RALEIGH, N.C. – When the puck drops between the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders on Friday at PNC Arena, a few players on the Hurricanes roster will feel an extra surge of energy than the rest.
For rookie forwards Victor Rask, Patrick Brown and Chris Terry, the game will provide them the opportunity to take to the ice as part of Carolina’s 2014-2015 opening-night lineup.
The feeling for Rask and Brown will be different as they will be playing in the first National Hockey League (NHL) game of their careers, whereas Terry, still technically a rookie, has played in 13 games with Carolina over the past two seasons.
“I’m really excited,” Rask said.
“It’s a huge honor to play in the best league in the world. I’m not nervous right now, but maybe a little bit before the puck drops. After that, it’s just a game, you know.”
Rask, who played his first full season as a pro for the Charlotte Checkers in the American Hockey League (AHL) last season, has impressed Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters so much that he’ll get the chance to center the team’s second line with Elias Lindholm and Nathan Gerbe on either side of him.
It’s a situation and opportunity that’s come about for Rask as a result of his hard work in training camp and the preseason, coupled with injuries to Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner that has required Peters to adjust his line combinations accordingly.
“They’re both really skilled guys,” Rask said of Lindholm and Gerbe.
“They really work hard too, and that makes it easy for me to go in there and do my work. It’s a lot of fun to play with those two.”
Brown, the former Boston College captain, is the last remaining member out of this year’s prospect camp class to be with the team.
After being sent to Charlotte last weekend, the team’s recent injury situation with Skinner sitting out indefinitely with a concussion injury, necessitated a call for Brown to return on Tuesday to assume a spot in the bottom-six portion of the lineup.
It’s a role he looks forward to filling and playing in during his first NHL game against the Islanders.
“Extremely excited,” Brown said.
“We’re playing a great team, so it should be a great game. I’m just focusing on playing my game. I don’t wanna’ try and do anything extra, just play really hard, get the puck deep and get my legs under me.”
“So far I’ve just tried to soak it in,” Brown continued.
“It goes by fast and you enjoy it. Right now, I just want to try and go out there and get a win.”
With Rask and Brown looking forward to their first game, captain Eric Staal talked about and recalled the feelings he had leading up to his first opening-night game in the NHL.
“Obviously the excitement’s there, with games starting last night (Wednesday),” Staal said.
“For us to be able to get goin’ at home, we’re all pumped up for that. It will be fun.”
”You gotta’ let them soak it in,” Staal continued when talking of what the rookies should expect.
“I know when it was my first time, to play my first game, it was a lot of guys sayin’ congratulations before we went out, or a talk after the game. But you gotta’ let them enjoy that moment, let them enjoy that buildup because it’s a lot of fun, it’s something they’re never gonna’ forget. It will be fun for those guys tomorrow.”
Peters, as part of his preparation and planning for the team’s first game, had already talked with the young players on what to expect accordingly.
“We talked about it, leading up to this, and we’ve met with them,” the coach said.
“We talked about just enjoying the moment. I believe the families are gonna’ be comin’ in from overseas and stuff like that. It’s a big moment. It’s a milestone in their career and in their lives, so enjoy it. Then get rid of the butterflies quick. If you’re one of those pros with butterflies, they’ll go away quick enough. We’ll keep the shifts short in the beginning to get everybody in the game and we’ll go from there.”