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NHL 142 43 Eastern Conference finals preview: Bruins vs. Penguins 31784364 Prediction Prediction NHL

As long as goalie Tomas Vokoun doesn’t implode, Pittsburgh has enough talent, led by captain Sidney Crosby (pictured), to seize this series. Penguins in six.

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NHL 142 43 Eastern Conference finals preview: Bruins vs. Penguins 31784361 Pick the hero Pick+the+hero NHL

Bruins: Milan Lucic (pictured) won’t be scratched — like he was by Bruins coach Claude Julien late in the regular season — any time soon. Sure, defenseman Zdeno Chara may be taller, but Lucic could have an even bigger impact this series. He needs to toss his body around against what most deem a deeper Pens lineup. A few dirty goals won’t hurt, either.

Penguins: The Penguins have rambled on without a healthy Sidney Crosby more than a few times in recent years. But it’s time that Crosby — who missed long swatches of time due to a concussion and more recently a broken jaw — to excel again. Pittsburgh may need every contribution from Sid to get back to the Cup Final.

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NHL 142 43 Eastern Conference finals preview: Bruins vs. Penguins 31784363 Little names can make a big difference Little+names+can+make+a+big+difference NHL

Bruins: Nathan Horton may not necessarily be a “little” name, but he could have a point to prove as the Bruins attempt to make it back to the Cup Final. He was carted off the ice on a stretcher after a vicious hit by Vancouver’s Aaron Rome in Game 3 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Horton missed the rest of the series due to a concussion.

Penguins: Tyler Kennedy (pictured) was a healthy scratch for the first four games of the second round against the Senators. When he was inserted into the lineup, the forward netted his sixth career playoff game-winning goal. He’s the kind of gritty forward who typically makes an impact for the Pens.

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NHL 142 43 Eastern Conference finals preview: Bruins vs. Penguins 31784362 Changes since winning the Cup Changes+since+winning+the+Cup NHL

Bruins: The most noticeable change is the absence of Tim Thomas (pictured), the goalie whose void was first noticed when he refused to attend White House visit in 2012. Veteran forward Mark Recchi has also retired. Tyler Seguin, a rookie when the Bruins won the Cup in 2011, has emerged one of Boston’s top scoring threats.

Penguins: The nucleus — Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin — is still together. The skaters around the duo have improved, partly because there was no choice. The duo has missed large chunks of time due to injury since the Pens claimed the 2009 title. James Neal added depth when he was acquired a couple of seasons ago, and, more recently, veterans Jarome Iginla and Brendan Morrow have filled any leadership void needed. The Pens also have a more viable backup — well, now the starter — in goalie Tomas Vokoun.

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NHL 142 43 Eastern Conference finals preview: Bruins vs. Penguins 31784360 Goalie breakdown Goalie+breakdown NHL

Bruins: Tuukka Rask didn’t play a single minute when the Bruins beat the Vancouver Canucks in seven games to win the Stanley Cup in 2011. He didn’t have to. Tim Thomas was that solid. Thomas has since receded into the wilderness and Rask has shown — despite a few hiccups like falling down in against the Rangers in Game 4 last round — to be up to the challenge. He does, however, remain the only goalie to make it this far in the playoffs without a postseason shutout, and his stats, while solid, aren’t overwhelming.

Penguins: It's amazing that Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma’s decision to replace Marc-Andre Fleury as the starter was controversial a couple of weeks back. Credit Tomas Vokoun (pictured), a solid veteran with limited playoff credentials for stepping right in there. He had a shutout in Game 5 against the New York Islanders in the first round and has posted a .941 save percentage that is second only to Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick for tops in the playoffs.

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NHL 142 43 Eastern Conference finals preview: Bruins vs. Penguins 31784359 Head to head Head+to+head NHL

The Penguins went 3-0-0 vs. Bruins in the regular season, but each game was decided by a single goal. In aggregate, the Pens outscored the Bruins by only 8-5. (Pens goalie Tomas Vokoun, who began the playoffs as the backup before he was tapped as the starter, had the last two wins and posted a 1.50 goal-against average in those games.) Along with winning all three meetings this season, the Pens have won eight consecutive playoff games against the Bruins. Jaromir Jagr, now a member of the Bruins, and his then-flowing locks were key in many of those victories two decades ago.

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NHL 142 43 Eastern Conference finals preview: Bruins vs. Penguins 31784358 Bruins, Penguins for the East Bruins%2C+Penguins+for+the+East NHL

The last time these two teams met in the playoffs, Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Tom Barrasso were en route to claiming the Penguins’ second Stanley Cup in a row. Twenty-one years later, plenty has changed, even if Jagr is still around — albeit in a Bruins uniform. Both teams have moved into new arenas and each has won a Cup since. Here’s FOXSports.com's breakdown of the East finals.

— A.J. Perez

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