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Melart adjusts to the pace in NHL debut

by Kristyn Repke / Columbus Blue Jackets

It’s hard to miss a guy who towers at 6-foot-4, 230 lbs. charging toward the boards and skating around the ice, watching every move.

Sunday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins definitely took notice.

Defenseman Ilari Melart, in his first NHL game, saw 14:53 of ice time and had the Blue Jackets’ first fight of the season. Even though the end result was not what Melart wanted (it ended with him and Adam Payerl skating in circles), he thought he did well for his first round.

“It didn’t end up being much of a fight since my arm was tied up the whole time and I couldn’t get it free,” Melart told “It was just happened in the heat of the moment, but it was fun.”

Overall, Melart’s physical play was evident. He made the hits to free up the puck and provide an opening for his teammates to break on the rush. His seven penalty minutes led the team in that column, but he was among the Blue Jackets who brought the physical intensity to tonight’s game.

“My job is to get the puck quickly out of the zone, and I think I did decently at that,” said Melart. “Hopefully, I’ll get to play as many games as possible and keep up my work.”

Melart’s first game in the NHL was also his first on North American ice, as he has spent his entire career (and life, before this season) in Europe and played professional hockey for both HIFK of the SM-Iiiga League and Team Finland in international competition.

“My goal is to get to know the NHL style of play and the North American style of play,” said Melart. “The pace is quicker than what I’m used to. I had to be ready all the time. But I like this style and pace more, so it’s not a hard transition for me to make."

"I just have to keep working at it.”

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