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Milano excited to make NHL debut close to home

by Katie Foglia / Columbus Blue Jackets

The big storyline from the Blue Jackets' 11 a.m. practice at the OhioHealth Ice Haus today? The arrival of Sonny Milano.

The Blue Jackets recalled Milano and added defenseman Dean Kukan to the roster on emergency recall from Cleveland’s Lake Erie Monsters, the team announced Wednesday morning.

Both players practiced this morning and are traveling with the team to New York this afternoon. Milano is expected to make his NHL debut tomorrow night in Brooklyn at Barclays Center against the New York Islanders.

“I watched him today and he can fly,” Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella said of Milano after practice. “I mean, he can skate. I’m anxious to see him play.”

Tortorella said Milano’s speed was the first thing he noticed. The Blue Jackets bench boss added that given the situation the club is in, there is the opportunity for younger players like Oliver Bjorkstrand, Kukan and Milano to get their first taste of the NHL as the season comes to a close.

“We are a little banged up, so it gives you an opportunity,” Tortorella said. “For me, it really helps me because we’re in this situation. I want to see them as much as possible right now. But that does not change my belief that you rush people into the league. I think that the American (Hockey) League is a great league in developing players.”

Milano has recorded 12 goals and added 15 assists for 27 points with 18 penalty minutes and a +10 plus/minus rating in 48 games with Lake Erie this season. The 19-year-old has been heating up as of late, and has scored seven goals and notched three assists in his last 15 games with the Monsters.

The Massapequa, New York native said he was lying in bed last night when he saw a missed call from Bill Zito, the assistant GM of the Blue Jackets and GM of the Monsters. Milano said he called back, unsure of what Zito had to say, and was surprised and excited to hear the good news.

“I was for sure surprised,” Milano said. “It’s unbelievable, it was my first call-up ever and my first game tomorrow playing (the Islanders), it’s where I’m from so it’s extra special and a lot of family and friends will be it’s pretty exciting, for sure.”

Milano's family had Islanders season tickets when he was growing up, and he spent many nights at the old Nassau Coliseum. His parents were the first two people he called to share the exciting news last night.

“My mom was crying, so that was pretty special,” Milano said. “I was FaceTime-ing her, so that was pretty cool. My dad was just pumped up. He was busy with work, but he was obviously really excited. He’s a huge hockey fan and especially playing against the Islanders is pretty awesome.”

Mr. Milano is handling all of the arrangements for family and friends to attend the game. His son, wearing No. 22 during his first practice with the team, just wants to get on the ice and play NHL hockey. He skated with Brandon Saad and Alexander Wennberg in practice today.

A few other notes and quotes from practice:

Boone Jenner, who lost a few teeth in Washington against the Capitals and has since gotten 20 stitches in his mouth, was sporting a full visor at practice.

Cam Atkinson skated briefly today, but left practice for maintenance reasons. Tortorella said he will play Thursday in Brooklyn.

Fedor Tyutin was also absent from practice. Tortorella said he is in between day-to-day and week-to-week with an undisclosed injury.

Needless to say, Tortorella is fond of the veteran defenseman: “I have a lot of respect for him, because I was very honest with Tyuts after a little while watching him play, and I took him out of the lineup. He asked me why, and I was very honest with him. He did not agree, and I won’t give you the conversation, but he was pissed. But I’ve watched his game improve since then, and one thing about Tyuts is: there’s some limitations at times because of speed (of the game), but he makes up for it with just how competitive he is, and I respect that about him.”

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