The Western Conference is in danger of being a three-way battle with the Eastern Conference and the Atlantic Division, with the New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues playing their first games on Thursday night in the series opener.
Here’s who could make it to the Stanley Cup Final in the Eastern and Pacific Divisions.
LA Kings (9-5-3) — The Kings are still searching for their first win over a playoff team since Feb. 18, 2015, and they will have to do so against the St. James’ Blues (8-4-3).
The Kings won four of five games against the Blues last season and have a combined 9-5 record against the teams they have played in the playoffs.
St. Joes have won five of the past six meetings between the teams.
They beat the Blues 3-1 in overtime last season.
“They’re a good team, but they’ve been getting better every year,” said Kings coach Darryl Sutter.
“We have to be better on the road, we have to get better on our own ice.”
They will face a tough St. John’s team that has allowed a league-worst .500 record in its past eight games.
“Our defense has been a problem.
It’s tough to play them,” said Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko.
“When they get on the ice, they have to take care of the puck, and that’s been the problem.”
The Kings have won four straight games over the Blues, including a 6-1 victory last season at Staples Center.
They will look to bounce back against the team that beat them in St. Petersburg last season, when the Blues scored the only goal in the first two periods and led 3-0 at halftime.
St Louis has allowed four goals in the past five games.
Edmonton Oilers (6-7-3), Washington Capitals (6