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Stanley Cup Final

Schmidt ready to face former team with Golden Knights in Cup Final

Defenseman was selected in expansion draft from Capitals

by Danny Webster / NHL.com Correspondent

LAS VEGAS -- The Vegas Golden Knights are excited to be playing in the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season, but no player will be forced to talk about it more than defenseman Nate Schmidt.

Schmidt was selected by the Golden Knights in the NHL Expansion Draft from the Washington Capitals, who will play Vegas in the Final after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-0 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final on Wednesday.

Game 1 is at Vegas on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

"It's a pretty cool situation," Schmidt said. "Given everything that's happened ... I don't really know how to describe how I feel about it. This is Vegas, you could probably make a prop bet, but I don't know what the odds would've been on that."

 

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Vegas' season has been predicated on players making the most of their increased roles. Schmidt is no exception.

Last season with the Capitals, he averaged 15:29 of ice time and was a healthy scratch 22 times. With the Golden Knights this season, he had an NHL career high in goals (five), assists (31) and points (36) and led Vegas with 22:14 of ice time playing with Brayden McNabb on first defense pair. 

"I just think the confidence and having the opportunity to be here and knowing you can go out and make the plays against the top guy," Schmidt said. "That's the biggest thing for me."

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Schmidt will have the task of trying to slow down the Capitals' top line, which is highlighted by captain Alex Ovechkin, who leads Washington with 12 goals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

For Vegas to be successful, Schmidt said it will need to stay out of the penalty box to avoid giving Washington any power plays. In the two games against the Capitals in the regular season, the Golden Knights were 6-for-6 on the penalty kill and won each game.

"Both times, I thought we played our game," Schmidt said. "I know a lot of those guys and I know what they like to do. It helps me. I think it helps our group, as well, that we've had success against them."

While Schmidt is familiar with the Capitals, so too is Golden Knights general manager George McPhee, who was Washington GM for 17 years (1997-2014) and helped it to its only previous appearance in the Final (1998, when it was swept by the Detroit Red Wings).

Dubbing themselves the "Golden Misfits" throughout this playoff run, Schmidt said he sees McPhee like one of their own.

"He's a misfit too, just like us," Schmidt said. "As much as you reveled, at the beginning of the season, in the idea that you were given away or traded away, I think it's morphed into a sense of belonging to this group. I think he's in the same boat. The building will be a little bit different for him. Other than that, it'll be status quo."

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