Stanley Cup Playoffs set to open Tuesday

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Updated: 4/29/2013 12:01 am

New York, NY (Sports Network) - The NHL playoff schedule was released on Sunday and the chase for the Stanley Cup begins on Tuesday with three games.

The defending champion Los Angeles Kings finished fifth in the Western Conference rather than eighth, as they did last season, and will take on the fourth-seeded St. Louis Blues starting on Tuesday at 8 p.m. (ET).

The Blues, who closed the season on a roll, going 12-3-0 in April, will have revenge on their mind after being swept by Los Angeles in the conference semifinals last spring.

The Kings followed up last spring's playoff sweep of the Blues by then sweeping this year's regular-season series by a 3-0 margin. However, the two clubs finished the regular season separated by just one point in the standings.

The top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks, who captured the Presidents' Trophy with 77 points, will open the playoffs against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday at 8 p.m.

The Blackhawks set an NHL record this season for earning at least one point in their first 24 games (21-0-3). Meanwhile, the Wild were the last team to qualify for the playoffs. Minnesota was on the verge of missing the playoffs for the fifth straight season.

The Detroit Red Wings won their final four games in the regular season to extend the longest current playoff streak in the NHL to 22 seasons. Detroit earned the No. 7 seed in the West and will open up against the second-seeded Anaheim Ducks, who won the Pacific Division title, on Tuesday at 10:30 p.m.

The Vancouver Canucks won the Northwest Division for the fifth time in six seasons, and finished third in the West with 59 points. They will face the San Jose Sharks starting Wednesday at 10:30.

The Sharks swept the season series by a 3-0 margin, but both teams ended the season playing their best hockey. San Jose finished on a 12-5-1 stretch while Vancouver went 13-6-1 to end the season.

The defending Eastern Conference champion New Jersey Devils missed out on the postseason for the second time in three years, leaving the East wide open for a new team to make a run to the Stanley Cup.

The top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins have to be the odds-on-favorite after finishing nine points clear of the Montreal Canadiens in the final standings.

The Pens, who reeled off 15 straight wins in a perfect month of March, may have an added weapon when they host the New York Islanders to start the postseason, as captain Sidney Crosby returned to practice Friday after missing the team's last 11 games with a broken jaw he sustained on March 30.

The eighth-seeded Isles stumbled into the postseason, losing their final three games, although two of those losses came via shootout, which is not an option in the playoffs. Game 1 of this series is set for Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

The Southeast Division champion Washington Capitals, led by Alex Ovechkin's league-leading 32 regular-season goals, open their postseason slate against the sixth-seeded New York Rangers, who eked into the playoffs with five wins in their final six games.

The Rangers and Capitals will be facing off in the postseason for the third straight year. Washington took the first two meetings, but New York outlasted the Caps in a seven-game marathon in the Conference Semifinals last season. This season's playoff matchup between the two teams will begin Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

Montreal, which edged Boston by one point for the Northeast Division crown, will host the Ottawa Senators in the first round after the Sens beat the Bruins in Sunday's season finale to give the Canadiens the division title.

Ottawa and Montreal split four games this season, with each team earning a shootout victory on the road. The Canadian counterparts have never faced each other in the postseason. Game 1 is set for Thursday at 7 p.m.

The final Eastern Conference matchup features a pair of Original Six teams, as the fourth-seeded Boston Bruins host the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto and Boston haven't met in the postseason since 1974, when the Bruins swept the Leafs in four games in a quarterfinal matchup.

The Bruins went 16-5-3 at TD Garden this season and took three of four from the Leafs during the regular season. Game 1 is scheduled for Wednesday at 7 p.m.

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