GLENDALE -- The Coyotes are heading into the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs with many players who have playoff experience, but for defensemen Oliver Ekman-Larsson
, Michael Stone
and Chris Summers
, and forwards Kyle Chipchura
and Gilbert Brule
, this series against the Chicago Blackhawks will be their first taste of postseason hockey at the NHL level.
Chipchura, a veteran of 216 regular-season NHL games, played for two other NHL teams before joining the Coyotes this season.
“A couple years ago we just missed it in Anaheim, and one year in Montreal I was injured right before the end of the season,” said Chipchura, who had three goals and 13 assists in 53 games this season. “…I’m looking forward to hopefully a deep run here this year.”
While Chipchura has never played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he does have some postseason experience. He played in 20 playoff games for Prince Albert of the Western Hockey League, along with winning the Calder Cup in 2007 with the American Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs.
But while the playoff stints in juniors and the AHL were great learning experiences, Chipchura says he expects a totally different atmosphere once the puck drops on Thursday.
“There’s nothing like the NHL playoffs,” Chipchura said. “It’s fun as a fan but it’ll be a lot more fun as a player. I think the fans are going to be behind us real well, and we have a lot of guys in here who have experience and some guys who are pretty fresh to it. Everybody is just as excited and looking forward to a run.”
Like Chipchura, Brule has spent time with two other NHL teams but his postseason experience is limited to junior hockey. Despite the fact that this is such an important time of the year, Brule says that he’s enjoying the time with his teammates and preparing for what will hopefully be a deep run into the postseason.
“It’s all new to me but it’s a lot of fun,” said Brule, who notched five goals and nine assists in 33 games this season. “It’s enjoyable coming to the rink everyday just knowing that we’re going to have a great time and that we’re all in this together and it’s just going to be a battle for sure.”
Ekman-Larsson split time between the AHL and NHL last season, but he did not play in Phoenix’s playoff series against Detroit last April. Now that he has become a mainstay in the lineup and was one of the team leaders in ice time during the regular season, Ekman-Larsson is looking to make an impact during the postseason.
“I’m ready to play more games,” said Ekman-Larsson, who has notched 14 goals and 29 assists in 130 career NHL games. “I’m just going to play the way I’ve played all season and just try to keep it up a little bit more.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: Click here to watch Oliver Ekman-Larsson
discuss making his debut in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in greater detial.