Five former Rochester Americans are among the four remaining teams competing in the Conference Finals of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The battle for who is going to represent the West and the East in the Finals is a unique one as each of the four squads comprise the last four Stanley Cup winning teams dating back to the 2009 postseason.
The Eastern Conference features the top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins taking on the Boston Bruins, both of whom advanced to the third round thanks to 4-1 wins over the Ottawa Senators and New York Rangers, respectively. In the West, the President Trophy-winning Chicago Blackhawks are taking aim at their second championship in four years in their best-of-seven series with the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
The Bruins feature the most Amerks alumni on their bench in the likes of forwards Greg Campbell and Daniel Paille and assistant coach Doug Houda, all of whom were part of Boston’s historic run to the Stanley Cup in 2011. Boston currently leads Pittsburgh 1-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals with Game 2 of the series slated for 8:00 p.m. tonight.
This is Campbell’s third straight NHL playoff appearance with Boston after being picked up by the Bruins in 2010 from the Florida Panthers, where he was a third-round pick (67th overall) back in 2002. With the Bruins this season, Campbell has tallied 13 points (4+9) and 41 penalty minutes in all 48 regular season games and has added six points (3+3) in 13 postseason contests. The 6-foot-0, 197-pound Campbell played 11 games for the Amerks during the 2005-06 season, recording six points (3+3) and 30 penalty minutes.
Fellow offensive skater, Paille, was drafted in the first round by the Buffalo Sabers in 2002 (20th overall) and is in his fourth full season with the Bruins. A native of Welland, Ontario, Paille completed four years of Junior Hockey for the Guelph Storm (OHL) and represented Team Canada for two World Junior Championships, bringing home Silver in 2003 and 2004. The left-winger registered 17 points (7+10) in 46 games for the 2012-13 season and is making in his fifth playoff appearance, fourth with Boston. While skating for Rochester from 2004 to 2007, Paille racked up a total of 77 points (35+42) and 95 penalty minutes in 153 games.
Houda, currently in his seventh year as an assistant coach for the Bruins, started his coaching career in Rochester upon his retirement from the Amerks in 2003 and remained in that capacity through the 2005-06 season. One of the most recent inductees to the Amerks’ Hall of Fame, Houda played in 284 games in the red, white and blue, registering 23 goals, 87 assists and 683 penalty minutes. During his time behind the Rochester bench alongside fellow Hall of Famer Randy Cunneyworth, Houda amassed a record of 125-104-11 and guided the Amerks to the playoffs twice in three seasons, including a memorable 2004-05 campaign when Rochester finished with a league and franchise-best 51-25-4 record as the AHL’s regular season points champion. Houda was also responsible for jumpstarting the careers of several current NHL All-Stars, including Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, Ryan Miller as well as Paille and Campbell during their time in the Flower City.
Forward Tanner Glass represents the sole Amerks alumnus with the Penguins, with whom he’s collected two points (1+1) and 62 penalty minutes while appearing in all 48 regular season outings this season. Glass, skating in his third playoff appearance in four years, returns to the Conference Finals for the second time in his NHL career having helped the Vancouver Canucks to the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, where they lost in seven games to the eventual champion Boston Bruins. Originally a ninth-round selection (265th overall) of the Florida Panthers in the 2003 Entry Draft, the Regina, Saskatchewan, native, played parts of three seasons (2006-09) in Rochester, registering 25 points (10+15) and 189 penalty minutes in 91 career games before becoming a permanent fixture in the NHL. In six seasons in the NHL, Glass has notched 41 points (14+27) and 368 penalty minutes in 310 career games with Florida, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Pittsburgh.
Moving to the Western Conference, defenseman Keaton Ellerby and the defending champion Los Angeles Kings are in a 2-0 hole as the series shifts back to Los Angeles after the Kings dropped a 4-2 decision to the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 2 on Sunday. Ellerby and company faced a similar situation in their first-round series with the St. Louis Blues, when the Kings erased a 2-0 deficit and reeled off four unanswered wins before going the distance with San Jose in the second round. A first-round pick of the Florida Panthers in 2007, Ellerby was acquired by the Kings in a trade with the Panthers on Feb. 8 in exchange for a fifth-round selection in the upcoming NHL draft. After appearing in nine games with Florida to start the season, Ellerby closed out the campaign by recording three assists in 35 games with the Kings. The Strathmore, Alberta, native, is also making his second straight NHL playoff appearance and has seen time in five postseason contests for Los Angeles. Ellerby was an Amerk for parts of three seasons (2008-11), totaling 47 points (11+36) in 150 career games. The blueliner also enjoyed his finest season as a pro during his rookie campaign when he notched career-highs in assists (20) and points (23) and finished second among team defenseman in overall scoring.