Badger hockey still playing

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We're on the cusp of May and the college hockey season is a memory, but you can still catch Badgers playing hockey on television these days.

There are five alumni left playing in the NHL playoffs and all in the Western Conference. You can catch them live on Versus and NBC over the next couple of weeks.Beginning tonight (Thursday), the Nashville Predators Ryan Suter and Blake Geoffrion take on Vancouver with hopes of advancing to the conference finals. Nashville just won its first-ever playoff series.

Joe Pavelski, Dany Heatley and the San Jose Sharks take on Brian Rafalski and the Detroit Red Wings in the second round beginning Friday. Wisconsin's head coach Mike Eaves will have an added interest in the series as his son Patrick skates for the Red Wings.

Also Friday, the 2011 IIHF World Championships begin in Kosice, Slovakia. The current roster is just shy of one-quarter Badgers, with five of the 23 having skated for Wisconsin. Current Badger forward Craig Smith (Madison, Wis.), is joined by 2011 Second-Team All-American defenseman Jake Gardiner (Minnetonka, Minn.), as well as 2006 NCAA West Regional hero Jack Skille (Madison, Wis.), and New York Ranger teammates Derek Stepan (Hastings, Minn.) and Ryan McDonagh (Arden Hills, Minn.).

The U.S. will face Austria, Norway and Sweden in preliminary-round play April 30 - May 4 before advancing to either the Qualification or Relegation Round. Team USA's first six games will be aired live on Versus, which will also broadcast both of the tournament's semifinal games on May 13 and the gold-medal tilt on May 15.

Badger alum Jim Johannson serves as USA Hockey's Assistant Executive Director, Hockey Operations and is part of the team's staff.

Three Badgers remain in the AHL playoffs, as the league reaches the second round. Ben Street's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins take on the Charlotte Checkers, Kyle Klubertanz' Hamilton Bulldogs face the Manitoba Moose and Robbie Earl's Houston Aeros will battle the Milwaukee Admirals.

The ECHL has reached the conference finals in the Kelly Cup playoffs and one Badger remains. The Victoria Salmon Kings Ryan MacMurchy is the sole survivor.

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