This team will not be discussed in this post.

The Leafs will not be discussed in this post. (BLAIR GABLE/REUTERS)

We’re only one horrible, awful work day away from the opening game of the 2011-2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs! The anticipation is certainly building and I know you’ve been reading all about the impending ‘Hawks/Coyotes series. I wanted to gloss over a few things related to the Blackhawks and then get you up to speed with the rest of the league.

Sean O’Donnell has been skating with Niklas Hjalmarrson this week on the third pair during practice. I can’t be the only person who is a tad apprehensive about this. I understand that this playoff series does not hinge on the play of the 6th ‘Hawks defenseman, but I’m not sure why Dylan Olsen was benched after he appeared to be coming along quite nicely down the stretch. Despite appearing in the final regular season game, it doesn’t appear that Sami Lepisto is going to see much ice time, if any, over the next few weeks either, so that leaves us with OD. Maybe the Blackhawks don’t want to dress two extremely young defenseman (the other being Nick Leddy) in a playoff series, but the burden of proof will be on OD to show he can keep pace in a playoff game. On the upside, the old man has been around the block, appearing in 104 career playoff games. He’s been here before.

♦  It hasn’t always worked out when tried in the past – but Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa are skating together this week in practice. If you’re standing near Keith Yandle and Derek Morris, you probably smell something putrid lingering. We should not forget that Viktor Stalberg and Marcus Kruger elevating their games made this possible. Those two are rolling along great with the always dependable Patrick Sharp. With that second line rolling, the top six of the Blackhawks is as strong as any team in the NHL. Goals will be scored.

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♦ It’ll be interesting to see which ‘Black Aces” (aka Ice Hogs) the Blackhawks let tag along to Phoenix (cue another round of the seemingly endless Kyle Beach debates) with them. One has to imagine guys like Jeremy Morin and Brandon Pirri will be among them. It certainly doesn’t tell us everything we need to know about what the ‘Hawks think about their younger players, but it won’t stop us from reading into it!

Mike Smith is one of the hottest and most talked about goaltenders in the NHL right now. If Corey Crawford can match his play or out-duel Smith , it should give Crow a tremendous boost in confidence should the ‘Hawks advance.

♦ Prediction : Both Adrian Aucoin and Radim Vrbata will score an annoying goal at some point in this series. Both are poised to shoot to the top of the villain list in minds of many Blackhawks fans.

Daniel Sedin appears to have suffered a setback for the Cancuks. You might remember Sedin catching a Duncan Keith elbow a few weeks ago during a Blackhawks victory at United Center. This is a big blow to the Canucks as they prepare to face a pretty formidable #8 seed in the Los Angles Kings. It looks like the Canucks will roll with a top line of Mason Raymond-Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows.

♦ In Los Angles, they are still missing Simon Gagne (concussion symptoms) and  just lost Brad Richardson after he needed to have an appendectomy. Los Angles has recalled highly regarded prospect Andrei Loktionov.

With Brian Elliott hurt, it appears Jaroslav Halak will get the start in Game One for the Blues.

The Rangers have signed their 2009 1st round pick Chris Kreider. There is some speculation that he could join the Rangers playoff roster, but I seriously doubt there is anything to that.

If you chose to watch something other than the Pittsburgh/Philadelphia game tomorrow night, you’re not a hockey fan.