It feels like it’s happening all over again and it feels like my first game again. - Akim Aliu
CALGARY, AB -- It’s not a stretch to suggest Akim Aliu’s hockey career has mimicked that of a roller coaster.
And after being recalled from the Abbotsford Heat of the American Hockey League on Thursday, Aliu is ready to hold on for the ride.
Getting another opportunity after a two-game stint with the Calgary Flames last April, Aliu is prepared to bring some jump, grit and youthful enthusiasm heading into Saturday’s contest against the Minnesota Wild.
He already had the enthusiasm part down on Friday.
“It feels like it’s happening all over again and it feels like my first game again,” Aliu said. “I wasn’t here for too long last year so it’s super excited, I’m happy to be here and hopefully I can help this team in any way I can.”
There weren’t too many ways Aliu didn’t help the Flames in his last stint, scoring twice – including his first career NHL goal – and adding a dozen penalty minutes while driving the opposition mad in his short audition. He’ll need to do more of the same in order to spark a Calgary club that is seeking just its third win at Scotiabank Saddledome against the Wild.
“That’s going to be my role here, try to bring some energy and some fire to the dressing room,” said Aliu. “This is a really good team in here, there’s a ton of skill and if we can get a little energy and a little spunk in here, it’ll be a really good team.”
It’s not unlike his role in Abbotsford, where Aliu has amassed 80 penalty minutes in just 27 games this season.
And in playing that role in Calgary, Flames coach Bob Hartley predicted Aliu is going to get acquainted with the opposition rather quickly.
“He’s going to make some new friends,” Hartley joked.
But what Aliu is expected to bring to a roster looking for an injection of intensity is no laughing matter.
“It’s playing the game,” Hartley continued. “This game is about being gritty. It’s a physical game. We’re not talking about croquet over here. We’re talking about a game of passion, a game that world class athletes play in and you need a certain size. I think Akim brings that size to us.”
Aliu already knows how to appropriately introduce himself.
“My first job is to be physical and get on the puck and get on the forecheck,” he said.
His second job may be to do everything he can to stay on the upswing, something even Aliu admitted he hasn’t always been able to do.
“It feels like my whole career has been like that, some highs and a lot more lows than there’s been highs,” Aliu said. “I don’t really want to say it, but I’ve learned to deal with it because it’s happened so much.”
He’ll have plenty of reason to hold high in his first NHL game of the season – just the third of his career.
And even out that roller coaster ride a little more.