A challenging season for Eric Gelinas has proven to be a valuable learning experience. The young defenseman is hoping it pays off with his NHL debut.
Gelinas, 21, was one of three players recalled from Albany (AHL) on Tuesday, along with forwards Harri Pesonen and Mike Sislo.
The Devils' second-round selection in 2009, he missed nearly the first two months of the season after taking a puck in the mouth during Albany's final preseason game at Binghamton on Oct. 6.
What he thought would be just a couple of lost teeth turned out to be a broken lower jaw. But he's taken it all in stride.
"To me this year, with the injury, those were steps that I had to get over," Gelinas said after Wednesday's practice. "I think that was good to get early in my career so I know what to expect for situations like this. I think I'm more mature as a player and more responsible as a player."
Gelinas made his season debut on Nov. 25 and put up six goals and 16 assists for 22 points in 57 games. That's down from the 37 points (16g-21a) he posted in 75 games a year ago.
"My stats weren't the same as last year, but I don't look at the points," he said. "I want to develop as a player for a long-term career and I think I'm pretty satisfied with the way it went."
With two games remaining in the Devils' season, Gelinas would cherish the opportunity to suit up for New Jersey. The Devils close out the home schedule against Pittsburgh on Thursday and visit the Rangers in Saturday's regular-season finale.
Johan Hedberg will start versus the Penguins.
"It would be a dream come true," Gelinas said. "I think everyone wants to accomplish that and hopefully get a game late in the season, and get the experience of what it feels like to be an NHL player."
Gelinas still can't bite into some foods – apples are off limits – but with everything he's had to overcome this year, his first NHL game would be something to smile about.