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      The Predators have the Presidents’ Trophy Jacob McQuaide Jersey , and the NHL-expansion Golden Knights carry the buzz entering the Western Conference playoffs, which have the potential of resembling nothing from the past.

      So step aside Chicago, which missed the playoffs for the first time in nine years, and say bye to the Blues, whose six-year playoff run is over.

      The changing of the West’s guard begins at the top, where Nashville clinched its first Central Division title by running away with the league’s best record. And then there’s Vegas, which broke every measureable NHL expansion record for success by going 51-24-7 to win the Pacific Division.

      Add in the talent-laden Winnipeg Jets, making their franchise’s third playoff appearance, and youth-filled Colorado Avalanche, who clinched their second berth in eight years, and it results in three of four first-time postseason matchups: Nashville versus Colorado, Vegas versus Los Angeles and Winnipeg facing Minnesota.

      The fourth matchup has Anaheim facing San Jose for only the second time after the Ducks eliminated the Sharks in six games during a 2009 first-round series.

      Of the eight teams, only three have won the Stanley Cup (Colorado, Anaheim and Los Angeles), while two have never won a playoff game (Vegas and Winnipeg, formerly Atlanta).

      The weight of expectations falls mostly on the Predators , who won’t be underestimated a year after the eighth-seeded team’s surge to the Final ended in a six-game loss to Pittsburgh. It was a run Nashville began against Chicago in becoming the first team to sweep a No. 1 seed in the opening round since the current playoff format was set in 1994.

      ”I think our guys are well aware of what went on last year,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. ”For me, this group is looking down the tunnel at something Lerentee McCray Jersey , and all that other stuff is noise.”

      That’s not to say Laviolette didn’t play the ”everyone’s picking Chicago” card as motivation a year ago.

      ”I might have used it,” he said with a wink.

      The Avalanche know their history, with forward Gabriel Landeskog listing how several No. 8 seeds have made deep playoff runs, including the 2012 Cup champion Kings.

      ”Anything can happen in the playoffs. That’s kind of the mindset we’ve had,” Landeskog said of the Avalanche , who enjoyed a 47-point turnaround after finishing last a year ago. ”This is a big accomplishment to make after such a tough season. We’re not done.”

      PREDATORS vs AVALANCHE

      Nashville finished seventh in the league with 261 goals without any player scoring 30. The Predators’ balanced attack is fueled by a group of speedy, playmaking defensemen who combined for a league-best 206 points (56 goals, 150 assists). Pekka Rinne went 42-13-4 to finish third in victories, and his 2.31 goals-against average was third among goalies playing 40 or more games.

      Though Nashville has won 10 straight against Colorado, beware of the Presidents’ Trophy curse. Of the 31 teams to finish first since 1986 when the trophy was established, only eight have won the Cup, the last being Chicago in 2013.

      Nathan MacKinnon entered the MVP discussion by leading Colorado with 97 points, including a league-leading 12 game-winning goals. Colorado tied with Arizona with the youngest roster at 25.8 years old.

      GOLDEN KNIGHTS vs KINGS

      A Golden Knights team put together with other teams’ discards spent the season using a ”why not us?” mantra in setting expansion-team records for most wins (51), home wins (29), road wins (22) and longest point streak (10-0-2). Vegas features six 20-goal-scorers, including trade-deadline addition Tomas Tatar.

      The Golden Knights closed the season 6-3-2, with the regulation losses coming against non-playoff teams: Arizona, Edmonton and Calgary. Marc Andre-Fleury went 29-13-4, but allowed six goals on 18 shots in a season-ending 7-1 loss at Calgary.

      The defensive-minded Kings allowed a league-low 202 goals and had the league’s best penalty-killing unit. Jonathan Quick’s 2.40 goals-against average was sixth among goalies appearing in 40 games.

      JETS vs WILD

      The Jets closed their most successful season in both victories and points on a 20-5-1 run Nick Kwiatkoski Jersey , including winning the final nine home games. Winnipeg is still searching for its first playoff victory after being swept in two previous appearances: by Anaheim in 2015, and by the Rangers in 2007, when Jets were based in Atlanta.

      Paul Stastny’s trade-deadline addition provided the NHL’s second-best offense with six 50-plus point producers. Third-year goalie Connor Hellebuyck went 44-11-9, and broke the single-season record for victories by U.S.-born goalies set by Tom Barrasso.

      The Wild limp into their sixth straight playoff appearance with defensemen Ryan Suter (broken right ankle) and Jared Spurgeon (torn right hamstring) sidelined, though Spurgeon is expected back from a 17-game absence in this series. Eric Staal’s 76 points (42 goals, 34 assists) were third-most in team history.

      DUCKS vs SHARKS

      The Ducks earned home-ice advantage with a 3-0 season-ending win over Arizona, coupled with the Sharks’ season-ending 6-3 loss to Minnesota. Anaheim went 25-10-4 since the bye break, and is 14-1-2 at home since Jan. 23. Goalie John Gibson went 21-7-3 in his final 31 decisions, but missed the final week and is listed day to day with an upper body injury.

      The Sharks went 19-13-3 over their final 35 games since Joe Thornton was sidelined with a knee injury. Martin Jones allowed five goals on 19 shots against Minnesota, and is 1-4 in his past five while allowing 17 g The Toronto Raptors seem to have everything lined up in their favor heading into their postseason matchup against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

      They’re rested. The Raptors feel they are ready. They have home-court advantage.

      But they’ve been confident before heading into a playoff showdown with James and have come up short – twice.

      ”Gotta go through the best to get to that trophy,” All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan said. ”Every step of the way we’re going to come across somebody.”

      The Raptors open their second-round playoff series at home to James and the Cavs on Tuesday night. Cleveland has eliminated Toronto in two straight postseasons, including the 2016 conference finals and a second-round sweep last year.

      This time, however, Toronto is the top-seeded team in the East after a team-record 59-win season. The Raptors have been off since a Game 6 victory over Washington last Friday night finished their first-round series, while James and the Cavs were pushed to the limit in grinding out a Game 7 win over Indiana on Sunday.

      That’s a stark contrast to 2016, when Cleveland had eight days of rest before facing a Toronto team that had played consecutive seven-game series. Or last year, when the Cavs got a week off while waiting for Toronto to complete a six-game victory over Milwaukee in the opening round.

      ”They’re coming off a series where they were banging and bumping for seven games,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said. ”I think our energy has been great. I think the days off will definitely have helped us a little bit.”

      James, meanwhile Calais Campbell Jersey , has shouldered a heavy load for the Cavs, scoring 40 or more three times in the first round. He played 43 minutes in Game 7, and was briefly forced off the court in the second half because of leg cramps.

      Nevertheless, Raptors coach Dwane Casey expects James to be fully fresh once tip-off time arrives Tuesday.

      ”I don’t believe he’s tired,” Casey said. ”He’s on a mission. I’m not saying he’s a lying man, but I don’t think he’s tired.”

      These Cavs don’t have All-Star guard Kyrie Irving anymore, either, while Toronto has flourished with a new emphasis on ball movement and 3-point shooting.

      ”We have a great opportunity ahead of us to show how good of a team we’ve been,” Lowry said. ”We’re ready.”

      DeRozan agreed, saying there’s ”no question” the Raptors are better equipped to face Cleveland than in years past.

      ”I feel it,” DeRozan said. ”We all have that confidence in ourselves.”

      Some other things to watch in the series between the Cavaliers and the Raptors:

      BENCH MOB

      Lowry and DeRozan started resting before their first-round series with the Wizards was even over. Lowry played 31 minutes in the clincher, and DeRozan 33, as Toronto’s deep bench took over in the fourth quarter. The reserve unit was bolstered by the return of guard Fred VanVleet, who had missed all but three minutes of the first five games because of a sore right shoulder. Pascal Siakam led Toronto’s bench with 11 points in Game 6 as the Raptors outscored Washington 29-14 in the fourth.

      ”That’s the type of intensity that we need from every quarter, every time we step on the floor,” Siakam said. ”That’s what we want, just being able to wear down our opponent and playing physical.”

      HOME SWEET HOME

      The Raptors matched Houston with an NBA-leading 34-7 home record during the regular season and won all three home games against Washington in the first round. Toronto’s two wins against Cleveland in the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals came north of the border, and its only win in three meetings with the Cavs this season happened at home, a 133-99 win on Jan. 11.

      ”They’re a very tough team that plays well at home T.Y. Hilton Jersey ,” Cavaliers forward Kevin Love said. ”They’re another team, like Indiana, that can play a number of different ways. They have bigs that are somewhat unorthodox and can play inside or outside, pick and pop. They have a lot of guards, especially those two guys out front in Lowry and DeRozan, that are going to be very tough to stop.”

      FINALS FOUR

      Cavs coach Tyronn Lue used four different starting lineups against the Pacers, but the one he went to in Game 7 might stick for a while. Lue started Kyle Korver alongside James, Love, Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith – the four remaining players from Cleveland’s 2016 championship team. The move was as savvy as it was desperate, but it worked. Now Lue, who has used 34 starting lineups this season, has something to fall back on if things don’t go as planned against the Raptors.

      ”We’ve been in situations before,” James said of the Game 7 starters. ”We’ve played big games before so that’s a comfort starting the game.”

      BY GEORGE

      Back spasms sidelined Cavs guard George Hill for three games against Indiana, but he returned in Game 7 and sparked Cleveland. Hill attacked the rim and finished with 11 points – nine on free throws – and had six rebounds and three assists while playing the final 19 minutes. He gives the Cavs not only another ball handler to take pressure off James, but a dependable veteran who has been through playoff battles with San Antonio and Indiana. The 31-year-old has played in 87 postseason games, starting 75.

      ”George is a really good player,” Lowry said. ”He’s been doing this a long time. Having a healthy Hill helps them.”

      Hill had one of his best games wi Carolina Panthers Customized Jerseys

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