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Sunday, April 8, 2012
Updated: April 11, 10:35 AM ET
Five Conn Smythe candidates

By Scott Burnside
ESPN.com

1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

All Crosby has done since returning from a second round of concussion symptoms is average about two points a game, and should he stay healthy, he makes the Penguins favorites to return to their third Stanley Cup finals since 2008 and win their second Cup in that span. If they get there, rest assured No. 87 will be leading the way.

2. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

If the Penguins are going to be stopped, it'll likely be by a red-hot goaltender, and the top team in the Eastern Conference certainly has that in Vezina Trophy favorite Lundqvist.

3. Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks

It has been a disappointing season in many regards for the defending Frank J. Selke Trophy winner, but if ever there was a player made for the postseason, it's Kesler, and the Canucks look as good as any team in the West heading into the postseason.

4. Ryan Suter, Nashville Predators

It says here that while captain Shea Weber will likely win his first Norris Trophy and get loads of press as the playoffs roll along, it'll be his defense partner, Suter, who is the key to a long spring for the Preds, given the ice time he logs and the poise he displays in clearing the puck out of danger.

5. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings

If there is a dark horse in the talent-heavy Western Conference, it's the Kings, who have finally found a reliable offense to go with a very stingy defense. At the core of the team's third straight playoff appearance has been Quick, who, even in the lean times before head coach Terry Murray was replaced by Darryl Sutter, was a rock. The sky's the limit if he can keep that up.