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Playoff newcomers make an impact

Thursday, 04.16.2009 / 3:05 AM / 2009 Playoffs Conference Quarterfinals

By Derek Jory - NHL.com Correspondent

No matter how many regular-season games they've played, NHL players haven't really experienced hockey until they've appeared in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Fifteen players made their postseason debuts Wednesday night in Vancouver's 2-1 win over St. Louis in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal. A few played like seasoned veterans despite their lack of postseason experience.

Kyle Wellwood, Mason Raymond and Rick Rypien were the Canucks who got their first taste of playoff hockey, and all three had a hand in the victory. Wellwood won seven of 12 faceoffs, Raymond used his speed to draw a penalty while also putting four shots on St. Louis' Chris Mason, while Rypien was credited with three hits.

The Blues had had 12 players making their playoff debuts, and some of the newcomers were squeezing their sticks pretty tight in the early going.

"It's good for our guys to learn and they'll find a way as a whole here to get the job done," said 37-year-old St. Louis forward Keith Tkachuk, who has 86 playoff games under his belt, more than anyone on either team (Canucks center Mats Sundin is next with 83).

"We're certainly not happy losing, but we did some positive things and we're going to get better because that certainly wasn't our best hockey."
-- Blues center Andy McDonald

Of all the first-timers, Brad Boyes had the biggest impact for the Blues -- he scored St. Louis' lone goal for the second straight game; newbie Alex Steen picked up an assist.

The Canucks held a significant edge in playoff experience coming into the series with the players on Vancouver's roster having played a total of 522 postseason games, compared to only 354 for the Blues.

Blues center Andy McDonald, who won a Stanley Cup ring with Anaheim two years ago, feels his team will be better now that everyone is more used to the playoff atmosphere.

"We're certainly not happy losing," he said, "but we did some positive things and we're going to get better because that certainly wasn't our best hockey."











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— Washington defenseman Matt Niskanen on why he decided to sign with the Capitals