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NHL playoff matchups set


The N.Y. Islanders will open the playoffs at the Florida Panthers, which means Henrik Lundqvist and the N.Y. Rangers will face Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins for the third-straight year.

The Eastern Conference playoffs were settled last night with the Islanders’ 5-2 loss to Philadelphia.

The Islanders are seeded seventh and will take on the Atlantic Division champion Panthers starting Thursday night.

The Rangers stayed in third in the Metropolitan Division and will face the second-place Penguins on Wednesday night.

In the Western Conference, the Anaheim Ducks vaulted ahead of L.A. to clinch their fourth-consecutive Pacific Division title with a 2-0 win at Washington.

The Ducks will open the post-season Friday night against seventh-seeded Nashville.

The Kings, meanwhile, dropped to second in the Pacific and will face third-place San Jose in a series starting Thursday night.

Both games played last night were rescheduled because of snowstorms—extending the NHL’s regular season by a day.

The other playoff matchups already were set.

Alex Ovechkin and the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals will open against Philadelphia on Thursday.

The Flyers closed the season with a 15-6-2 run in which they passed four teams in the standings and clinched their playoff berth with a 3-1 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday.

The Capitals coasted into the post-season—closing with a 3-3-3 record.

The record didn’t bother coach Barry Trotz, who rested numerous regulars, including Ovechkin and goalie Braden Holtby, against Anaheim.

“There’s a lot of great reasons to feel good about going into the playoffs right now,” said Trotz, noting that Ovechkin led the league with 50 goals while Holtby won 48 games to tie Martin Brodeur’s NHL season record.

“It feels like we’re in a total freefall and it’s really not that way,” he stressed.

The East’s other matchup has the Atlantic Division’s second-place Tampa Bay Lightning facing third-place Detroit starting Wednesday in a rematch of an opening-round series last year.

The Lightning rallied from a 3-2 series deficit to beat the Red Wings en route to reaching the Stanley Cup final, which they lost to Chicago.

In the West, the top-seeded Dallas Stars will open against the Minnesota Wild.

It marks the first time the Stars, who relocated to Dallas from Minnesota in 1993, will face the Wild in the post-season.

The Stars won nine of their last 11 while overcoming injuries to key forwards Tyler Seguin (Achilles tendon) and Patrick Eaves (lower body).

The Wild closed by losing their last five games, and went 15-11-1 after coach Mike Yeo was fired and replaced by John Torchetti.

The other West matchup features the Central Division’s second-place St. Louis Blues facing the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks starting Wednesday.

It marks the 12th meeting between the two franchises, with Chicago having won eight times.

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