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Keith Aucoin making NHL playoff debut against Bruins he grew up rooting for

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BOSTON | When working as a broadcaster with the New Jersey Devils, ex-NHL forward Peter McNab had a favorite April ritual.

“He used to make a habit of talking to players after they played their first playoff game,” NBC play-by-play man Mike Emrick recalled. “And he would always ask them when he talked to rookies, ‘Was it pretty much what you expected?’ and the majority of them said, ‘No, it was far more intense and it was a faster and more quick decision-making level than what a regular-season game was.’ ”

Keith Aucoin is about to find that out. After a career spent mostly in the minors with just 102 NHL games, the 33-year-old Washington Capitals forward will play his first Stanley Cup Playoff game Thursday. Even better, it comes against the same Boston Bruins he grew up rooting for in Waltham, Mass.

“Obviously a lot of family and friends, getting a lot of calls and text messages. I told everyone to get their own tickets they’re too expensive,” Aucoin said with a smile. “But it’s awesome. Obviously growing up a Bruins fans and growing up the goal is to win the Stanley Cup and now the chance to beat them to get to that goal it’s going to be a lot of fun and looking forward to getting it going.”

Aucoin came close to appearing in the 2008 playoffs with the Carolina Hurricanes, but a Caps win on the final day of the season ended that dream.

That Aucoin is even part of this playoff team is a surprise given that he spent the first four months of the season with the Hershey Bears and was nothing more than an afterthought. But he’s got three goals and eight assists in his 32 games with Washington this season and now gets to enjoy the taste of the postseason.

“It’s my first experience and I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “Obviously it makes it a little more special playing Boston so I can’t wait to get going and I’m just excited.”

Aucoin played in both Caps games at TD Garden this season, but his fondest memories of hockey here are from the old Boston Garden.

Actually in high school I was able to play in the old Garden in the state championship,” Aucoin said. “That place was pretty cool, I was watching a lot of games there when I was younger and it was a lot different experience going there than it is to the Garden now, but both are fun places to play.”

It could be at a barn, though, and Aucoin wouldn’t care. As for what he expects…

I think whenever you play in the playoffs, the game gets a little quicker and it’s a lot more physical but other than that it’s the same type of game,” Aucoin said. “You just have to go out there and play your systems and play the way you’re capable of playing. Obviously it gets a little more physical, but at the same time I like the physical play so I’m going to go out there and be a little more physical myself.”

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