With the Calgary Flames battling for their playoff lives every night, it could be a bit intimidating for a rookie to hop into the roster. However, former first-round pick Greg Nemisz isn't nervous about potentially playing in his first NHL game tonight against the St. Louis Blues.
"It's really exciting. That's why you play hockey, race like this. To jump into this locker room when they're doing so well ... I'm just trying to contribute any way I can."
If Niklas Hagman, who has sat out of practice the last two practices with the flu, isn't able to play, Nemisz will slide into the lineup.
"They told to come in like I was going play," the 20 year-old said. "I'm coming to the rink at the normal time and getting ready. I don't know for sure but I hope so."
In 59 games with the Abbotsford Heat, Nemisz has tallied 13 goals and 27 points. His overall game has grown greatly since joining the Heat this season and he knows he needs to be able to bring the confidence he's gained over the course of this season to his game tonight.
"I've just got to contribute in any way I can. Going into the game, I don't know if I'm playing or not for sure, but I have to provide some energy, some spark. That's what I'll try to do tonight."
Tim Jackman, who left the game on Friday in the second period with an upper body injury after a fight with Ryan Clowe, will play tonight. At practice he was sporting quite the shiner, with his eye swollen about the size of golf ball, but insisted he was fine.
"I can see out of my eye, so everything's good. I had to see if the swelling would come down because he closed my eye pretty good. I just had to wait for it open up. The doctor's took a look and there was no damage in there, just a lot of swelling."
Head coach Brent Sutter shared his relief in Jackman's ability to play with the media after the Flames optional skate.
"He's a tough cookie. He plays hard. What happened, it's fortunate it's just a boo-boo on his eye. I'm just glad there's no fractures there or anything like that because he's an important part of our hockey team."
Jackman's gritty presence will be needed against a St. Louis team who are starting to pick up momentum. Given that the Blues are battling for a playoff spot, tonight's match-up takes on a new level of importance.
"It seems like any game we have coming up here in the next while is a four-point game." winger Curtis Glencross said. "We've just got to start it off tonight and keep rolling from there."
The level of intensity in these proverbial four-point outings is amped up when playing a team in a back-to-back scenario. The Flames and Blues will meet twice over the next three days and from Calgary's point of view, that's a good thing.
"For starters, I think it's exciting," Sutter said. "It's huge back-to-back games for both teams ... What we're expecting from them, their a team that's got life. They feel like they're knocking right there, which they are."
Defenceman Cory Sarich agreed, adding the Flames need to come out at full throttle tonight.
"We're clawing to stay in the playoffs and move up and they're fighting to get in there. It should be a couple big games. Tonight's really important to set the tone."
The Blues have some new faces in their lineup with the recent additions of forward Chris Stewart and defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk. Stewart has been an explosive offensive force for the Blues since being dealt to the Blues from the Colorado Avalanche. In his five games played with St. Louis, the 23 year-old has notched three two-goal games.
Shattenkirk has also been adding some offensive to the roster, earning three assists in his five games with the club.
With the excellent play of both Stewart and Shattenkirk combined with a strong team game, the Flames know they're in for a tough battle.
"They've always posed as a tough opponent for us," Sarich said. "They've got good size up front in a few of their forwards and they've had an offensive threat joining the rush from the backend. That really hasn't changed."
Calgary held an optional skate this morning. With the exception of Hagman and Nemisz, lines will likely remain the same.