Ron Hainsey broke into the NHL with the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2005-06 season where he got his first three full seasons of NHL play under his belt.
Fifteen seasons, six teams and 907 games later, Hainsey holds a record of the most regular-season games played of all NHL players that has not set foot on the ice for a playoff run.
"It's crazy. He's played in over 900 games and hasn't been in the playoffs," teammate Patric Hornqvist said. "He's a veteran guy. He knows what it's all about. We'll make some jokes around him but other than that it's fun."
Jokes aside, Hainsey is set to make his postseason debut, which is certainly a momentous moment for the 35-year-old blueliner.
"You've got to play what is in front of you," Hainsey says. "I certainly would have loved to play 100 playoff games by now, won three Stanley Cups, but it just hasn't been the way it has worked out for me. This opportunity, these next couple of months, hopefully we can string together a good run in what would be another championship run for these guys and first run like this for me. That is the focus."
The 6-foot-3 two-way defenseman, who has played in Columbus, Atlanta, Winnipeg and Carolina, has developed an exceptional game over his years and has been a consistent player in lineups, creating stability in his role on the ice. Coach Mike Sullivan sees how great of a player he has grown into and believes he has earned this playoff opportunity.
"We're thrilled for him," Sullivan said. "I think he's as excited as some of our young guys that it's a new experience for. This is the best time of year to play as a player and be part of this experience. It's great hockey. All the teams that are participating are really good teams. And to be a part of it is just a great experience for everybody involved, so we're thrilled for Ron."
Captain Sidney Crosby is a veteran to the playoff scene having been there in all 11 seasons of his NHL career with the Penguins, but understands the road to get there is tough and is thrilled for Hainsey and his big moment.
"He's played for a long time, I'm sure he's excited," Crosby said. "We're all excited, but kind of a cool story to play that long and not play a playoff game. It tells you that it's not easy. You want to make the most of the opportunities you get."
Hainsey tried to play it cool when talking with reporters about tonight's intense matchup, saying that just feels like a Wednesday, but like any player's first postseason experience he let some excitement seep through.
"I'm excited, ready to get going," he said. "It is a tremendously tough series with two great teams. Just gotta pour it in and hopefully get this first one off on the right foot."