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NHL Morning Skate for Wednesday, April 12, 2017: Stanley Cup Playoffs begin tonight

WEDNESDAY’S SCHEDULE
All Times Eastern
NY Rangers @ Montreal, Game 1, 7 p.m., NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, MSG
Boston @ Ottawa, Game 1, 7 p.m., NHLN, SN, TVAS2, NESN
Columbus @ Pittsburgh, Game 1, 7:30 p.m., USA, SN360, TVAS3, FS-O, ROOT
St. Louis @ Minnesota, Game 1, 9:30 p.m., NBCSN, SN360, TVAS2, FS-MW, FS-N
San Jose @ Edmonton, Game 1, 10 p.m., USA, SN, TVAS, NBCS CA
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2017 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS OPEN WITH FIVE-GAME SLATE
The 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs open tonight with a five-game slate:

* Art Ross Trophy winner Connor McDavid and the Oilers (47-26-9, 103 points), who qualified for the postseason for the first time since 2006, host one of last year’s Stanley Cup finalists when they welcome the Sharks (46-29-7, 99 points) to Rogers Place. This marks the second playoff meeting between these clubs (2006 CSF: EDM 4-2); Edmonton held a 3-1-1 edge in their regular-season series (SJS: 2-3-0).

* The Atlantic Division-winning Canadiens (47-26-9, 103 points) face the Rangers (48-28-6, 102 points) in an Original Six showdown at Bell Centre featuring two star goaltenders: Montreal’s Carey Price (37-20-5, 2.23 GAA, .923 SV%, 3 SO) and New York’s Henrik Lundqvist (31-20-4, 2.74 GAA, .910 SV%, 2 SO). This marks the 16th postseason meeting between these teams (NYR: 8, MTL: 7); the Canadiens swept their three-game, regular-season series (NYR: 0-2-1).

* The defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins (50-21-11, 111 points), led by reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner Sidney Crosby, host the Blue Jackets (50-24-8, 108 points), who set franchise records for wins and points this season, at PPG Paints Arena. This marks the second all-time playoff meeting between these clubs (2014 FR: PIT 4-2); each went 2-1-1 during their regular-season series.

* Atlantic Division rivals collide when the Senators (44-28-10, 98 points) play host to the Bruins (44-31-7, 95 points) at Canadian Tire Centre in their first playoff meeting. Ottawa is led by captain Erik Karlsson (17-54—71 in 2016-17), while Boston is powered by forward Brad Marchand (39-46—85). The Senators swept the regular-season series between these clubs for the first time in franchise history (4 GP).

* The Wild (49-25-8, 106 points), who set franchise records for wins and points in a season, face the Blues (46-29-7, 99 points) at Xcel Energy Center. This marks the second postseason meeting between these teams (2015 FR: MIN 4-2); the Blues held a 3-2-0 edge in their regular-season series (MIN: 2-2-1).

THE IMPORTANCE OF A FAST START
Per Elias, teams that win Game 1 in a best-of-seven Stanley Cup Playoffs series hold an all-time series record of 447-204 (68.7%).

COACHING CONNECTIONS
Many of the coaches behind the bench on Wednesday have a previous connection to their opponent:

* Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault guided the Canadiens from 1997-00 compiling a 109-118-39 record. The last time Vigneault faced current Montreal coach Claude Julien in the postseason, his Canucks lost in seven games to Julien’s Bruins in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

* Oilers head coach Todd McLellan led the Sharks for seven seasons – including back-to-back trips to the Conference Finals in 2010 and 2011 – and holds franchise records for games coached (540) and wins (311).

* Blues head coach Mike Yeo served behind the Wild bench from 2011-16, compiling a 173-132-44 record in the regular season and twice leading Minnesota to playoff series victories.

* Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella and Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan have a deep history. Sullivan – who led Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup last year – served as an assistant on Tortorella’s staff on three occasions (TBL: 2007-08, NYR: 2009-13 and VAN: 2013-14).

NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING RELEASES FINAL RANKINGS FOR 2017 NHL DRAFT
The NHL Central Scouting Bureau released its final rankings for the 2017 NHL Draft, with forward Nolan Patrick of the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings named the top draft-eligible skater, followed closely by Nico Hischier, a center for the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL.

Click here for final rankings of the top 217 skaters and 31 goaltenders in North America as well as the top 140 skaters and 13 goaltenders internationally.

2017 NHL DRAFT LOTTERY TO BE HELD APRIL 29 IN TORONTO
The 2017 NHL Draft Lottery, used to determine the order of selection for the first 15 picks in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft, will be held on Saturday, April 29 in Toronto. The results of the Draft Lottery will be announced shortly after 8 p.m., ET, during live coverage of the event on NBC, CBC and TVA. Coverage on CBC begins at 7:30 p.m., ET.

Participants in the Draft Lottery include the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, who begin play in the 2017-18 season, and all other Clubs that did not qualify for this season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs (or Clubs that acquired the first-round picks of those non-Playoff Clubs).

Click here for more information, including the allocation of odds for the 1st Lottery Draw of the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery.

SNEAK PEEK AT THURSDAY’S ACTION
All Times Eastern
Toronto @ Washington, Game 1, 7 p.m., CBC, USA, TVAS
Nashville @ Chicago, Game 1, 8 p.m., NBCSN, SN, TVAS2, FS-TN
Calgary @ Anaheim, Game 1, 10:30 p.m., CBC, NBCSN, TVAS, PRIME
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PRESS RELEASE WRITTEN BY NHL PUBLIC RELATIONS; COURTESY NHL MORNING SKATE PUBLICATION