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Dominik Hasek, Ray Emery among players to watch in NHL playoffs

The Canadian Press
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The Hockey News
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Dominik Hasek, Ray Emery among players to watch in NHL playoffs

The Canadian Press
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Western Conference

1. Dominik Hasek, Detroit Red Wings - For all the good things Detroit has going for it up front and on the blue-line, its fortunes lay almost entirely on the health and performance of the 42-year-old Czech native. If his groin stays healthy, the Wings can win the Stanley Cup.

2. Chris Pronger, Anaheim Ducks - The all-star defenceman was the No. 1 reason Edmonton reached the Stanley Cup final last spring. Expect another monster playoff performance from one of the league's top defencemen as the Ducks try to win their first-ever Cup.

3. Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks - He is the reason other teams in the West fear facing the Canucks in the post-season. On the other hand, he's never played a playoff game in his career. Fear not Canucks fans, he's up to the challenge.

4. Peter Forsberg, Nashville Predators - The usually patient and frugal Predators acquired him in a blockbuster deal because they felt he was the missing piece to put them over the top. Time will tell whether the oft-injured centre can sustain the rigour of two months of playoff hockey.

5. Jonathan Cheechoo, San Jose Sharks - The pride of Moose Factory, Ont., wasn't able to duplicate his 56-goal season of a year ago but a super playoff performance will make everyone forget about that.

6. Marty Turco, Dallas Stars - The all-star netminder was shaky in a first-round playoff loss last season and this year has battled backup Mike Smith for playing time. Which Turco will show up this spring?

7. Marian Gaborik, Minnesota Wild - He would have likely scored 50 goals this season had he not been injured in the first half. Arguably the most dangerous goal-scorer in the NHL and the difference maker for Minnesota.

8. Daymond Langkow, Calgary Flames - A breakout year needs to be followed by an equally productive playoff for one of the NHL's most underrated players.

9. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings - With a new US$46.9-million, seven-year contract extension, the star forward has to step up and improve a playoff resume that includes only three goals in 42 career post-season games.

10. Markus Naslund, Vancouver Canucks - Can the captain put a frustrating regular season behind him and turn it up a notch in the playoffs?

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Eastern Conference

1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins - The 19-year-old league scoring leader and likely next great superstar will see his first NHL playoff action after leading the Pens to the post-season for the first time in four years.

2. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils - After posting more than 40 wins for a sixth time, the 34-year-old is gunning for a fourth Stanley Cup and will need to be at his top level playing behind the lowest-scoring team to make the playoffs.

3. Jaromir Jagr, New York Rangers - Injured in last year's playoffs, when the Blueshirts were bounced in the first round by New Jersey, the veteran scoring star will be in the spotlight on a New York team with better defence and more grit this time around.

4. Vincent Lacavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning - The gifted centre drafted first overall in 1998 finally had his big year, leading the NHL in goal-scoring. He had 16 points in 23 games when Tampa Bay won the Cup in 2004.

5. Ray Emery, Ottawa Senators - The combative goaltender helped Ottawa win one round of playoffs as a rookie last spring, but does he have the temperament and the game to take a team with plenty of talent farther?

6. Chris Drury, Buffalo Sabres - The post-season is the hard-working centre's time to shine, as his 35 career playoff goals show. Drury has a knack for scoring the big goal in important games.

7. Ilya Kovalchuk, Atlanta Thrashers - The dynamic winger's production fell off this season, but now he and the Thrashers are to play for the first time in the post-season, when some young talents blossom and others wilt.

8. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh - Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal make the fancy plays, but without goaltending the young Pens will go nowhere. That's where Fleury, the top draft pick of 2003, can make a statement in his first NHL post-season.

9. Jason Spezza, Ottawa - The flashy playmaking centre had 14 points in 10 playoff games last year and must keep up that pace on an Ottawa team that may go farther this spring.

10. Sean Avery, Rangers - The scrappy winger seemed to breathe life into the Rangers when he was acquired in February. In the playoffs, no doubt he'll clobber someone, or someone will clobber him - or both.

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Dominik Hasek, Ray Emery among players to watch in NHL playoffs