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Vermette making his mark in the playoffs

The Columbus Blue Jackets were pretty much an afterthought
all season long when it came to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Columbus limped out to an 0-7-1 start and finished the
regular season with an NHL-worst 65 points. At the trade
deadline in February, the Jackets started unloading
players in trades, including a deal that sent center
Antoine Vermette to the Phoenix Coyotes for goalie Curtis
McIlhenny and two draft picks.

Vermette had a career-high 27 goals and 65 points for the
Blue Jackets in 2009-10, statistics which earned him a 5-
year, $18.75 millon contract.

But in the two seasons that followed, Vermette’s numbers
dropped. Substantially.

The Quebec native scored 19 goals and notched 49 points
the next season, and had just 8 goals and 19 assists for
Columbus before the trade, but a change of scenery has
served him well.

Vermette was decent in the stretch run of the regular
season for the Coyotes, scoring 3 goals and adding 7
assists in 22 games for the Pacific Division champions.

But in the playoffs, Vermette’s been a different player;
he leads Phoenix with 5 goals and 8 points in the

“It was pretty smooth, I’ve got to say. The organization,
the players and the coaching staff made it pretty easy on
me and that made the adjustment go real well,” Vermette
said about his trade to the Coyotes during a Monday
teleconference. “So, it’s always an adjustment a little
bit, a change of teammates and team philosophy a little
bit, but it’s been pretty smooth.”

Pretty smooth is an understatement. Vermette’s three
playoff power play goals are tied for the most in the
league with Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux and Florida’s
Stephen Weiss.

“Anytime a veteran player changes teams it takes a little
bit to get going, but I think you’re seeing the benefits
of that trade in the playoffs here,” Coyotes head coach
Dave Tippett said. “He’s been just a solid player for us
and is getting rewarded with some goals and points. But he
takes a lot of key faceoffs, plays the power play, plays
the penalty kill; he’s fit in very well with our group.

“The other thing that I really like is that we have a lot
of real good people in our dressing room and he’s a great
teammate, cares about everything we’re trying to do. That
part of it, he’s fit in very well with our group, also.”

Vermette also possesses another important ingredient for a
team pushing toward their first-ever appearance in a
conference final: Stanley Cup Finals experience.

Vermette played in all five games of the 2007 Stanley Cup
with the Ottawa Senators, making him one of only two
players on the active Coyotes roster with that experience
on his résumé.

“It’s a big emotional swing in the playoffs, and that’s
one of the things I learned from my days in Ottawa, going
to the playoffs you need to manage those well,” he said.
“You can’t get too excited, there’s a moment for that
after the game when you win. But after that it’s game time
and you have to focus on the right place, and I that’s
been one of the keys to our success in the playoffs.”

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