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Playoff prediction: Wings get past first round; Chicago tops Montreal for Cup

DETROIT >> Breakdown and predictions of the first round of the NHL playoffs.

Eastern Conference
Tampa Bay vs. Detroit
The Wings stumbled their way into the playoffs, going 8-10-3 down the stretch. They also lost the season series with Tampa Bay, 1-2-1, but did blank the highest-scoring offense (3.16 goals per game average) in the last meeting. Both teams are starting goalies who have no playoff experience. If the Wings can win on the road, they’ll get a team that’s struggled away from home in the Lightning (18-16-7).
Pick: Detroit in seven.

Montreal vs. Ottawa
Ottawa put together quite a run to reach the playoffs due in large part to goalie Andrew Hammond, who went 20-1-2 since taking over as the starter, and Mark Stone, who had seven goals over the last six games. The Senators have also won the past three meetings with Montreal by a combined score of 13-5. Montreal’s Carey Price led the NHL in wins (44), goals-against average (1.96) and save percentage (.933), but has struggled against Ottawa in two games.
Pick: Montreal in six.

New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh
This could be a quick series given the direction these teams are going. The Rangers won the Presidents’ Trophy with 113 points and outscored Pittsburgh 16-7 in going 3-0-1 in the season series. The Penguins went 4-9-2 in their last 15 games.
Pick: New York Rangers in five.

Washington vs. New York Islanders
This series features two of the league’s top point producers – the Islanders’ John Tavares (86) and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin (81). Ovechkin led the league with 53 goals. The Capitals have ridden Braden Holtby all season, as he appeared in 73 of the 82 regular season games.
Pick: Washington in five.

Western Conference
St. Louis vs. Minnesota
The Blues won the Central Division and have to face the hottest team in the league since Jan. 15. The Wild are 28-9-3 since Devan Dubnyk took over in goal. St. Louis has had little success in the playoffs the last two seasons, winning the first two games in each series before dropping the next four.
Pick: Minnesota in seven.

Nashville vs. Chicago
Both teams did a remarkable job staying in playoff contention despite losing key members for a good length of time. Chicago’s Patrick Kane missed the final 21 games of the season with a broken clavicle, while Nashville’s Pekka Rinne missed close to a month with a sprained knee. Kane has been cleared to return.
Pick: Chicago in six.

Anaheim vs. Winnipeg
This series will come down to goaltending like most do in the playoffs and both teams don’t have a clear-cut No. 1. Over the last 18 games, the Ducks have split starts pretty evenly between Frederik Andersen (10) and John Gibson (eight). The Jets’ Michael Hutchinson replaced Ondrej Pavelec, who then replaced Hutchinson the last month of the season. Pavelec didn’t allow a goal in three starts last week.
Pick: Anaheim in seven.

Vancouver vs. Calgary
An interesting stat from this series: The past three times these teams have met in the playoffs the winner has gone on to reach the Stanley Cup Final. Vancouver hasn’t won a playoff round since 2011, while Calgary, which hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2009, last won a round in 2004.
Pick: Calgary in seven.

Playoff picks
First Round
Eastern Conference
Detroit over Tampa Bay, 7 games
Montreal over Ottawa, 6 games
New York Rangers over Pittsburgh, 5 games
Washington over New York Islanders, 5 games

Western Conference
Minnesota over St. Louis, 7 games
Chicago over Nashville, 6 games
Anaheim over Winnipeg, 7 games
Calgary over Vancouver, 7 games

Semifinals
Eastern Conference
Montreal over Detroit, 6 games
New York Rangers over Washington, 6 games

Western Conference
Chicago over Minnesota, 6 games
Anaheim over Calgary, 5 games

Finals
Eastern Conference
Montreal over New York Rangers, 6 games

Western Conference
Chicago over Anaheim, 7 games

Stanley Cup
Chicago over Montreal, 6 games

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Weiss misses practice due to a funeral; Abdelkader skates on own; Wings power play red hot

DETROIT >> Quick update from Wings’ practice Friday at Joe Louis Arena.

Stephen Weiss missed practice due to a funeral he attended. He’s expected to play Saturday when the Wings host the New York Rangers.

Justin Abdelkader skated for the first time on his own since injuring his shoulder on Sunday. He’s also been sick with the flu.

The Wings worked on the power play at practice which has been red hot of late.

Since starting the season 5-for-46 with the man advantage through their first 12 games, they’ve gone 19-for-58 since.

“I think the biggest thing is we’re just throwing pucks at the net,” Niklas Kronwall said. “We know we’re going to have guys there, we have guy’s net-front that are doing a great job of screening and making it hard for their goalie. The rest of us just have to make sure the puck gets there. Of course, winning face-offs is another huge area. But throwing the puck, I think that’s the biggest key.”

Detroit has at least one power play goal in six straight games.

“I think we’ve just been sticking with it, we believed in what we did,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “Obviously the puck didn’t go in for us from the beginning. I don’t think we made that big of changes to it. One thing we did is shoot a little bit more instead of looking for passes before we shoot. We shoot and then automatically it will open up for us and we can make plays. Also, once you score your confidence goes up and you’re more confident in what you do. That helps.”

Heading into play Friday, the Wings’ power play is ranked sixth best in the league.

Gustavsson out approximately two months

DETROIT >> The diagnosis on the extent of Jonas Gustavsson’s injury is in … he’ll be out approximately two months.

Wings general manager Ken Holland said in a text message that the Wings’ backup goalie will be sidelined for that length with a left shoulder injury.

Gustavsson dislocated his shoulder during the Wings’ 4-3 overtime loss Wednesday night to the New York Rangers.

Gustavsson, who is no stranger to shoulder injuries, was injured reaching for a loose puck in overtime just as the Rangers’ Derick Brassard was firing it into the open net in overtime.

The Wings recalled Petr Mrazek from Grand Rapids on Thursday to replace Gustavsson.

“We feel fortunate we have the depth know in goal,” Holland said on Thursday. “(Mrazek’s) a third-year pro. He had a good preseason. In the few outings he had last year he played good.

“I think in the earlier going with Jimmy Howard, our goaltending has been good,” Holland continued. “(Gustavsson is) 1-1-1. He was a big part in us making the playoffs last year. We’re disappointed he’s gotten this significant injury. From a team standpoint we feel really good we have Petr Mrazek.”

Gustavsson, who signed a one-year deal at $1.85 million this offseason to return to Detroit, spent most of his first two seasons with the Wings on the trainer’s table.

Battling injures from groins to shoulders, Gustavsson appeared in just 34 regular-season games with the Wings over two seasons.

Gustavsson, 30, missed a total of 23 games on five separate occasions with three different types of injuries last season, but groin injuries have been his Achilles heel since signing a free agent deal with the Wings.

When Gustavsson played, he played well last season, going 16-5-4 with a 2.63 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage. He appeared in the final two games of the playoffs, filling in for Howard, who was sidelined with the flu.

Along with missing 18 games due to a groin injury last season, he appeared in just seven of the 48 games during the lockout-shortened first season in Detroit, making just four starts. He didn’t play over the final 27 games of the season, which included the playoffs.

Jonas Gustavsson out “quite a while … we’re talking weeks” according to Wings GM Ken Holland

DETROIT >> Jonas Gustavsson is back in a familiar spot … injured reserve.

Gustavsson will be out “quite a while” after dislocating his left shoulder during the Wings’ 4-3 overtime loss Wednesday night to the New York Rangers.

“We know it’s dislocated because they had to pop it back in after the game last night,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said during a phone interview Thursday. “He’s going to have x-rays later today or (Friday). He’s out quite a while, we’re talking weeks. I don’t know how many. How severe is it? Does it need anymore more than time? I don’t know all that. Bottom line is he’s out quite a while. I just don’t have any timeframe.”

Gustavsson, who is no stranger to shoulder injuries, was injured reaching for a loose puck in overtime just as the Rangers’ Derick Brassard was firing it into the open net in overtime.

“I don’t know if he needs surgery or doesn’t need surgery,” Holland said. “I know it’s dislocated. He’s out for a significant period of time.”

The Wings recalled Petr Mrazek from Grand Rapids to replace Gustavsson.

“We feel fortunate we have the depth know in goal,” Holland said. “(Mrazek’s) a third-year pro. He had a good preseason. In the few outings he had last year he played good.

“I think in the earlier going with Jimmy Howard, our goaltending has been good,” Holland continued. “(Gustavsson is) 1-1-1. He was a big part in us making the playoffs last year. We’re disappointed he’s gotten this significant injury. From a team standpoint we feel really good we have Petr Mrazek.”

Gustavsson, who signed a one-year deal at $1.85 million this offseason to return to Detroit, spent most of his first two seasons with the Wings on the trainer’s table.

Battling injures from groins to shoulders, Gustavsson appeared in just 34 regular-season games with the Wings over two seasons.

Gustavsson, 30, missed a total of 23 games on five separate occasions with three different types of injuries last season, but groin injuries have been his Achilles heel since signing a free agent deal with the Wings.

When Gustavsson played, he played well last season, going 16-5-4 with a 2.63 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage. He appeared in the final two games of the playoffs, filling in for Howard, who was sidelined with the flu.

Along with missing 18 games due to a groin injury last season, he appeared in just seven of the 48 games during the lockout-shortened first season in Detroit, making just four starts. He didn’t play over the final 27 games of the season, which included the playoffs.

Playoff predictions … Wings reach postseason; Stars beat Bruins to win Cup

DETROIT >> Wings qualify for the playoffs a 24th consecutive season, but lose in the first round for second straight year.

Playoff Qualifiers

Eastern Conference: Boston, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Columbus, New York Rangers, Montreal, New York Islanders, Detroit

Western Conference: Anaheim, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, St. Louis, San Jose, Minnesota, Vancouver

Semifinals

East: Boston over Pittsburgh

West: Dallas over Chicago

Stanley Cup

Dallas over Boston

Wings lose out on Boyle, but Niskanen still out there; Ehrhoff inks one-year deal with Pens

DETROIT >> An hour and a half into the start of free agency and all the Detroit Red Wings have signed are two of their own … Riley Sheahan and Petr Mrazek.

Sheahan, who was a restricted free agent, inked a two-year deal at an average salary cap hit of $950,000.

Mrazek got a one-year extension, taking his deal through the 2015-16 season, at a cap hit of $737,500.

Detroit lost out on one of the right-handed shooting defensemen when Dan Boyle signed a two-year deal with the New York Rangers for $9 million.

The Wings’ shopping list began with Boyle, who’ll turn 38 next month, and was offering him a two-deal at around $5.5 million a season.

Matt Niskanen (Pittsburgh) remains out there and his price will continue to go up with the lack of right-handed blue liners in this free agent class.

The 27-year old defenseman was looking for a lengthy deal at the maximum seven years and possibly in the upwards of $6 million a season to sign.

The Wings are fine with the length and they may meet his salary demands when all is said and done.

Originally they didn’t seem willing to pay him much more annually than what Niklas Kronwall ($4.75 million) is making.

Niskanen had a career high in goals (10), assists (36) and plus-minus (plus-33) last season with the Penguins.

The Wings, who want their young right-handed defensemen to start the season in Grand Rapids, also could settle on Anton Stralman (New York Rangers) or Stephane Robidas (Anaheim).

Tom Gilbert (Florida) was also a possibility, but he got a two-year deal with the Montreal Canadiens at $5.6 million.

Christian Ehrhoff didn’t take long to sign a one-year deal worth $4 million with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Ehrhoff, who was bought out of the final seven years of a 10-year deal with Buffalo, had the offensive abilities they were looking for. He’s a premier skater who logs a ton of minutes who can move the puck and likes to join the rush. He can also quarterback the power play.

Detroit thought Ehrhoff was asking for a five-year deal and the Wings are only willing to give him three years at roughly $5 million a season.

Detroit had interest in Ehrhoff in 2011 when Brian Rafalski retired, but didn’t want to overpay him. There was also talk between the teams a couple of times about possibly trading Ehrhoff to the Wings, but Buffalo decided to hang onto him.

Lefty Michael Del Zotto (Nashville) was also added to the pool of unrestricted free agents on Monday.

The free agent pool for right-handed defensemen is thin and the asking price via a trade – Buffalo’s Tyler Myers or Arizona’s Keith Yandle – is quite steep (Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar or Tomas Jurco).

The Wings had enough money to sign two high-end blue liners.

Detroit has just over $55 million tied up in 19 players for next season and still need to sign restricted free agents Danny DeKeyser and Tomas Tatar.

With the salary cap at $69 million for next season that leaves the Wings close to $10 million to spend on other free agents.

Defenseman Kyle Quincey hit the open market.

Daniel Cleary, who was promised a possible extension after signing a one-year deal on the first day of training camp, could also be back.

Andersson progressing from broken foot

DETROIT >> Joakim Andersson continues to skate, taking part in his first full practice since breaking his foot on March 9 against the New York Rangers.

“It’s day-to-day now,” Andersson said. “I was on the ice for a little bit yesterday and today I was skating with the team, so obviously it’s getting better.

“The foot takes a while to heal, but it’s good enough to skate,” Andersson continued. “I felt pretty good out there, actually.”

Andersson, who has missed five games, said it’s really about how much pain he’s able to tolerate at this point.

“I was skating full out there, I didn’t hold back or anything,” Andersson said. “I can do most stuff out there, I felt like.”