April 11, 2012
East Lansing, Mich. - Five Spartans are readying for the National Hockey League Playoffs, which begin tonight. A total of 16 former MSU skaters played in the NHL this season. In addition to players, there are two coaches and a staff member on playoff-bound NHL teams as well. Of those not qualifying for the playoffs, two Spartans were among the first 17 rostered players announced today by USA Hockey.
Closest to campus, the duo of Justin Abdelkader and Drew Miller and their Detroit Red Wings teammates will take on the Nashville Predators in their first-round series, which begins tonight (Wednesday) in Nashville. Another series beginning Wednesday is the Vancouver Canucks, which feature not only former Spartan forward David Booth, but also have alum Newell Brown behind the Canucks bench. Brown previously won a Stanley Cup on the staff of the Anaheim Ducks in 2007, where Drew Miller also won a Stanley Cup. Vancouver will play the LA Kings in the first round.
Chicago gets Phoenix in the first round, and former Stanley Cup winner Duncan Keith and the Blackhawks begin their quest for their second Cup in three seasons against first-round foe Phoenix. The Florida Panthers make their first playoff appearance in nine years, putting defenseman Mike Weaver in the playoffs against the New Jersey Devils in the first round.
One other series - Washington vs. Boston - features a Spartan behind an NHL bench, Bob Essensa and the Bruins begin their title defense against the Captials. Junior defenseman Torey Krug made his NHL debut with the Bruins on April 3 and recorded his first NHL point two days later, but Krug is ineligible to play in the Stanley Cup playoffs because he signed a free-agent contract after the deadline.
Of the former Spartan players not earning a playoff bid with their NHL squads, two got nearly-immediate pick-me-ups by being chosen for the United States team that will compete at the IIHF World Championships. Blueliner Jeff Petry, who is in his second pro season with the Edmonton Oilers, and forward Jim Slater of the Winnipeg Jets were among the first 17 rostered players announced by USA Hockey on Wednesday. It will be Petry's first opportunity to represent the United States.