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NHL Playoffs :: 5 Players to Watch

As the two-month movie that is the NHL playoffs prepares to begin, here are five players to keep your eyes on as the curtain rises.

1. Olli Jokinen – At the trade deadline, the Calgary Flames pried the Finnish center out of a Phoenix Coyote team long since eliminated from contention. Jokinen enters the NHL’s post-season run for the Stanley Cup with the dubious distinction of having played the most games, over 780 or almost ten seasons, without ever making an appearance in the playoffs. With his new team, Jokinen will finally get a chance to shine in the post-season, and will be counted on, along with Flames’ stalwarts Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff, to lead Calgary deep into the playoffs.

2. Alexandre Burrows – The undrafted, free agent from Pincourt, Quebec has risen to budding star status; and is a strong candidate for one of the coveted invitations to try out for Canada’s 2010 Olympic team. Burrows has 28 goals thus far for the Vancouver Canucks this season, many of them coming at crucial moments, and none on the power play. The relentless winger recently inked a four year eight million-dollar extension; a deal that suddenly seems like a bargain for the Canucks.

3. Rick Nash – the former first over all pick, and Team Canada stalwart, leads the Columbus Blue Jackets into their first ever post season. The power forward and hopes to carry the now hockey mad Ohio area through their first blush of Stanley Cup fever.

4. Joe Thornton – Most people agree that the San Jose Sharks stole from the Boston Bruins a few years ago; the centre is widely considered among the top five players in the entire game. But Thornton has rarely shown that form in the NHL Playoffs. With a deep, talent laden Sharks team, this might finally be Joe’s year.

5. Tim Thomas – Thomas is now being considered a serious candidate for the Veizna trophy as the league’s top goalie. Thomas was an undrafted and unwanted player who fought his way from the nether regions of professional hockey to lead his Boston Bruins to the top of the Eastern conference. Whoever ends up with the final playoff spot in the Eastern conference will have to solve the riddle of Thomas: he is a goalie with seemingly little idea of form, who nevertheless keeps the puck out.

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