April 30, 2013
East Lansing, Mich. -- - Six Spartans playing in the National Hockey League, as well as two assistant coaches, turn their attention to the post-season as the NHL playoffs begin on Tuesday. Current NHL'ers John-Michael Liles (Toronto), Duncan Keith (Chicago), David Booth (Vancouver), Tim Kennedy (San Jose) and Justin Abdelkader and Drew Miller (Detroit) begin their team's quest for Lord Stanley's Cup, while assistant coaches Newell Brown (Vancouver) and Bob Essensa (Boston), help ready their teams for the run as well.
The San Jose-Vancouver series is the only one with a Spartan playing on each side. Kennedy appeared in 13 games for the Sharks this season (2-0-2, -3), and is with his third NHL team; he began his career with his hometown Buffalo Sabres, then spent two years in the Panthers organization prior to a January 2012 trade to San Jose. The Sharks are seeded third in the west, and will tangle with David Booth and the Vancouver Canucks. Booth is currently on injured reserve, and appeared in his last game on March 13. Booth has played 12 games this season for Vancouver, with a goal and two assists. Newell Brown, who played for MSU in the early `80s alongside current Spartan coaches Tom Anastos and Kelly Miller, is an assistant coach for the Canucks. Brown owns a Stanley Cup ring from 2007 with Anaheim.
Duncan Keith, who won the Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2010, is an alternate captain with the Blackhawks, the eighth full season for him in the NHL and his 10th pro season overall. Keith played in 47 games this season with a 3-24-27 scoring line, and was +13 with 31 PIM. The top-seeded Blackhawks tussle with the Minnesota Wild in the first round.
The Detroit Red Wings open the Stanley Cup Playoffs in Anaheim against the Ducks. Abdelkader has played all 48 games for the Wings, with 10 goals and 13 points. Miller opens the playoffs on injured reserve, but appeared in 44 games with a 4-4-8 line; his last game was against Vancouver on April 20. Both players have had the previous opportunity to experience a long Cup run - Miller won a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007, his first pro season. Abdelkader joined the Wings in 2008 after his final (junior) collegiate season, and was a "Black Ace" throughout the Stanley Cup run for the Wings that year.
The lone Eastern Conference series featuring an MSU alumnus is John-Michael Liles and the Toronto Maple Leafs taking on the Boston Bruins in an Original Six matchup. Liles made 32 appearances for Toronto this season, scoring twice and adding nine assists for 11 points. Liles spent seven years with the Colorado Avalanche prior to a trade to Toronto in advance of the 2011-12 season. On the Boston side, Bob Essensa, who helped the Bruins to the 2011 Cup, is on the staff as the goaltending coach.
MSU's six NHL players join the 12 that have already began post-season runs with American Hockey League (AHL) or East Coast Hockey League (ECHL).
In all, 11 Spartans have won the Stanley Cup. In addition to Miller, Abdelkader, Keith, Essensa, and Brown, Rod Brind'Amour and Andrew Hutchinson (2006, Carolina), Craig Simpson (1988, 1990, Edmonton), Joe Murphy (Edmonton, 1990), and Danton Cole (1995, New Jersey) won as players, Harley Hotchkiss (1988, owner, Calgary Flames) has also captured the most coveted prize in professional hockey.