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Sedins Look for Fresh Start as Western Conference Final Approaches

For the first time in 17 years, the Vancouver Canucks are off to the Western Conference Final. After eliminating the Nashville Predators in 6 hard fought games, the Canucks now get an opportunity to rest, heal their bumps and bruises, and await the winner of the San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings.

It is widely speculated that Henrik Sedin is fighting an injury, as the sudden drop in his play and mobility is difficult to explain otherwise - which makes the break all the more beneficial to the Canucks, who will need more from Henrik and Daniel to do damage in the third round of the playoffs. Mikael Samuelsson is also trying to recover from a lower body injury and his timetable for a return is uncertain, the Canucks could use the winger's experience and timely goal scoring down the stretch drive.

With the Wings and Sharks still slugging it out, the two possible matchups for the Canucks in the Western Conference Final are definitely intriguing in their own ways. The Sharks pose a very different threat than the Detroit Red Wings, San Jose is a much bigger, more physical team that has traditionally given the Canucks trouble in seasons past. Don't forget the former Canuck factor, which has followed the Canucks around in these playoffs, in Round 1 against Ryan Johnson, Round 2 against Shane O'Brien, and a possible Round 3 meeting with Kyle Wellwood.

There is also the Antti Niemi storyline. The Finnish goaltender was part of the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks team that eliminated the Vancouver Canucks and went on to the win the Stanley Cup just a year ago. He was identified as a possible weakness last season in the series against Vancouver, but ended up being a big reason as to why the Hawks were able to advance past the Canucks and win their first Stanley Cup in 46 years.

Let's not count out the Detroit Red Wings just yet though, a team with this much experience and all the momentum in their series against San Jose right now just can't be overlooked. Henrik Zetterberg is back and playing well, Nicklas Lidstrom looks 10 years younger and leads the Red Wings in playoff goal scoring, and Pavel Datsyuk is as dangerous as ever. What could hold the Red Wings back from advancing to the Conference Final is their health, Johan Franzen will miss Game 6 against San Jose with an undisclosed injury, needless to say that is a significant loss for Detroit.

If Detroit is able to come back and become only the 4th team in NHL history to win a series after trailing 3 games to none, there are two schools of thought. The first being that the Red Wings are going to be flying high after such an emotional comeback, although others will argue that a draining 7 games series win against the San Jose Sharks would empty the gas tank for Detroit. Whichever way you look at it, whether its San Jose or Detroit, it's going to take much better performances from Henrik and Daniel Sedin for the Canucks to get by either Western Conference powerhouse.

If the Canucks play Detroit:

The Canucks should have more room to create chances offensively than they saw against Nashville, Ryan Kesler is a Michigan native, and traditionally plays some of his best hockey in Detroit. Expect a continuation of Kesler's leadership and dominance, the Canucks should be able to take this series in 6 or 7 games.

If the Canucks play San Jose:

The tougher of the two possible matchups, the Sharks depth up front is an advantage for San Jose. Although the Canucks blueline is the deeper and more experienced of the two. Expect a long series that can go either way. If Henrik and Daniel can get on track 5 on 5, Canucks in 6, if not, this one goes 7 games and is a coin flip.

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