Sports 101

The National Hockey League teams competing in the Stanley Cup conference semifinals are making their shots count. Canada is well-represented, with three teams from different provinces competing. In the Eastern Conference, it's Washington versus Ottawa and Montreal versus Buffalo. In the West, Dallas and Edmonton are battling it out. So are Detroit and St. Louis. Next stop? The conference finals later this month.

Q: How do the playoffs work?

A: The top eight teams from each conference (East and West) that finish with the most points - based on how many wins and ties they had during the regular season - make it to the playoffs. During the first round, called the conference quarterfinals, the division champions get the top two spots, while the rest of the teams are ranked by their record. The eight winning teams then participate in the conference semifinals, which are taking place right now. The four winning teams then compete in the conference finals to determine the Eastern and Western champions. These two teams compete for the Stanley Cup trophy.

Q: When a player is "in the crease," where is he?

A: Also known as the goal crease, it's a semicircle marked on the ice in front of each goal, six feet in radius and two inches in width, that protects the goaltender from intruding forwards and defensemen. No attacking player's skates may enter the goal crease.

Q: Are the markings and team logos you see beneath the ice painted on the floor beneath the ice, or are they painted on the ice?

A: A special bonding adhesive tape/paint is placed in the ice, and then layers of ice are frozen over it. It's a paint made especially for ice rinks.

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