It’s Ducks-Kings tonight, so everybody is pumped up, but maybe no one more so than a certain 23-year-old winger who has only played two NHL games in his life.
Chris Wagner is expected to be in the Anaheim lineup tonight after being recalled by the Ducks from Norfolk of the AHL yesterday morning. After enduring the lengthy cross-country flight from Virginia to SoCal, the native of Walpole, Massachussetts was on the ice for today’s morning skate in anticipation for what’s to come tonight at Honda Center.
Wagner, who was taken by Anaheim in the fifth round (122nd overall) of the 2010 Draft, made his NHL debut last October 17 at Minnesota. He was soon sent down and brought back up again to play one game in mid-November, coincidentally a clash with the Kings at Staples Center.
Wagner, still looking for his first NHL point, racked up 26 (including 13 goals) in 41 games for Norfolk this season. At the time of his recall, the 6-0, 202-pounder co-led the Admirals in scoring and goals.
After this morning’s skate, the normally babyfaced Wagner -- who is sporting a little bit of facial hair -- talked about the process of being called up to the big club. How are you told by the team when you get recalled? Usually our assistant GM down there [Bob Ferguson] calls me, tells me the flight, and everything else. It’s usually an eight-hour process to get across the country. This time I found out yesterday morning, first thing. We were at home, since we were supposed to play Providence this weekend. I had about three hours to get ready, which is probably the most time I’ve had when I’ve been called up. The last time, I was ready to play a game that night, and they called me in the afternoon and told me to get on a plane. It was a little more relaxed this time. It was around 8:30 or 9 in the morning, and I was actually half-asleep when they called me, so that woke me up real quick. We weren’t supposed to be at the rink until 2:00 yesterday because of snow, so I was trying to sleep in. But that’s okay.
It’s been cold back there, so along with everything else, it’s a nice change of pace weather-wise. It’s awesome. It’s why you come to Cali. They’ve had a lot of snow back there recently, which is unusual for them, but this is great.
What is your focus when you’re on the way out here? You kind of hope when you get called up that you’re going to play right away, so you mentally prepare that way. Especially this game, one of the biggest games of the year, I’m pretty excited. It’s going to be an intense, physical game.
What’s your evaluation of your season so far? I obviously wanted to get games in the NHL this year, which is my main goal. Hopefully I’ll get a few more down the road here. It’s been a decently successful year, but you can always do better. It’s been the most positive so far in my pro career.
For fans who haven’t seen you much this year, what can they except you to bring? I just try to be physical as much as I can, try to be defensively smart. I pitched in offensively down there, and hopefully I get more comfortable and that translates down here.
What is the feeling among the guys about the team moving to San Diego next season? Norfolk has been great, but we’re excited. It’s tough when you’re going up and down and going through those long plane rides. We’re definitely excited, and we’ve only heard great things about San Diego. Of course you hope you’re up here, but if you’re down there, it’s not a bad spot to be.