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Zizing 'Em Up

Zizing 'Em Up: Eichel ready for 1st trip to Stanley Cup Playoffs

Golden Knights forward, No. 2 pick in 2015 Draft, excited for chance to play for 'ultimate prize'

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / Staff Writer staff writer Mike Zeisberger has been covering the NHL regularly since 1999. Each Sunday during the season, he will use his extensive network of hockey contacts to write his weekly notes column, "Zizing 'Em Up."

EDMONTON -- It has been 2,830 days since Jack Eichel was selected No. 2 by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2015 NHL Draft.

Since he officially joined the NHL on June 26, 2015, the forward has 438 points (180 goals, 258 assists) in 469 games regular-season games with the Sabres and Vegas Golden Knights, including a goal and two assists in Vegas' 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday.

Yet when you pour over his stats sheet, there is something missing.

Stanley Cup Playoff games.

It seems hard to grasp that the 26-year-old has never experienced the electricity, the highs, the lows, the adrenaline rush of the postseason. The Sabres missed the playoffs in each of his first six seasons in Buffalo. He was traded to Vegas on Nov. 4, 2021, but the Golden Knights missed the postseason for the first time last season.

His personal drought should end shortly with the Golden Knights (46-21-6) a virtual lock to clinch a playoff berth; they are in first place in the Pacific Division, four points ahead of the Los Angeles Kings, with nine games to go.

"That's what you play for, right?" Eichel said after the Vegas morning skate Saturday in Edmonton. "You work for years to get to the postseason and give yourself a chance to win the ultimate prize.

"Obviously we're not there yet. We can't look too far ahead. The focus is on putting ourselves in the best position."

Eichel said he's always watched the playoffs since he entered the League. Now, he said, it's time he participates.

"Losing wears on you," Eichel said. "You just want to be on the other side of it."

Should the Golden Knights qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs as expected, Eichel will have plenty of resources to lean on when it comes to experience. Vegas forward Phil Kessel was on the back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins teams in 2016 and 2017, defenseman Alex Pietrangelo was the captain of the Cup-winning St Louis Blues in 2019, and defenseman Alec Martinez won the Cup twice as a member of the Los Angeles Kings (2012, 2014).

"I'm sure he's got the itch, right?" Pietrangelo said. "You get to this point, or close to clinching, it's a pretty special thing. I love playoffs. I think it's a whole different ball game. You're just kind of preparing for that, especially when you clinch a playoff spot.

"I'm sure he'll be pretty excited. I'm expecting big things from him."

So, too, does Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy, although he suspects Eichel will have butterflies if and when he makes his postseason debut.

"I think it's normal," Cassidy said. "I still get them, even now, before that first playoff game, and I've been part of them before.

"Things can change in a hurry in a series, and that will be the messaging to Jack if and when we get there. Good or bad, everything starts over in the playoffs. You work all year to get to that position and prepare for what's coming, even as a coach, but the fact of the matter is, everyone starts from square one in the playoffs."

Eichel says he just wants to experience that feeling.

"That would be cool," he said. "Definitely."


Pete Weber's view of the world has changed.

"After what I went through, you have a different perspective on things," the Nashville Predators play-by-play voice said from Nashville on Thursday. "You appreciate everything more."

His view is understandable, considering the roller-coaster ride he's been on the past six months.

During the Predators flight to Dallas on Oct. 15, Weber lost his balance and fell in the aisle of the plane. The same thing happened two weeks later prior to a game against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 29. This time he ended up in the hospital.

"You wonder what's going on," he said. "It's scary."

Weber had noticed a lack of coordination and difficulty walking when he returned home from the NHL Global Series, which was held in Prague on Oct. 7-8.

In late November, Weber was diagnosed with normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH), a brain disorder that occurs when the ventricles -- which circulate fluid throughout the brain -- become filled with too much cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). He had surgery in early January to insert a shunt, which would help drain the fluid from his brain. He was broadcasting home games less than a week later.

Last week the 72-year-old did his first road broadcasts since the surgery, games against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden and Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. This past Wednesday, he participated in a hockey broadcasters roundtable at Buffalo State with Hall of Famer Rick Jeanneret, Rob Ray and Paul Hamilton. Weber spent time broadcasting Sabres and Buffalo Bills games before going to Nashville in 1998.

"I feel good," he said. "And you learn lessons from it. I would advise people to be honest with the doctors about what's going on and how you feel. And don't be reluctant to try new or different things to find out what's going on with you.

"There are so many people to thank including Dr. Dario J. Englot and Dr. Richard Pierce. I'll always be grateful.

"Be open with the doctors if you feel off. Let them know. They can help."

Weber would know. Only too well.


While on the subject of broadcasters, two of hockey's iconic ones announced their respective retirements this week.

On Thursday, Vancouver Canucks color commentator on Sportsnet and former Canucks goalie John Garrett announced this will be his last season calling games for the team. The 71-year-old, nicknamed "Cheech" for his one-time resemblance to Cheech Marin of the comedy duo Cheech & Chong, is a Vancouver icon and has been broadcasting Canucks games since 2002-03.

All the best, Cheech.

On Friday, it was Steve Coates' turn to announce he's hanging up the microphone. The 72-year-old, known in Philadelphia as "Coatesy" for decades, has served various roles during Flyers broadcasts for the past 43 years, including the past nine on the radio.

Here are three of Coates' fondest memories of the past four-plus decades:

-- Flyers 2, Pittsburgh Penguins 1 (5 OT), Game 4, Eastern Conference Semi-Final, May 4-5, 2000: Keith Primeau's goal at 12:01 of the fifth overtime put an end to an epic game in which Coates watched players understandably run out of gas. "It was like life had stopped," he said in a phone interview Friday from the Philadelphia area. "Guys were on intravenous."

-- Flyers 2, New York Rangers 1 (SO), April 11, 2010: Daniel Briere, now the interim general manager of Philadelphia, and Claude Giroux beat Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist to give the Flyers the win in the shootout. "Monumental enough that you score in a shootout on the last day of the regular season to qualify for the playoffs," Coates said. "But the fact that they went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final after squeezing in on the last day, what can you say?"

-- Flyers 3, Edmonton Oilers 2, Stanley Cup Final Game 6, May 28, 1987: Needing a win at home at the old Spectrum, Flyers forward Brian Propp and defenseman J.J. Daigneault scored 84 seconds apart to help force a Game 7. "I know the Flyers went on to lose Game 7," Coates recalled. "But, at the time, when Daigneault scored that goal, that was the loudest I ever heard that arena. Ever."



"I can't recall anywhere there's been this many goalies gone in and won. Usually, you remember them when they stink. Or you have a tough time, your team stinks, whatever. But I don't remember going through something like this without missing a beat. So, like I said, good for the goalies." -- Vegas Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy on his team continuing to win despite using five goalies this season


With three weeks to go in the NHL regular season, The Sunday List is taking a weekly look at some of the most intriguing and crucial matchups in the upcoming seven days. Here's this week's version:

-- Monday, New Jersey Devils at New York Islanders: There's a realistic chance that all three New York-area teams -- the Rangers, Devils and Islanders - will qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since the 2006-07 season. Of the three, the Islanders are in the most precarious position as they battle for a wild card spot. The Devils, meanwhile, could be spoilers to that end.

-- Tuesday, Edmonton Oilers at Vegas Golden Knights, T-Mobile Arena: These teams meet for the second time in four days, so don't be surprised if emotions run high. Edmonton is in pursuit of Vegas in the Pacific Division and should embrace the chance to snap up home-ice advantage for the first round.

-- Wednesday, Florida Panthers at Toronto Maple Leafs, Scotiabank Arena: The Maple Leafs threw a wrench into the Panthers' bid for a wild card spot with a 6-2 victory in Sunrise on Thursday. Of course, this will be more than just a revenge game for the Panthers, who are battling the Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins to get in and need wins no matter who the opponent might be.

-- Thursday, New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils, Prudential Center: A first-round preview? Let's hope so! But who gets home ice in that series could be riding on this game. 

-- Saturday, Dallas Stars at Colorado Avalanche, Ball Arena: The Avalanche have looked like the defending champs they are for much of the past month and are making a late push to finish atop the Central Division. The Stars are in their way.

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