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  • Thomas Vanek learned early in his career how tough it is to win in the playoffs.When Vanek and the Buffalo Sabres beat the Philadelphia Flyers in six games in 2006 to advance Mikko Rantanen Jersey , the rookie winger looked across the locker room at 37-year-old Teppo Numminen, who was on the verge of tears. Numminen had never made it out of the first round in his previous 16 NHL seasons and was overjoyed.”It hit me right there and then, `Man this is hard,”’ Vanek said.Vanek is now on the other side. In the playoffs for the seventh time, he is the Columbus Blue Jackets‘ oldest player at 34. Just like Rick Nash in Boston, postseason struggles and inconsistencies have followed Vanek his entire career. Based on his play down the stretch and in Game 1 against Washington, he looks poised for some playoff redemption.”A very consistent scorer throughout his year and has a lot to prove and wants to win the Stanley Cup,” Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said Friday. ”That’s why he’s excited to be here. He wants to prove people wrong, if they think that he can’t do it in the playoffs. He wants to show that he can, and he had a good start.”Vanek had a goal and an assist to help the Blue Jackets take a 1-0 series lead on the Capitals, and young teammate Artemi Panarin scored the game-winner to finish with three points – two more than he had in Chicago’s first-round sweep at the hands of the Predators a year ago. Kekalainen pointed out Panarin was a point-a-game player for the Blackhawks in the playoffs two years ago Nathan MacKinnon Jersey , so hold up on the reputation rehab there.The same goes for Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who has been up and down in the playoffs. The 25-year-old from the same town in Russia as Panarin already has more goals in one game this year than he did in the 2016 playoffs, when Washington lost in the second round.Vanek and Nash know they’re running out of time to win the Cup and make a difference on that journey.Nash, who drew two penalties and played over 17 minutes in his return from injury in the Bruins’ Game 1 blowout of the Maple Leafs, has seen his goal production drop by half from the regular season to the playoffs over the course of his career. The 33-year-old trade-deadline pickup should get plenty of chances to show he can still be a playoff performer.”He’s an important player for us,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. ”That deal was made for a reason. He’s an elite player … makes us more of a threat (as) a team. He’s just a proven player in this league that can finish, that can win pucks and get to the net.”Getting to the net has never been a problem for Vanek, whose power-play goal in Game 1 came from crashing the crease. But he hasn’t always found it easy to score in the playoffs and has struggled with a minus-16 rating in six previous appearances with the Sabres, Canadiens and Wild.Vanek didn’t know how he would fit in with Columbus, though the reviews from coach John Tortorella are positive – and honest. Vanek’s propensity for defensive miscues and mistakes with the puck, and his sometimes frustrating inconsistencies Authentic Alexander Wennberg Jersey , have given Tortorella and others grey hairs.”I think he really is thriving and is excited about the role he has, that he was and we were in a playoff hunt and now he’s in the playoffs,” Tortorella said. ”I can see why he gives coaches nightmares in some of the things he does. I get that. But I think sometimes you need to ignore some of that and allow him to play and not get in his way. I think he’s been terrific.”Several times leading up to the start of the playoffs and even after his goal, Vanek was asked about making an important contribution in the playoffs. Each time he changed the subject to the need for someone, anyone, on the team to have success.”You can tell how excited everyone is,” Vanek said. ”It doesn’t matter if you score or not.”Scoring or not, making a long run a reality would be Vanek’s real redemption.— DETROIT (AP) Chris Ilitch is the first to admit that it hasn’t been business as usual for the Detroit Red Wings the past couple of seasons, but he’s confident the man to bring them back to the glory days is the man they currently have in charge.The Red Wings’ governor announced Saturday the club had agreed to a new two-year contract with general manager Ken Holland.”Around these parts, we’re used to be being in the playoffs, we’re used to competing for Stanley Cups Los Angeles Kings T-Shirts Womens , and believe me, that’s where we all want to be,” Ilitch said. ”That’s a lot of fun. To get back there, it’s a process. We’ve done it before and we’re going to do it again.”We think Ken is the right guy to lead that for our organization, so we’re thrilled to have him back.”Detroit’s 25-year run of consecutive postseason appearances came to an end in 2015-16 and the Red Wings have missed the playoffs the past two seasons. They entered their final game of the season on Saturday against the New York Islanders 27th overall in the NHL with a 30-39-12 record.Still, Ilitch pointed to Holland’s performance as both a scout and the team’s director of scouting as the Red Wings assembled the talent pool that won four Stanley Cups between 1997-2008 as an indication that Holland can mastermind the current rebuild.”Ken Holland has had the experience of seeing a Detroit Red Wings team in the 1980s build from the ground all the way up to the Stanley Cup champion,” Ilitch said. ”That’s the blueprint for our future and Ken knows that.”Holland has traded to restructure the team and holds an NHL-high 11 picks in the upcoming entry draft.”I understand there’s a big challenge ahead here going forward,” Holland said. ”I look forward to the challenge of rebuilding the Detroit Red Wings.”Holland indicated that he would address the future of coach Jeff Blashill on Tuesday when the Wings have scheduled their locker cleanout day.