The ice has been laid in all the buildings (Philadelphia pictured) and it sounds like everything is going to go off without a hitch starting tonight (Wednesday the 14th) with four games on the slate and you can stay up-to-date with the news and important scoring on a nightly basis here on the blog, which is extra helpful if you are a member of this year's Playoff Pool at OpiatedSherpa.com.
I am still entering teams into the pool through Thursday night, giving everyone an equal shot at taking home the crown (and the prize money)... or no money, if you've decided to take the free option. At the time of writing this post, I have already entered in 28 teams into the pool and I have a fair number yet to arrive that I'm expecting.
In 2009, I had 61 teams in the pool and I remain hopeful that we'll get back up to that number again, but I'm not quite counting on it just yet.
This year, I've changed up the goal light animation to make it look a little more like a real light flashing, but I can only do so much. I do, however, like it a lot more than what I've had the past few year, so hopefully we have something new for a few years again.
The game-winning goals statistic is the real catch of the Playoff Pool, as it adds that little bit to the dynamic of the pool that the regular season pools don't have. For every game, I'll make a mention of the players who score game-winners and how they apply to the hockey pool itself. You can always find who scored the winners when you see the flashing light animation.
The Sabres are expecting to have Tim Connolly back in their line-up on Thursday night, as they open up their first round playoff series against the Boston Bruins. Connolly has missed the last nine regular season games with a lower-body injury, which was later acknowledged to be a foot injury. If you have Connolly on your playoff roster, you can breathe a little easier. Jochen Hecht, a Box 18 forward on the Playoff Pool Sheet, will be a game-time decision with his finger injury. Hecht also missed a number of games to finish the season, but is somewhat of a popular player on the pool sheet, so those people can hold their breath just a little while longer as they wait for his clearance to play.
Great news for the Avalanche, as Box 4 forward, Matt Duchene, has been cleared by team doctor's to play in tonight's round one opener against the San Jose Sharks. Duchene skated in practice already this week and will be situated between Box 3 forward Milan Hejduk and Box 7 forward Brandon Yip on the team's second line. Duchene did miss the team's last game of the season with the torso injury, but it wasn't considered to be too serious, which it obviously wasn't.
The playoffs do officially kick-off on Wednesday night and the first puck to drop will be in Pittsburgh, as Sidney Crosby and his Penguins host Brian Elliot and the Senators. That game will drop at 5pm Mountain Time on CBC up here in Canada and on Versus for my American poolies, which I'm proud to say we have a few this year!
Next on the docket is the other Eastern Conference battle, as the Flyers take on the the Devils in the swamp in New Jersey. That's a 5:30pm MT start on TSN in Canada and it looks like its just a local broadcast in the States on Comcast.
At 8pm on TSN and Versus, the Red Wings travel to the desert to take on the Coyotes and at 8:30pm on CBC and an alternate Versus channel, the Avalanche are in San Jose to take on the Sharks.