NASHVILLE - The time has come for Mark Jankowski.
After a stellar pre-season and a strong start to the year in Stockton, Mark Jankowski will make his season debut this evening when the Flames take on the Predators at 6:00 p.m. MT (Sportsnet Flames; Sportsnet 960 The FAN).
"It's a lot of excitement for sure, maybe a little bit of nerves but I'm sure those will subside when (I) get to rink and understand it's just another hockey game for me," he said following the Flames morning skate at Bridgestone Arena. "I'm definitely really excited, playing with two really good linemates and excited to get going."
Jankowski is slated to center Sam Bennett and Curtis Lazar, a move that has energized his wingers ahead of this evening's match-up.
"It's always exciting. Any time you get a new line," Bennett stated. "Janko coming up and I know he's going to be buzzing out there. Definitely our line is excited and hopefully we can find some chemistry early.
"We've chatted a little bit. It hasn't been too much really game-focused but I think the majority, you figure that out as you play together more and more … so far, what we've done in practice, I feel good playing with them and I'm excited for tonight."
In six games with the Heat this year, Jankowski has rattled off five goals and eight points while remaining one of Stockton's top two-way players. The trick now, according to head coach Glen Gulutzan, is making sure not to lose focus on the details of his game while trying to produce at the NHL level.
"We're just going to let him play," he said. "I talked to him yesterday a little bit about just recognizing … when you're a top player in the American Hockey League, what you have to recognize is there's a lot of sharks in the water up here. So, your defensive game has to be sound. But you also want him to play with the same confidence and freedom that he was playing with down there. But his defensive awareness has to be heightened because there are those sharks in the water."
While he was summoned due to Jaromir Jagr's injury, Jankowski has a chance to solidify a spot in the lineup - it is now up to him to show he should be a regular in the NHL.
"That's the way all of these young guys get into the league - they come in and they take advantage," Gulutzan explained. "Now, to come in and score 10 goals in 10 games, that's not what we're expecting but you have to come in and play solid and contribute.
"There's always a window for certain guys to come in and play, not just on our team but all around the league, and certain guys take advantage of those windows. That's his job now."