Brian Gibbons (undisclosed) was not present at the team's morning skate, Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Analysis: Brian Gibbons missed Monday's game, and seems to have taken a step back in his recovery after skating over the weekend. It seems like a safe bet to rule him out of Wednesday's Game 4 at this point.

 
 
 
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