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NHL Morning Skate: Stanley Cup Playoffs Edition – May 17, 2023

* The new-look Conference Finals open Thursday and are set to feature a mix of notable players either returning to the round before the Stanley Cup Final or reaching the final-four series for the first time in their NHL career.

* The 2023 Conference Finals will mark the second time in Stanley Cup Playoffs history that the round before the Final features multiple head coaches facing a franchise with whom they previously held the same role.

* The 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs Interactive Information Guide has been updated through the Second Round.

FINAL FOUR FEATURES PLENTY OF PLAYERS WITH CONFERENCE FINALS EXPERIENCE

Players that have dressed at least one contest in the 2023 playoffs with the four remaining teams have combined for nearly 500 games played in the Conference Finals/Semifinals and over 200 in the Stanley Cup Final. Meanwhile, 88% (82/93) of players remaining in the 2023 postseason (min. 1 GP dressed) are in search of their first championship.
 


William KarlssonJonathan MarchessaultBrayden McNabbReilly Smith and Shea Theodore have appeared in all 16 Conference Finals/Semifinals games contested by the Golden Knights and can become the first players to play in each of a franchise’s first 20 games during the round before the Stanley Cup Final since Patrick Marleau with the Sharks from 2004 to 2016 (21 GP). Mark Stone has skated 18 career Conference Finals/Semifinals games, which trail only his former Senators teammate Jean-Gabriel Pageau (20 GP) for the most among active players who have never appeared in the championship series.

Derek Stepan (18 GP), Paul Stastny (16 GP), Jordan Staal (13 GP), Brent Burns (12 GP) and Teuvo Teravainen (10 GP) are the Hurricanes players that have at least 10 games of Conference Finals/Semifinals experience. Teravainen, who is expected to return to the lineup, is one of six current Carolina players that dressed at least one game with the Hurricanes during the 2019 Eastern Conference Final (also Staal, Sebastian AhoJordan MartinookBrett Pesce & Jaccob Slavin, min. 1 GP in 2023 playoffs).

Marc (19 GP) and Eric Staal (17 GP), the latter of whom spent parts of his first 12 seasons with Carolina, have the most games of Conference Finals/Semifinals experience among current Panthers players. The 2023 Eastern Conference Final is set to be the first Stanley Cup Playoffs series to feature three siblings each dressing at least one game since the 1992 Division Semifinals between the Blackhawks and Blues (BrentRich Ron Sutter).

Joe Pavelski (25 GP) has appeared in the most career Conference Finals/Semifinals games among all remaining players, with Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez (24 GP) ranking second. Pavelski has posted career totals of 6-13—19 in those contests, including 1-1—2 in five games versus Vegas during the 2020 Western Conference Final.
 

ROOKIES, VETERANS VYING FOR FIRST CUP SET TO MAKE CONFERENCE FINALS DEBUT
The 2023 Conference Finals also feature no shortage of players who will make their first career appearance in the round before the Stanley Cup Final, with the cohort ranging from rookies that just celebrated their 20th birthday to 1,400-game NHL veterans.

Wyatt Johnston scored the clinching goal in each of the Stars’ first two series, with the latter winner ensuring that him and teammate Ryan Suter will appear in the Conference Finals for the first time in their NHL career.Suter (1,470 GP) is set to eclipse Roman Hamrlik (1,317 GP before 2010 CF) for the highest combined games total by a player before his first career appearance in a Conference Finals/Semifinals.

Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart reached the NHL’s final four for the first time after skating 368 games together with the Sabres from 2015-16 to 2020-21. Eichel (476 GP) will be the sixth player in League history to reach the Conference Finals/Semifinals during his first trip to the postseason after appearing in 475 or more regular-season games, joining Ron Hainsey (907 GP before 2017 CF), Zach Bogosian (644 GP before 2020 CF), Justin Faulk (559 GP before 2019 CF), Aaron Broten (519 GP before 1988 CF) and Nathan Horton (502 GP before 2011 CF).

Aleksander Barkov, Aaron EkbladShayne Gostisbehere, Jason Robertson and Matthew Tkachuk are also among the group of notable players set to skate in the Conference Finals/Semifinals for the first time. Barkov and Ekblad have spent their entire career with the Panthers after being selected at No. 2 and No. 1 in the 2013 and 2014 NHL Draft, respectively, while countrymen Robertson and Tkachuk each had a career-high 109 points during the regular season.
 

Photo via @s_ghost14


DeBOER, MAURICE SET TO FACE FORMER FRANCHISES IN CONFERENCE FINALS

Peter DeBoer of the Stars and Paul Maurice of the Panthers will face the Golden Knights and Hurricanes, respectively, in the 2023 Conference Finals. It will mark the second time in Stanley Cup Playoffs history where the round before the Final features multiple head coaches facing a franchise with whom they previously held the same role, following the 2014 Conference Finals (Alain Vigneault vs. MTL & Darryl Sutter vs. CHI).

* DeBoer served as head coach of the Golden Knights for parts of three seasons from 2019-20 to 2021-22 and guided Vegas to the 2020 Conference Finals and 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals. His longtime colleague Steve Spott, currently an assistant coach for the Stars, served in the same capacity with the Golden Knights during that timeframe.
 

* Maurice was hired as an assistant with the Hartford Whalers on June 8, 1995, and named head coach of the club just five months later – he guided the Whalers to victory in his NHL head coaching debut and remains the fifth youngest bench boss in League history at the time of his first career game and winRod Brind’Amour played 406 regular-season contests and 47 playoff games with the Hurricanes while Maurice was head coach.

QUICK CLICKS


*Bill King profiles SBJ Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Gary Bettman
Stars coach says facing former team in West Final ‘means a little more’
*Connor McDavid says expectation for Oilers is ‘it’s Cup or bust for this group’
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