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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 - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Skinner 82 28 23 -2 51
V. Rask 80 21 27 -6 48
J. Staal 82 20 28 6 48
E. Lindholm 82 11 28 -23 39
J. Faulk 64 16 21 -22 37
K. Versteeg 63 11 22 -6 33
E. Staal 63 10 23 -3 33
J. Nordstrom 71 10 14 1 24
A. Nestrasil 55 9 14 4 23
R. Nash 64 9 13 -5 22
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 23 17 10 .909 2.41
E. Lack 12 14 6 .901 2.81