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 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 77 23 31 -13 54
J. Faulk 82 15 34 -19 49
E. Lindholm 81 17 22 -23 39
V. Rask 80 11 22 -14 33
J. Skinner 77 18 13 -24 31
N. Gerbe 78 10 18 -14 28
R. Nash 68 8 17 -10 25
J. Staal 46 6 18 -6 24
J. Liles 57 2 20 -9 22
J. McClement 82 7 14 -7 21
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 22 24 5 .910 2.40
A. Khudobin 8 17 6 .900 2.72