Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Teddy Purcell and defenseman Mike Lundin are making the most of their first appearances in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Purcell and Lundin are two of the three former University of Maine players on the Lightning roster along with veteran defenseman Brett Clark and the trio has helped the Lightning advance past Pittsburgh and Washington to the Eastern Conference finals where they will open the best-of-seven series against the Boston Bruins Saturday night in Boston.
The Lightning haven’t played since May 4 and the Bruins finished out their sweep of Philadelphia on May 6.
“It has been a little different having over a week off between games,” said Lundin. “We’ve really been focusing on getting back into game mode. You can’t get caught sleeping. You’ve got to be ready to go at the drop of the puck.”
The 25-year-old Purcell has a goal and 10 assists through Tampa Bay’s 11 playoff games to date and is in a four-way tie for 11th among all playoff scorers. He is in a four-way tie for third with his 10 assists.
He set up Vincent Lecavalier’s overtime game-winner in Game 2 of the series against top seed Washington as he took a long pass from Randy Jones and fed it across to an unattended Lecavalier, who flipped it home.
Purcell was also plus-3 in plus-minus.
A player receives a plus-one if he is on the ice for an even-strength or shorthanded goal and a minus-one if the other team scores one.
The 26-year-old Lundin has two assists in 11 games and is also plus-three.
Clark is 34 and has had previous playoff experience while playing for the Colorado Avalanche.
He played in nine games during the 2005-2006 playoffs and appeared in one last season.
He hasn’t registered a point in the playoffs yet this season but is plus-two.
Between his college and pro career, Lundin has played plenty of games at the TD Bank Garden in Boston and enjoys playing there.
“I’m familiar with the rink and I like the city. I have a lot of good memories playing at that rink,” he said. “It’s always fun to play there.”
One of those highlights would be the scintillating triple-overtime 2-1 win over UMass in the Hockey East championship game his freshman season (2003-2004).
Tampa Bay has won seven straight playoff games after falling behind Pittsburgh 3-1.
Lundin said the first two series were “very different” from one another and the series with the Bruins will be a “combination of what we saw in the first two series.
“The Pittsburgh series was more like college hockey,” said Lundin, who had 13 goals and 56 assists during his 160-game career at Maine and was a second team All-Hockey East selection his senior year (2006-2007).
“Both teams forechecked hard, both teams were running around and there was a lot of hitting. Pittsburgh was missing some of its top guys (Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin) and had more of a balanced lineup,” he explained. “Washington had more highly-skilled guys so we sat back a little more and tried to make plays. We didn’t want to trade scoring chances with them. We played more hard-nosed.
“Boston works real hard and forechecks hard. They run around a lot like we saw in the Pittsburgh series but, at the same time, they have some very skilled players,” he said.
Lundin has been satisfied with the way he has played in the playoffs.
“I got off to a little bit of a slow start against Pittsburgh,” he said. “It was a little bit different. Maybe I was a little nervous the first couple of games.
“After that, I settled down and began playing like I had been playing the whole year. Overall, it’s been pretty good.”
Purcell, who was the Hockey East Rookie of the Year during Lundin’s senior year when Maine last made the NCAA Tournament and reached the Frozen Four in 2007, has been an important point-producer according to Lundin.
“He has picked up where he left off during the regular season. He has been putting up points and we need him to keep going,” said Lundin.
Purcell had a career-best 51 points (17 & 34) in 81 regular season games.
University of Maine coach Tim Whitehead and his son, Zach, will be attending Saturday’s opener courtesy of tickets left for them by Lundin.
Whitehead, who was an assistant at UMass Lowell when Tampa Bay goalie Dwayne Roloson was there, said they will be cheering for the Lightning.
“It’s tough to root against four players you care about,” said Whitehead.
He coached all of them except Clark but he has gotten to know Clark over the years.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Whitehead. “I think it’s going to be a tremendous, hard-fought series. Both goalies (Roloson and Boston’s Tim Thomas) are hot but both have been off for over a week. It’ll be interesting to see which one stays hot.”