NHL Playoffs: Top Western Conference Storylines
Anze Kopitar Out Of Kings’ Lineup
Anze Kopitar, the Los Angeles Kings’ leading scorer, suffered a season-ending ankle injury on March 26 against Colorado. Kopitar tore ligaments in his right ankle and underwent surgery. The Kings will have to take on the playoffs without Kopitar but may have their second leading scorer, Justin Williams, back on the ice. Williams dislocated his shoulder and missed nine games of the regular season but is medically cleared to participate in Game 1 on Thursday against the San Jose Sharks.
Ducks And Kings Both In Playoffs For First Time
For the first time in the Anaheim’s 17-year history, the Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings are both in the playoffs. Since the Ducks were founded in 1993, both Southern California teams have never made it to the playoffs at the same time.
Canucks Win Presidents’ Trophy
The Vancouver Canucks are this year’s recipients of the Presidents’ Trophy. The trophy is given to the NHL team with the most points in the regular season. The Canucks claimed the trophy after beating the Kings on March 31. Vancouver ended the regular season with 117 points (a new record for the league) and 54 wins.
Red Wings Make 20 Consecutive Playoffs
The Detroit Red Wings have been in the playoffs for 20 consecutive years, from 1991 to 2011. In their 85-year history, the Red Wings have won the Stanley Cup 11 times, a league record.
The Return Of Patrick Sharp
Left winger Patrick Sharp, who leads the team with 34 goals, played the last three games of the regular season after missing seven due to a knee injury. His presence in the playoffs will be pivotal as the Blackhawks, the defending champs, enter the first round of the playoffs as the underdogs against the Canucks.
Joe Thornton Reaches 1,000 Points
On April 8, San Jose Sharks captain Joe Thornton became the 78th player in NHL history to reach 1,000 career points. Thornton entered the draft in 1997, and since then has played for the Boston Bruins and now the Sharks. He had 421 points as a Bruin and 579 with the Sharks.
Coyotes/Red Wings Rematch
The first round of playoffs means the Phoenix Coyotes will have a chance to beat their rival, the Detroit Red Wings, in a rematch. The Coyotes played them in the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs and were defeated by the Red Wings in the seventh game 6-to-1. The devastating loss last year means the Coyotes will be out for revenge against Nicklas Lidstrom and the rest of the Red Wings.
Manny Malhotra’s Eye Injury
Vancouver Canucks center Manny Malhotra issued a statement thanking family, friends and the NHL for their support while he recovers from a season-ending eye injury. On March 16, Malhotra was hit in the eye with a puck in the first period of a game against the Colorado Avalanche. He underwent two surgeries to restore vision in his right eye.