The Dallas Morning News

EASTERN CONFERENCE

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Penguins vs. Blue Jackets

The Penguins will be without top defenseman Kris Letang, and no team has repeated as champion since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998. But they still have 2016 playoff MVP Sidney Crosby and more. The first-round rivalry series features John Tortorella facing longtime assistant Mike Sullivan a year after his good friend and former understudy matched him with one championsh­ip.

Mike Heika’s prediction:

Pittsburgh is beat up and running on fumes. That’s why it’s so tough to repeat in the NHL. Blue Jackets in 6

Rangers vs. Canadiens

The Atlantic Division champion Canadiens and the Rangers are meeting in the playoffs for the first time since the contentiou­s 2014 East finals. New York’s Chris Kreider ran into Montreal goaltender Carey Price, injuring him and knocking him out of the series. Players have long memories, so expect it to be another physical series.

Mike Heika’s prediction: The window for Henrik Lundqvist seems to be closing, plus Canadiens have X-factor in Jordie Benn. Canadiens in 6

Maple Leafs vs. Capitals

The Capitals are far from the ideal opponent for Auston Matthews and the Maple Leafs’ first playoff series. Toronto has nine players who haven’t played in an NHL playoff game, but coach Mike Babcock doesn’t want anyone to wade into games this time of year. “If you want to dip your toe into the water, you’re going to find out it’s boiling,” the Toronto coach said. The Caps are trying to advance past the second round for the first time since getting to the finals in 1998.

Mike Heika’s prediction:

Toronto’s kids are a great story, but Washington is built to win the Cup. Caps should skate through first round. Capitals in 5

Bruins vs. Senators

After shattering his career high with 85 points — and being suspended for spearing — Brad Marchand will have to be the key if the Bruins make a run. The suffocatin­g Senators are up first and have home ice, but if Marchand can get on a roll and pile up the points, Boston won’t be an easy opponent.

Mike Heika’s prediction:

Boston seems like one of those teams that will turn it on when playoffs start. All the pieces are there. Bruins in 5

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