Four Sarnia Sting alumni are still in contention for the Stanley Cup.
Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos returned to the lineup Sunday with two assists in a 5-4 win over the Florida Panthers in Game 1 of their Central Division semifinal in Sunrise, Fla.
Stamkos had been out since sustaining a lower-body injury in a game April 8.
Game 2 in the best-of-seven series will be Tuesday in Sunrise.
The Lightning are chasing their second consecutive Cup.
Ex-Sting forward Matt Martin of the New York Islanders was held off the scoresheet in a 4-3 overtime win against the Penguins in Game 1 of their East Division semifinal Sunday in Pittsburgh. Game 2 will be Tuesday.
Ex-Sting forward Jordan Kyrou and the St. Louis Blues visited the Colorado Avalanche on Monday in Game 1 of their West Division semifinal.
Kyrou had 35 points in 55 games in his first full NHL season.
Ex-Sting forward Alex Galchenyuk and the Toronto Maple Leafs will host the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday in Game 1 of their North Division semifinal.
Galchenyuk had 12 points in 26 games after being acquired by the Maple Leafs.
Flames’ Ruzicka makes NHL debut
Ex-Sting centre Adam Ruzicka made his NHL debut with the Calgary Flames on Sunday after being called up from the American Hockey League’s Stockton Heat.
Ruzicka, 22, had a plus-one rating in just under 10 minutes.
“It was a great feeling going out there with the boys,” he said. “… It was a surreal feeling to get the first done and I hope there’s many more to come.”
The six-foot-four Slovakian tied for the Heat’s scoring lead this season with 21 points in 28 games.
Flames head coach Darryl Sutter said the big forward needed a little time to get comfortable in his debut.
“I thought early he was a little tentative and then I think he won a couple faceoffs and got banging around a little bit. Then his game got better,” Sutter said.
Ruzicka has a chance to play two more games this week as the Flames and Canucks wrap up the regular season.
“We’re real proud of him and the strides he has taken, but I think what really excites me is now he gets a chance to see what it’s really all about in a regular-season game in the NHL, and I think that’s a great learning opportunity and growth for him and it gives him a better feel for what he’s trying to aspire to,” Heat coach Cail MacLean said to the Calgary Herald. “It’s going to help him understand how much he has to push himself and continue to grow here.
“Adam is confident in himself, but he can also be hard on himself, as well. He believes that he’s capable of a lot and, at the same time, I think he is also a critic in terms of what he expects from himself each night. So for him, I’d like to think he’s going to be pretty happy to sit back and say, ‘Hey, I’m able to put on an NHL jersey. I’m on the right track.’”
Rymsha debuts with L.A. Kings
Another ex-Sting centre, Drake Rymsha, made his NHL debut in the Los Angeles Kings’ season finale.
He played 13:16 and had a plus-one rating in a 5-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday in Denver.
“It’s been a long journey this year being on the taxi squad for most of the season,” said Rymsha, 22. “I just kept telling myself work as hard as I can and have a great attitude and hopefully my number gets called and lucky enough today it was. It was, for sure, a dream come true.”
His father, Andy, played his only six NHL games in 1991-92 with the Quebec Nordiques, who are now the Avalanche.
“It’s a special moment, for sure,” Rymsha said after the game. “My dad still knows a couple people here in the building. My parents were lucky enough to come down for the game. To play my first game against the same organization my dad played for is kind of a crazy coincidence, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Kings head coach Todd McLellan called him an “unsung hero” for his work on the taxi squad.
“He has worked as hard as anybody that dresses every night,” McLellan said. “He just sat back quietly and did his thing. Everything we asked of him, he did.
“We got banged up here at the end – a couple players – and he got his opportunity. The group was so excited for him. I think he motivated us tonight a little bit to pick our socks up. I couldn’t be happier for him. He’s so deserving of it.”
Chychrun leads NHL defencemen
Sting alumnus Jakob Chychrun of the Arizona Coyotes led all NHL defencemen with a career-high 18 goals.
Chychrun ranked 10th among blue-liners with 41 points, also a career-best, in 56 games.
Fulcher wraps up first AHL season
Grand Rapids Griffins goalie Kaden Fulcher of Brigden finished his first AHL season with a 2-2-2 record in seven starts.
He had a 2.84 goals-against average and .905 save percentage.
Fulcher was pulled Friday after allowing three goals on eight shots in 13:43 in a 6-4 road loss to the Cleveland Monsters.
Also in the AHL, ex-Sting captain Ryan McGregor was fourth on the Tucson Roadrunners with 18 points in 36 games as a rookie.
Sting forward Jamieson Rees had 8-6-14 totals in 29 games with the Chicago Wolves. Sting forward Jacob Perreault had 3-14-17 totals in 27 games with the San Diego Gulls.