SPORTS

Stanley Cup Stories: Conference finals getting closer

05/31/2013 12:35 EDT | Updated 07/30/2013 05:12 EDT
Four teams are one step closer to the Stanley Cup final, while two squads are wondering what went wrong after their second-round exits. That plus more in our Stanley Cup Stories from Thursday:

1. With the conference finals officially set to kick off in a couple of days, the remaining teams are looking ahead to Saturday. In the West, the Los Angeles Kings will be hoping to find their offence in the series opener against the Chicago Blackhawks (5 p.m. ET), and the Pittsburgh Penguins will hope to get by the pesky Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the East final (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 8 p.m. ET). Hockey Night in Canadahas you covered for the entire East series, plus Game 4 and up (if necessary) in the West. CBCSports.ca senior hockey writer Tim Wharnsby has offered up his previews and predictions, and he's taking the Kings in 6 — and it doesn't necessarily have to do with L.A. re-signing Robyn Regehr — while he believes the Penguins-Bruins matchup will go down to the wire, with Pittsburgh prevailing in seven games. What are your predictions? If you're looking for a few extra incentives to tune in to the two series, here are eight reasons why Canadians should keep following the playoffs.

2. Two teams that suffered the same heartbreaking fate are looking at their second-round defeats in very different ways. The San Jose Sharks, who fell in Game 7 to the Kings, have found several positives going forward. But the Detroit Red Wings aren't as enthusiastic about their seven-game series loss to the Blackhawks. General manager Ken Holland said 'it stings' after his team blew a 3-1 lead.

3. The New York Rangers had high hopes after last season's Eastern Conference final appearance, but they struggled this year and were almost swept by the Bruins in the semifinals, while several star players failed to consistently produce. One of the most polarizing and outspoken bench bosses in the NHL took the blame as John Tortorella was relieved of his coaching duties on Wednesday. Should he have been fired? Watch as Hockey Night Online's Rob Pizzo and Gord Stellick open up the debate.

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