Opportunity is knocking for Patrick Davis and Nick Palmieri. They were called up yesterday from Lowell, and will be in the lineup tonight, when the Devils host Florida.
Davis, 23, made his NHL debut last season with one appearance in New Jersey. Palmieri, 20, makes his debut tonight.
“It’s nice to be back here,” said Davis. “I played my first game last year and it was really exciting. I think I’ll be a little bit more comfortable this year than I was last year; all the anxiety I had. I’m just looking forward to it.”
Both are enjoying breakthrough seasons for the Devils’ AHL affiliate, which is poised to make the playoffs for the first time under rookie coach John MacLean. Davis is tied for second in Lowell scoring with 28 points (12g-16a). Palmieri is fourth on the team with 26 points, and third among AHL rookies with 15 goals.
“Me personally, I’m having a career year down there,” Davis said. “Everyone’s doing well; our team’s doing great. John MacLean’s just doing a great job down there.”
Palmieri, New Jersey's second choice in 2007, has been lighting the lamp after some helpful advice from MacLean.
“I think I’ve been shooting more,” said Palmieri. “That’s the idea that’s been drilled into my head from Day One from Coach MacLean. He really wants me to shoot every chance I get, and so far, I’ve been lucky that the shots that have been getting on net have been going in. “
Davis takes a more streamlined approach.
“Like John MacLean said this year, 'Just take a step back and let the game come to you. Simplify it,' ” he recounted. “It has become a little easier. I’m not rushing things. I’m playing with energy but at the right times and I feel that’s helped me a lot.”
Davis, a native of Sterling, Mich., will battle a familiar face in tonight’s game. The Panthers are coached by Pete DeBoer, who also coached Davis for two-plus seasons in Kitchener (OHL). Davis eventually became the Devils' fourth choice in the 2005 Draft.
“It’s pretty exciting,” he said. “I haven’t seen him in a while and I really respect him as a coach and as a person. He’s a great guy and he helped me a lot in my development. I can’t say enough about him and (Kitchener GM) Steve Spot and how they helped me. It should be pretty exciting. Hopefully I get to say hi to him.”
Palmieri, who hails from Clinton, N.Y., near Utica, will have a strong family presence in Newark for his first NHL appearance. His father, Nick, and mother, Amy, will be at the Rock with his brother, Jack, 4, along with their grandparents.
He's no stranger to performing at Prudential Center. He had two goals, including the game-winner, in Lowell’s 3-2 win over Hartford in Newark on Jan. 6. Maybe that’s why Palmieri doesn’t expect nerves to be a problem.
“The nerves might be there a little bit, but I’ve played this game a thousand times,” he said. “The only thing I think I change is the level of play. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get used to it relatively quick and learn on my feet. After that, I think the nerves will probably be gone, once I get that first shift in.”
Davis and Palmieri look to continue what has been a trend in New Jersey this season: young players getting the job done when called up by the big club. They hope to follow the example set by Matt Corrente, Tyler Eckford, Matt Halischuk, Tim Sestito
, and Vladimir Zharkov
, all of whom have made a difference in New Jersey this season.
“It’s definitely nice to see the guys from Lowell that get called up make an impact here,” Palmieri said. “Obviously I would like the same for myself, but I’m going to take it one step at a time and just work on my game and try to be the player I can out there.”
“This has always been my dream, so to get a chance to play in the NHL,” he said. “Everyone that plays, that’s what they’re trying to do. It’s definitely a really exciting time for me and my family.”
Davis will wear No. 14; Palmieri, No. 16.