1. Vancouver Canucks: They had won seven straight entering Thursday night, and they might be better prepared for the playoffs than they were last season when they ran away with the Presidents’ Trophy and came within a game of the Stanley Cup. Roberto Luongo will – and should – start Game 1 in goal. But Cory Schneider is a terrific Plan B.
2. New York Rangers: Good sign for the playoffs: Big center Brian Boyle, a third-liner with 10 goals this season, has scored four times in seven games. For the Rangers to make a long run, they’re going to need secondary scoring to support Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards.
3. St. Louis Blues: Alex Steen looks fully recovered after missing 39 games with a concussion. He’s physical. He’s engaged. And he can add offensive punch in the playoffs. He has 14 goals in 41 games this season – a 28-goal pace – and is plus-25.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins: Call him a goody two shoes. Call him a punk. But Sidney Crosby has 34 points in 20 games this season, amid two long absences. He has posted multiple points in more than half of his games. Sticks and stones …
5. Detroit Red Wings: Not only did the Wings rally to beat the Blues on Wednesday night – scoring two late goals against the league’s stingiest team, then swiping a 3-2 shootout victory – some key players looked good coming off of injuries. Pavel Datsyuk was passing like a wizard. Johan Franzen was scoring big goals. Jimmy Howard was doing the splits in the crease. Just in time.
6. Philadelphia Flyers: Amazing that the Flyers failed to pick up a single point in six games against the Rangers this season (0-6-0). Just as amazing: Entering Saturday’s season finale, the Flyers haven’t lost in Pittsburgh since the opening of the Penguins’ new arena last season (5-0-0).
7. Nashville Predators: Pekka Rinne didn’t dress Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild because of an undisclosed illness. Whether he was actually sick or not, he needed the rest. He has started 71 games this season, four more than any other goaltender going to the playoffs.
8. Boston Bruins: Tim Thomas has needed his rest, too, and he has gotten it even with Tuukka Rask recovering from a groin injury. Marty Turco filled in for four starts. Anton Khudobin was scheduled to start Thursday night against the Ottawa Senators, and he will be the backup in the playoffs until Rask returns.
9. New Jersey Devils: Riding a four-game winning streak, the Devils had every reason to lose entering their final two games. They could finish no worse than sixth in the East, pitting them against a third seed from the weak Southeast Division. Why try to pass the fifth-place Flyers so they could face the Penguins in the first round?
10. Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Kane continues to excel at center, so it will be interesting to see what the Blackhawks do when captain Jonathan Toews returns from his concussion. Why not keep Kane at center and create matchup problems for their playoff opponents? ”