by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Two former Elks were involved in a first-round Stanley Cup series as Paul Martin and the Pittsburgh Penguins advanced with a 4-2 series victory over the Columbus Bluejackets.
Martin, who led the Penguins in scoring during that series, is a 10th-year NHL defenseman, was the 2000 Minnesota Mr. Hockey winner from Elk River and helped the Gophers win two NCAA titles.
The Columbus coaching staff includes Dan Hinote, 1995 ERHS graduate who played nine NHL seasons, seven with the Colorado Avalanche (winning the Cup in 2001) and two with the St. Louis Blues.
This is Hinote’s fourth year on the Bluejacket staff headed by Todd Richards, a former Gopher skater and Minnesota Wild head coach. Columbus had a 43-32-7 record in the regular season.
Martin notched eight points in the Columbus series, all of them assists, and was the team leader in plus-minus as well, with plus-seven. He had two assists in four straight games, from game two through five.
Martin, who missed 41 games with two injuries, logged three goals and 12 assists, and a minus-four rating, in 39 regular-season games. His second injury, a broken finger, occurred while playing in the Olympics with Team USA in Russia.
Pittsburgh capped the Columbus series with a 4-3 win Monday led by Evgeni Malkin with a hat trick. The Penguins, who won the Metropolitan Division with a 51-24-7 record, are awaiting results of other series to determine their second-round opponent.
Of course, there’s a third former Elk involved in the Stanley Cup series: Nate Prosser of the Minnesota Wild, who have Game Seven coming up with Colorado on Wednesday night in Denver.
Prosser, a 2005 ERHS graduate who played for Colorado College and signed with the Wild as a free agent in 2010, has a plus-two rating in the six playoff games. During the regular season, he had two goals, six assists and a plus-two rating in 53 games.