NHL conference semifinals begin Wednesday

Apr 24, 2007 - 5:51 PM By PA SportsTicker

The NHL playoffs resume on Wednesday with the start of the conference semifinals.

The top-seeded Buffalo Sabres host the sixth-seeded New York Rangers in the opener of their Eastern Conference series and the second-seeded Anaheim Ducks face the third-seeded Vancouver Canucks in Game One of their Western Conference series.

The Canucks must come back just two days after beating the Dallas Stars, 4-1, in Game Seven of their conference quarterfinal series.

On Thursday, the top-seeded Detroit Red Wings open their Western Conference semifinal series against the fifth-seeded San Jose Sharks and the second-seeded New Jersey Devils face the fourth-seeded Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Sabres, who captured the Presidents' Trophy for the first time in franchise history, won four of their meetings with the Rangers this season, but all of them came before December 2 and three of them went to overtime.

Last year, the Sabres came within one win of reaching the Stanley Cup Finals, a victory that arguably would have come had their top defenseman - Jay McKee - not missed Game Seven of the conference finals against the Carolina Hurricanes with an injury.

This season, Buffalo was an offensive force, leading the league with 308 goals and earning home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs with 113 points. Seven players reached the 20-goal plateau, with another - Jochen Hecht - falling one tally shy.

Buffalo beat the eighth-seeded New York Islanders, four games to one, in the conference quarterfinals.

Following an impressive run down the stretch of the regular season, the Rangers made quick work of the Atlanta Thrashers in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, sweeping the Southeast Division champions. Michael Nylander and captain Jaromir Jagr were especially potent, recording eight and seven points, respectively, in the four-game series.

The Ducks won three of four regular-season meetings against the Canucks and the lone loss came in overtime.

Anaheim beat the seventh-seeded Minnesota Wild, four games to one, in the conference quarterfinals.

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