May 15, 2009
East Lansing, Mich. - For the past three seasons, at least one Spartan has raised Lord Stanley's Cup at the end of the National Hockey League playoffs. Now that the playoffs enter the Conference Finals, three Spartans are still in the hunt for perhaps the most famous trophy in sports.
The gritty Rod Brind'Amour helped lead the Carolina Hurricanes into the Eastern Conference finals with a dramatic overtime game-seven victory over Boston on Thursday. The `Canes now will take on the Pittsburgh Penguins in a series that begins Monday evening in Pittsburgh. Brind'Amour has been a bit snakebitten this postseason, but potted the opening goal in the game-seven victory. He had 16 goals and 35 assists in the regular season.
The Western Conference final features two former bearers of the Green and White - blueliner Duncan Keith is an alternate captain for the Chicago Blackhawks, who dispatched the Vancouver Canucks in the only second-round series not to go seven games. Keith has five assists in the playoffs and is a +4, after a 44-point regular season (8g, 36a).
The defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings called up Justin Abdelkader after the end of the season for the AHL-affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins. The rookie appeared in two regular-season games for the Red Wings last year and was a member of the "Black Aces" for the 2008 playoffs after opting to forego his senior season at MSU. He had an outstanding year as a first-year pro, ranking second in points with 24-28-52, earning AHL All-Rookie Team honors and leading the Griffins in playoff scoring with six goals. Grand Rapids fell to Manitoba in the conference semifinals, and Abdelkader found himself quickly on his way to Detroit. He made his NHL playoff debut on May 10 and recorded an assist, and appeared in the final three games of the series against the Ducks.
The Wings-Blackhaws series kicks off on Sunday in Detroit.
Last year, Abdelkader's work with the "Black Aces" saw him on the ice with the Stanley Cup aloft; the previous season, it was Drew Miller and Newell Brown with the Anaheim Ducks. Brind'Amour and Andrew Hutchinson were on the Carolina Hurricanes squad who captured the 2006 Cup.