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Spokane Chiefs

Former Spokane Chiefs Tyler Johnson, Kailer Yamamoto and Jared Spurgeon look to make deep runs in NHL playoffs

By Dan Thompson For The Spokesman-Review

Hockey fans in Spokane should have little trouble finding something to watch at least the next week and perhaps much longer, as three former Chiefs players began postseason runs this week in the National Hockey League playoffs.

That includes Spokane natives Tyler Johnson and Kailer Yamamoto, as well as 11-year veteran defenseman Jared Spurgeon.

Following their Stanley Cup title last season – which was pushed into nearly October by the COVID-19 pandemic – the Tampa Bay Lightning promptly cut Johnson in a salary-cap saving move, only to see him clear waivers and ultimately make his way back on the roster again this season.

Tampa Bay, the third seed in the Central Division, won two road games this week to take a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven series with the Florida Panthers, with Game 3 scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Thursday. Johnson was held without a point the first two games, following a 22-point regular season when he played in 55 of the team’s 56 games.

The 30-year-old Johnson, a potential target for the expansion Seattle Kraken next offseason, has 361 career regular-season points, fifth most among former Chiefs players in the NHL.

Yamamoto, 22, played in 52 games this season for the Oilers, scored eight goals and assisted on 13 others. This will be his second postseason appearance – the second-seeded Oilers opened their North Division series against No. 3 seed Winnipeg on Wednesday – after playing in four games in the 2019-20 playoffs.

Spurgeon, who along with Johnson won a Memorial Cup as a junior player with the Chiefs in 2008, is in his first season as captain of the Minnesota Wild. The Wild split their first two games against Vegas in the West Division playoffs and will host Game 3 at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

Among former Chiefs players, Spurgeon ranks sixth with 707 NHL regular-season games and eighth with 305 points. He has also played in 50 playoff games, all for the Wild.

The NHL shortened and modified its 2020-21 regular season, splitting the teams into divisions of seven or eight teams and playing games only within those divisions. The top four teams from each division advanced to the playoffs, the first two rounds of which will determine a division champion.

After that, the four division champions will be reseeded heading into the two semifinal series, an arrangement that could theoretically lead to a unique Stanley Cup final against teams that would usually play in the same conference or division.

One other Spokane native, Derek Ryan, just finished his third season with the Calgary Flames and his sixth in the NHL overall. Calgary finished fifth in the North Division.

Ryan, 34, enters the offseason as an unrestricted free agent. Heading into the Flames’ regular-season finale on Wednesday, Ryan has played 344 career NHL games, and in those he has scored 53 goals and 93 assists. His 146 NHL points are 11th most among former Chiefs players.