Devils vs. Hurricanes
Tracking the Storm

Gameday: Hurricanes vs. Coyotes

Riley Nash Makes NHL Debut Tonight

Wednesday, 12.21.2011 / 12:02 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Gameday: Hurricanes vs. Coyotes
Christmas is coming a few days early for forward Riley Nash, who will make his National Hockey League debut tonight.

Michael Smith
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The Hurricanes recalled Nash this morning on emergency basis for forward Tim Brent, who was injured in practice yesterday. To make room on the roster, the team has put Jeff Skinner (concussion) on injured reserve.

As the end of training camp neared in early October, Nash was still in Raleigh fighting for a roster spot. Then head coach Paul Maurice called him the most improved forward over the course of the calendar year. Nash skated in five preseason games for the Hurricanes this season and recorded a goal and an assist. He ranked tied for the lead in plus-minus with a plus-2.

Nash, a former first round pick of the Edmonton Oilers and acquired by the Canes in the summer of 2010, was a key piece in the Charlotte Checkers’ run to the Eastern Conference Final of the Calder Cup Playoffs last season. In 79 regular season games with the Checkers, Nash notched 32 points (14g, 18a) and was a plus-5. He added 4 points (1g, 3a) in the playoffs.

When the Canes’ front office saw him during the playoffs, they noticed that he had grown as a player. Maurice said that Nash was “grittier and fighting on pucks,” and that he came into training camp, “bigger, stronger and faster.”

Though he didn’t end up making the roster cut at the beginning of this season, his performance in training camp certainly positioned him on the short list for recalls. A couple of months later, he’s made it.

 “The kids are getting their opportunities, and they’ve got to take advantage of it,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “Like I tell them, ‘Don’t come up nervous, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes, or it’s not going to work.’”

Nash will be slotted in Brent’s fourth-line center spot tonight. Muller said finding the right guy to play that position was an important consideration in making the recall.

“We need a guy who can play center and can play that two-way game,” he said. “The report I got is that he can play that way, so we’ll give him a chance.”

Nash left midway through the third period in the Checkers’ game last night. Muller joked this morning that they were keeping him fresh for tonight. In any case, he will be ready to play.

To keep the legs fresh for tonight’s game, Muller kept his team off the ice, minus Justin Peters and Derek Joslin, who is expected to be the healthy extra again of defense tonight. The Coyotes played just last night in Florida, where they earned a 2-1 win. Their starting goaltender, Mike Smith, stopped 19 shots before an injury forced him to leave three and a half minutes into the third period. Backup Jason LaBarbera made eight saves in relief, including one on a penalty shot. Justin Pogge, who played last season for the Checkers, tweeted this morning that he was in North Carolina, but there hasn’t been an official word from the team whether he has been recalled.

Tonight will be one to remember for the 22-year-old Nash, one he hopes will be followed by many more. A win would make it even more special.

“We’re rested,” Muller said. “Now we’re here, and we expect our guys to come out ready to go from the start tonight.”

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - NYR 73 47 19 7 224 168 101
2 MTL 75 46 21 8 197 167 100
3 TBL 75 46 22 7 244 194 99
4 NYI 75 44 26 5 228 208 93
5 PIT 74 40 23 11 204 186 91
6 DET 73 39 22 12 212 201 90
7 WSH 74 40 24 10 215 182 90
8 OTT 73 37 25 11 213 195 85
9 BOS 74 36 25 13 195 193 85
10 FLA 74 34 26 14 184 202 82
11 PHI 75 30 29 16 196 216 76
12 NJD 74 31 31 12 166 189 74
13 CBJ 73 34 35 4 198 228 72
14 CAR 73 27 36 10 170 201 64
15 TOR 75 27 42 6 194 241 60
16 BUF 74 20 46 8 141 249 48

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 68 20 27 -13 47
J. Faulk 73 14 32 -18 46
E. Lindholm 72 16 20 -21 36
J. Skinner 68 18 12 -22 30
V. Rask 71 11 19 -12 30
R. Nash 67 8 17 -10 25
N. Gerbe 69 7 17 -13 24
J. McClement 73 7 13 -3 20
A. Nestrasil 45 7 13 4 20
J. Staal 37 4 15 -9 19
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 19 21 5 .910 2.43
A. Khudobin 8 15 5 .903 2.62