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Knights don’t feel like underdogs despite seed: ‘Anything can happen’

The Golden Knights are not a typical No. 8 seed. They don’t expect to play like one, either.

The Knights aren’t carrying themselves like underdogs as they begin their title defense against the top-seeded Dallas Stars at 6:30 p.m. Monday at American Airlines Center.

The locker room believes it can go on another run.

“I think it was important to give ourselves a chance by getting in,” center Jack Eichel. “With the group we have, I think we understand as soon as you get in, anything can happen.”

The Knights know better than anyone seeding often doesn’t matter in the playoffs.

They faced the Eastern Conference’s No. 8 seed, the Florida Panthers, in the Stanley Cup Final last year. The Panthers trailed the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Boston Bruins 3-1 in the first round but won 11 of their next 12 playoff games.

It was a miraculous stretch. The Knights doing the same would surprise few people given they’re making their sixth postseason appearance in seven years and have the second-most playoff wins in the NHL in that span with 54.

“I think it says a lot about the competitiveness and the parity of the NHL and our league,” Eichel said. “I think everyone’s slate is wiped clean, starting now.”

Five No. 8 seeds have made the Stanley Cup Final since 2000. The 2012 Los Angeles Kings, featuring Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, won the whole thing.

That means consecutive championships will be an uphill climb. The Knights would face either Winnipeg or 2022 Stanley Cup winners Colorado in the second round if they defeat the Stars.

“I’m sure every guy in here is really confident, more than an eight seed (normally is),” right wing Anthony Mantha. “There’s no secret method.”

The Knights have reason to like their chances.

They defeated Dallas in six games in the 2023 Western Conference Final after taking a 3-0 series lead. The Knights then won all three games the two sides played against each other this regular season.

One win came in overtime and another came in a shootout. The Knights won the final meeting 6-1 in Dallas on Dec. 9.

The Stars are still a much different team than last year.

Center Matt Duchene, 33, scored 65 points his first season in Dallas after joining as a free agent last summer. Rookie right wing Logan Stankoven, 20, has 14 points in 24 games since making his NHL debut Feb. 24.

“I don’t think Dallas cares about (getting swept in the regular season),” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “It’s a new season. They’re the No. 1 seed. We used examples with clips of what we did well in those games, certainly, but that’s where it ends.”

The Knights accomplished their first goal this season by reaching the playoffs.

Now it’s time to see if they can achieve a few more. They accomplished their ultimate goal last year, which is why they’re not sweating the seed they’re starting with.

“You’ve just got to find a way to get in,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It doesn’t really matter how (you get in). We’re in the playoffs.”

Contact Danny Webster at dwebster@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DannyWebster21 on X.

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