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Stars and Cup champion Golden Knights meet much earlier in Stanley Cup playoffs this time

Sport

Stars and Cup champion Golden Knights meet much earlier in Stanley Cup playoffs this time
Sport

Sport

Stars and Cup champion Golden Knights meet much earlier in Stanley Cup playoffs this time

2024-04-22 03:17 Last Updated At:03:20

DALLAS (AP) — The Dallas Stars and Vegas Golden Knights are meeting much earlier in the Stanley Cup playoffs this time.

Reigning Stanley Cup champion Vegas opens defense of its title as a No. 8 seed in a first-round series that opens Monday night in Dallas, where the Knights last year wrapped up the Western Conference final with a Game 6 victory.

“Probably a better team than where they finished,” Stars forward Tyler Seguin said. “It’s a great test for us. When you have a goal of going all the way, a lot of times you’ve got to get through the defending champs.”

Seguin is the only Stars player with a Cup title, but that was 13 years ago as a 19-year-old rookie with Boston. He made the Stanley Cup Final with Dallas in 2020, after another Western Conference final against Vegas.

The Stars won 17 of their last 21 games to get the top seed in the West. They set a franchise record with an NHL-high eight 20-goal scorers, and All-Star goalie Jake Oettinger has allowed two goals or fewer in 10 of his past 11 starts.

“We've played our best hockey here down the stretch,” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said.

Vegas won all three regular-season meetings, the last on Dec. 9. There was a shootout and overtime game before 12 different Knights had points in a 6-1 win in Dallas.

The Knights were 13-12-2 while finishing the regular season without captain Mark Stone (lacerated spleen), and were also at times without defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, Chandler Stephenson and William Carrier. All were back at practice before the first-round series.

“They're a big part of our team," Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We've managed to persevere in terms of getting to our first goal, which was to make the playoffs.”

Vegas last year had home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs, including the Stanley Cup Final when beating Florida in five games. To get back, they will have to do it as a No. 8 seed, as the Panthers did last year.

“We understand as soon as you get in, anything can happen,” said Jack Eichel, whose 68 points were second on the team to Jonathan Marchessault’s 69. “What you do here on out the next two months, that’s the most important thing.”

Stars captain Jamie Benn missed Games 4 and 5 of last year's West final after being suspended for an ugly hit on Stone that led to a game misconduct less than two minutes into Game 3. The captains collided and, after Stone fell to the ice, Benn lunged forward with both hands on his stick and made contact near Stone’s neck.

“It’s a different year. I think that was addressed pretty quick in the regular season,” Dallas forward Joe Pavelski said, when asked about any carryover effect into this series. “It’s all about winning right now. And that’s kind of what we’re focused on.”

A week into this regular season, Dallas and Vegas traded goals and plenty of punches in a period when both teams received two fighting majors — the first of those being Benn and Vegas defenseman Nicholas Hague.

Oettinger, who two years ago had 64 saves in a Game 7 first-round loss at Calgary, has an NHL-high 24 wins since Jan. 1.

Aiden Hill was spectacular for the Knights last postseason after Laurent Brossoit was injured in the second round. Hill was 11-4 with a .932 save percentage in the playoffs, but has dealt with injuries and inconsistent play this season.

Hill split starts down the stretch with Logan Thompson, who has a .926 save percentage and 2.14 goals-against average in his past 11 games. But Thompson lacks playoff experience.

Vegas is making its sixth postseason appearance in seven seasons as a franchise, and DeBoer has had a part in all of them. DeBoer was San Jose's coach against the Knights in their first two playoffs in 2018 and 2019 and coached them in the 2020 and 2021 postseasons before going to Dallas.

Pavelski, whose 73 playoff goals are the most for an American-born player, is facing Vegas in the playoffs for the fifth time, for the third time in Dallas after twice with DeBoer in San Jose.

Vegas general manager Kelly McCrimmon has heard the speculation from the outside about potential salary cap manipulation after Stone was declared cleared to return to practice just in time for the playoffs.

Stone's salary didn't count toward the NHL's cap while on long-term injured reserve after getting hurt Feb. 20, allowing Vegas to be aggressive at the trade deadline and add three players. There is no cap for the playoffs, and Stone returned to full-contact practice Saturday.

He also returned just before last year’s playoff run after back surgery during that season.

McCrimmon said the NHL is fully involved in such cases, with access to all medical information and test results, and the league's chief medical director speaking with team doctors.

“They have access to all that information. That’s what keeps the system legitimate,” McCrimmon said. "So I don’t know that maybe fans or media understand the degree to which these injuries are scrutinized.”

AP Sports Writer Mark Anderson in Las Vegas contributed to this story.

AP NHL playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

Vegas Golden Knights goalie Adin Hill (33) makes the save on Edmonton Oilers' Zach Hyman (18) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Edmonton, Alberta on Wednesday April 10, 2024.(Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Vegas Golden Knights goalie Adin Hill (33) makes the save on Edmonton Oilers' Zach Hyman (18) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Edmonton, Alberta on Wednesday April 10, 2024.(Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Vegas Golden Knights center Jack Eichel (9) jumps over the boards to start a shift during the third period of the team's NHL hockey game against the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday, April 18, 2024, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

Vegas Golden Knights center Jack Eichel (9) jumps over the boards to start a shift during the third period of the team's NHL hockey game against the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday, April 18, 2024, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

Vegas Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy watches during the third period of the team's NHL hockey game against the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday, April 18, 2024, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

Vegas Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy watches during the third period of the team's NHL hockey game against the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday, April 18, 2024, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

DENVER (AP) — In a hotel conference room in Denver, Dallenis Martinez attended orientation with hundreds of other migrants Monday for the city's new, ambitious migrant support program, which includes six month apartment stays and intensive job preparation for those who can't yet legally work.

It's an about-face from strategies Denver, New York City and Chicago have used as the cities scrambled to support thousands of migrants and slashed budgets. The largely improvised support strategies have included days- to weeks-long shelter stays or bus tickets to send migrants elsewhere.

Now, Martinez, 28, and her two young kids, along with some 650 others in Denver, are being set up with an apartment with six months of rental, food and utility assistance, a free computer, a prepaid cell phone and metro bus passes.

Then, the city working in coordination with several nonprofits plan to provide courses on English language, computers, financial literacy, and workers rights, while also assisting migrants in getting credentialed in specific industries, like construction, retail, hospitality, healthcare and early childhood education. Martinez said she will take any job to support her kids.

The support will also include help with the paperwork for asylum applications, and eventually work authorization.

The goal of the new program is to act as a buffer for new arrivals who have to wait six months for a work permit after applying for asylum under federal law, using that time to prepare migrants for their new life.

“This is investing in people to set them up to be independent and thrive,” said Sarah Plastino, who’s overseeing the program. “We know that when we set people up for success, people really do succeed.”

The city expects to enroll 800 migrants in the coming months, though only those who don’t yet qualify for a work permit can enter this program.

Martinez, who's from Venezuela but was living in Peru when she started her journey north, didn't know she'd end up in a program like this. She didn't even know what the orientation was about when she first took a seat.

Martinez, who travelled with her 11-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter, arrived in the U.S. with nothing. On the border of Guatemala and Mexico, she was robbed of the little money she had. Then, it happened again, and she had to hide in a river with her kids for two nights.

“I was hungry, cold and scared,” said Martinez, who turned herself in to U.S. immigration soon after crossing the border. “I couldn't take it anymore.”

Halfway through the orientation, Martinez was excited.

“Faith is the last thing you lose,” she said, a smile broadening on her face. “I feel more hope with this program."

The mood was upbeat in the Denver Quality Inn; where most who attended the orientation were staying. The city has rented out several hotels to support the some 42,000 migrants who've arrived since the beginning of 2023. Now, the hotels are shuttered or winding down as the number of new migrants drops.

Over the last year, new arrivals strained the city's resources, as they did in Chicago and New York City, prompting the mayors to slash city budgets after unsuccessfully asking for more federal aid from President Joe Biden.

“We were hemorrhaging money. We had over 5,000 people a day in our shelter system, and it was completely financially unsustainable," said Plastino. "We knew we had to make a shift from reactive to proactive.”

New York City officials said 197,100 immigrants have made their way there. Some 65,500 are currently in shelters. Since a federally-sponsored Asylum Application Help Center started assisting with immigration applications, some 50,000 applications have been submitted, including for asylum, work permits and other forms of immigration relief.

Even while Denver's new program is intensive, Plastino said it's still more cost effective.

The city’s costs for supporting migrants will be roughly half of what they had initially expected in January. Services like recreation centers will open once again after their funding was sliced to help afford the city's previous migrant housing strategy.

Renting hotel rooms and paying for premade meals is more expensive than providing rental support for an apartment on the market and food assistance for grocery stores, Plastino said, adding, “It’s also just the right thing to do.”

Bedayn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

One-year-old Alexa is cradled by her mother as they wait to attend an orientation session for recent immigrants, Monday, May 20, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

One-year-old Alexa is cradled by her mother as they wait to attend an orientation session for recent immigrants, Monday, May 20, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

A man is greeted by a volunteer during an orientation session for recent immigrants, Monday, May 20, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

A man is greeted by a volunteer during an orientation session for recent immigrants, Monday, May 20, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Guacapan family arrives for an orientation session for recent immigrants, Monday, May 20, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Guacapan family arrives for an orientation session for recent immigrants, Monday, May 20, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

A worker checks over the paperwork for a participant during an orientation session for recent immigrants, Monday, May 20, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

A worker checks over the paperwork for a participant during an orientation session for recent immigrants, Monday, May 20, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Two-year-old Rodrigo Guacapan runs his toy vehicles on the wall as his parents attend an orientation session for recent immigrants Monday, May 20, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Two-year-old Rodrigo Guacapan runs his toy vehicles on the wall as his parents attend an orientation session for recent immigrants Monday, May 20, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Two-year-old Rodrigo Guacapan plays with his toy vehicles as his parents attend an an orientation session for recent immigrants, Monday, May 20, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Two-year-old Rodrigo Guacapan plays with his toy vehicles as his parents attend an an orientation session for recent immigrants, Monday, May 20, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

A participant is directed to a room during an orientation session for recent immigrants, Monday, May 20, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

A participant is directed to a room during an orientation session for recent immigrants, Monday, May 20, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

A volunteer checks in an attendee during an orientation session for recent immigrants, Monday, May 20, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

A volunteer checks in an attendee during an orientation session for recent immigrants, Monday, May 20, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

One-year-old Triana Cataleya San Juan sleeps on the lap of her father, Robinson, as he listens during an orientation session for recent immigrants, Monday, May 20, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

One-year-old Triana Cataleya San Juan sleeps on the lap of her father, Robinson, as he listens during an orientation session for recent immigrants, Monday, May 20, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Brittany Gonzalez, front, speaks while her partner, Robinson San Juan, holds the couple's 1-year-old daughter, Triana Cataleya San Juan, during an orientation session for recent immigrants Monday, May 20, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Brittany Gonzalez, front, speaks while her partner, Robinson San Juan, holds the couple's 1-year-old daughter, Triana Cataleya San Juan, during an orientation session for recent immigrants Monday, May 20, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

People queue up to enter an orientation session for recent immigrants, Monday, May 20, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

People queue up to enter an orientation session for recent immigrants, Monday, May 20, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

People queue up to attend an orientation session for recent immigrants, Monday, May 20, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

People queue up to attend an orientation session for recent immigrants, Monday, May 20, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Dallenis Martinez talks about her journey to American while waiting to attend an orientation session for recent immigrants Monday, May 20, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Dallenis Martinez talks about her journey to American while waiting to attend an orientation session for recent immigrants Monday, May 20, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

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