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Schenn gets first NHL game against Wings

Thursday, 10.09.2008 / 4:51 PM / NHL Face-Off 2008

By Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

DETROIT – Four months ago, Luke Schenn was at the Joe Louis Arena to take in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins.
  
He was there with other projected top picks from the 2008 Entry Draft, such as Steven Stamkos and Drew Doughty. Little did Schenn know that in just a few months time, he’d be in the same building, trying to prevent the defending champion from winning its 2008-09 season opener.
  
The Toronto Maple Leafs traded up with the New York Islanders to grab the 18-year-old defenseman with the No. 5 selection. After making his mark in training camp, Schenn gets the opportunity to showcase what many have projected to be tremendous shut-down ability.

But before he can get down to business, Schenn will only be able to watch as the Red Wings raise their 2007-08 Stanley Cup banner to the rafters of what will certainly be a raucous Joe Louis Arena.

Quite a way to start your NHL career.
  
"I’m not too sure what to expect," Schenn said after Thursday morning’s pre-game skate. "I’ve never really witnessed one. Obviously, they’re the defending Stanley Cup champions, so it’s going to be a good test. I came down to Joe Louis Arena and watched Game 2 versus Pittsburgh. It wasn’t too long ago that I was watching, and now I’m in the lineup. It’s pretty exciting."
  
Almost as exciting as the fact that all the hard work Schenn put in during training camp has turned into – at least for the time being – an NHL roster spot.

The Leafs have 9 games to decide whether to keep the 6-foot-2, 216-pounder or send him back to juniors. Schenn had 28 points and 100 penalty minutes in 57 games with the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets last season.
  
He may not know what the future holds, but he entered training camp with the proper mindset. So far, so good.
  
"I just wanted to come in here and compete," Schenn said. "I wanted to get better every day and keep progressing. That’s the main thing – keep getting better. I’m real excited to be in this position right now."
  
"We’ve bought ourselves an additional month," Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher said. "Even if he didn’t play every game, it’s 9 games played. We can postpone that decision until the beginning of November. It’ll all depend on how he adjusts.

"If you go on the basis of how he played in preseason, the coaching staff played him against the best the opposition had, and he passed every test. That’s all you can ask him to do."
  
Certainly, the butterflies will be there when the puck drops.

"That’s the last thing I’m going to do is think negative. Obviously, you think positive going into a game. After the first couple of shifts, I’m sure I’ll get into the flow of it and I’ll feel confident."
-- Luke Schenn

But Schenn is confident that as the game progresses, he will feel more and more comfortable. He said he will do everything in his power not to wonder if he’s NHL ready or anything else that would deter from the task at hand.
  
"That’s the last thing I’m going to do is think negative," Schenn said. "Obviously, you think positive going into a game. After the first couple of shifts, I’m sure I’ll get into the flow of it and I’ll feel confident."
  
Will that change once Schenn sees Henrik Zetterberg or Marian Hossa flying down the wing? Perhaps; but Schenn said he won’t be doing anything out of the ordinary in order to stop some of the game’s best forwards.
  
"Obviously they’re the defending champs and they’ve got a good team over there, but I’ve just got to keep things simple out there," Schenn said. "Hopefully I’ll get more comfortable after I get a couple of shifts under my belt."
  
Schenn was unable to accommodate family members for his NHL debut, but there will be plenty of loved ones in attendance Saturday, when the Maple Leafs host the Montreal Canadiens at Air Canada Centre.  
  
"They’ll be there for Saturday’s game," Schenn said. "I couldn’t get the flight to Detroit in time. They’ll be watching back home, for sure."
  
Schenn’s family won’t be the only ones.

With the Maple Leafs in a rebuilding mode, all eyes in Toronto will be on the team’s first-round selection in 2008. The fact that he’s playing in the NHL at 18 speaks volumes of the player that Fletcher wanted all along.
  
"I’m definitely very excited," Schenn said. "It’s something that you work towards your whole life, trying to get to the NHL one day. I couldn’t be more excited. It’s a dream come true."

Contact Brian Compton at: bcompton@nhl.com.
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