Curtis Glencross might not be one of the more recognizable faces among the NHL talent pool but the tenacious Blue Jackets winger certainly doesn't shy away from opportunity. After all, this a guy who as an undrafted player scored his first career goal in his first ever game in the NHL last season when he was still a member of the Anaheim Ducks.
That memorable marker likely pales in comparison to the feat Glencross pulled off last week when he and Jackets embarked on the always-tough road swing through Western Canada. The 24-year-old was born in Kindersley, Saskatchewan but grew up in Provost, Alberta, a town of about 2,000 people just a few hours away from Calgary. When Columbus recently took the ice against the Calgary Flames on Hockey Night in Canada, Glencross put on a show for the numerous friends and family that had come to see him play. A career-high two goals in a 4-3 win over the Flames, with the deciding marker coming in overtime, no less.
"Anytime you can go home and have a game where you score two goals and one's a game-winner in overtime, I'll never forget it," says Glencross. "After the game, I got about 50 text messages and a bunch of phone calls. I thought, 'Oh boy, everyone's starting.'
"I was talking to my dad, who's in the cattle business in Red Deer and he said he's still getting calls from farmers saying, 'Congratulations.'"
While a dream homecoming was nice on a personal level, Glencross' performance was a clear indication that he can be major contributor to a Columbus team that's earning a reputation as one of the tougher teams in the NHL to face. The gritty 6-1, 195-pound forward is a well-rounded player, who earned his shot after spending the better part of the past three seasons in the AHL with stops in Cincinnati and Portland following two successful years as a member of the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves. He has natural instincts in the offensive zone but also a knack for throwing his body around and creating havoc for the opposition.
Veteran Sergei Fedorov, who's been playing on a line with Glencross and Gilbert Brule of late, saw those qualities when the two were both members of the Anaheim organization. When Fedorov heard that the Jackets' had acquired Glencross last January in a deal last January (Glencross, Zenon Konopka and seventh rounder in 2007 for Joe Motzko, Mark Hartigan and a fourth rounder in 2007), he was pleased.
"I've always had a good connection with Curtis, even those days in Anaheim," says the veteran center. "I like his speed, he's got good hands and he has a nose for the goal. He can hit, too. Those are all good qualities a forward should have. In my book, it's a perfect combination.
"I enjoy playing with him. He battles hard and creates a lot of space for me. He goes hard to the net."
Glencross says it's weird that he's been reunited on a line with Fedorov playing for a different organization but he's not complaining.
"Sergei's such a leader," the rookie says. "I watched him growing up. "It was awesome, I played my first ever NHL exhibition game with him and had a great game. He told me, 'You can play on my line any day.'"
Those are the type of comments that can give any young player confidence and Glencross admits that the more he plays, the less he feels like he's under the microscope. With 20 games under his belt this season, he has scored five times and added three assists, the goal tally tying him for third on the team with Fedorov and Jason Chimera, which trail only Rick Nash's 18 and Nikolai Zherdev's 10.
"Confidence is a huge part," Glencross says. "You play a few more games and it seems like not everyone's watching you. It's a bit of a relief. It allows you to go and play the game like you've always played it and not worry about so many things.
"But there are a few things I definitely have to work on still and the coaching staff lets you know."
His immediate future seems secure but Glencross knows his work in Columbus is only beginning. Lacking the pedigree of highly-touted prospects, he'll need to rely on the ethic he learned growing up on the Canadian prairie to become a successful NHL regular.
"They told me to find a place to live," Glencross says. "It's definitely an accomplishment but you can't take it for granted. Your job's not really secure. It can come and it can go. If you hit a cold streak, you might be gone and if you're hot, you stay.
"That's part of the job."